One of the world’s most prestigious university towns, scholarly Oxford is postcard pretty and packed with history. Its close proximity to London makes it the perfect weekend escape.
University colleges and culture
Christ Church College is the largest college at Oxford University. There’s plenty to see including a 12th-century cathedral, the dining hall, which featured in the Harry Potter movies and an art gallery with works by old masters. You’ll also discover where the inspiration for Alice In Wonderland came from: Lewis Carroll wrote the book while he was a maths professor here and Alice is named after the then-dean’s daughter.
Taking a stroll through Oxford is the best way to explore the small city. Start on Broad Street where you can take in the impressive architecture of the Sheldonian Theatre, designed by Sir Christopher Wren and erected in 1664-8, and the Clarendon Building, with its Greek-like columns and towering roof statues. From here, head to the Covered Market, where you can do a spot of shopping or stop for a coffee.
Fancy restaurants and cream teas
For top-notch curry try award-winning Aziz on Cowley Road. Branca on Walton Street is a good Italian bar and restaurant serving stone-baked pizzas. If you really want to splash out, Le Manoir is a two Michelin-star French restaurant on Church Road. Or indulge in a cream tea – a time-honoured tradition consisting of a pot of tea served with massive scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam.
Get the drinks in
There’s no shortage of boozers in Oxford in which to sup a pint of ale. Eagle & Child on St Giles is a great place to start, a literary pub that both CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien used to frequent. The Turf Tavern has had a slew of famous visitors in its day including Elizabeth Taylor, Stephen Hawking, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Alicia Silverstone. It’s also where ex-Aussie Prime Minister Bob Hawke entered the Guinness Book of Records for downing a yard of ale in 11 seconds.
Oxford University gave birth to the English language. There are 39 colleges in total, perhaps the most impressive being Christ Church, New and Magdalen. Outside the university you’ll find England’s oldest museum, the Ashmolean.
GETTING THERE: National Express (nationalexpress.com) runs a coach service from London’s Victoria station to Oxford. The journey is about two hours and return tickets are about £20. First Great Western (firstgreatwestern.co.uk) run trains from Paddington station to Oxford. The journey takes about an hour.
GETTING AROUND: Oxford is a compact city and easy to explore on foot. All the sights are near one another.
GOING OUT: A pint of beer is about £2.90.
ACCOMMODATION: Dorm beds start from about £16 and private hotel rooms from £24. See tntmagazine.com/hostels.