The Good Things Guide To Oxford

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There are few places that have boasted bigger brains than Oxford. A must-visit British destination that’s just as beautiful as it is brainy, Sophie Ritchie reveals how to spend a weekend in this foodie-centric city


One of the world’s most famous university cities, many a genius has wandered Oxford’s cobbled streets. David Cameron, Lewis Carroll and even Mr. Bean himself (well, Rowan Atkinson). Follow in their footsteps and visit to stroll amongst the archaic buildings, explore courtyards, shop at little boutique stores and marvel at the city’s famed spires – which twirl up into the sky in enchanting fashion.


What to do


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“Show me the University!” Many a tourist will demand upon crossing the city’s border. Comprised of 38 independent colleges, including the magnificent Christ Church and Wadham College, a visit to these educational venues is a must. To see them in detail, take part in a guided walking tour to learn more about the intriguing history, traditions and architecture.

Oxford is also brimming with intriguing museums. The world-famous Ashmolean Museum makes an excellent way to wile away a few hours, with free entry for all. There’s a vast amount of art and culture to see within its walls – with everything from Egyptian mummies to contemporary art to examine. If you harbour a soft spot for archaic literature, the Weston Library exhibits some amazing treasures. Feast your eyes on the ancient Magna Carta, Jane Austen’s coveted manuscripts and even the Bard of Avon’s first ever folio.

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Harry Potter fans are also in for a treat. A number of the early films used Oxford University’s colleges as filming locations. In Bodleian Library, the gothic vaulted ceiling of the Divinity School was used as Hogwarts Infirmary in Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone. Christ Church is the most notable, as the college provided the atmospheric location for many Harry Potter scenes. Whilst the staircase was used to film the famous entrance scene where Professor McGonagall meets Harry, Ron and Hermione, the college’s Tudor Great Dining Hall provided inspiration for the great Hogwarts Dining Hall. Even the hallways have a claim to fame.

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Whilst the 127 step climb might leave you a little breathless, the upwards trek is worth it at St Mary’s Church Tower. Found in the very heart of Oxford, make it to the very top to admire a birds-eye view of the historic city and gaze across the spire-speckled skyline.  If you’re a fan of Gothic architecture, you’ll love the adorning gargoyles and grotesques. Post-visit, treat yourself to a goodie from one of Oxford’s Covered Market’s independent market sellers. It’s difficult to not fall for the wafting charms of Ben’s Cookies or find yourself drooling over The Cake Shop’s creations as they’re crafted before your eyes.


Where to stay


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For a luxurious hotel that’s every bit as beautiful on the inside as it out, book a room at The Vanbrugh House Hotel. Nestled snugly within the very heart of Oxford, this 18th century historic building is only mere steps away from many of the city’s main attractions – making it ideal for the explorers.

Partly designed by John Vanbrugh (hence the name) this is perfect for an intimate yet elegantly stylish stay. Offering 22 graceful rooms and suites, the building retains its traditional feel with wooden beams, panelled walls and crackling fireplaces. Staff are friendly and helpful too – you’ll feel like you’re staying with welcoming friends.

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For something with an exclusive feel, opt for The Vicarage Suite. Ideal for a romantic getaway, the spacious suite emulates classic luxury with an English hand-crafted four poster bed complete with Egyptian cotton sheets, two vintage slipper baths, The White Company toiletries and a powerful walk-in shower. In fact, the bathroom’s almost as big as the bedroom – and comes complete with flatscreen TV and bench. There’s even a private garden to unwind within after a long day of adventuring (with a glass of bubbly in hand, of course). Should that fail, the Nespresso machine, welcome chocolates and complimentary snack bar always help to aid relaxation.

Make it happen
Cost: The Vicarage Suite at The Vanbrugh House Hotel starts from £319 per night, based on two sharing. Click here to book.
Where: 20 – 24 St Michael’s St, Oxford OX1 2EB


Where to eat


Image shows The Parsonage Bar & Grill

Image shows The Parsonage Bar & Grill

The fine dining crowd can delight in dinner at The Oxford Kitchen. With Executive Chef Paul Welburn at the helm and a focus on British classics with a fun contemporary edge, enjoy a menu brimming with seasonal treats. This spring, feast on cod loin, lamb rump, Cotswold white chicken and utternut squash veloutés aplenty.

Whilst breakfast is best spent at The Vanbrugh House Hotel (the Eggs Royale makes especially excellent fuel for a day’s exploring) we recommend pit stopping at The Parsonage Bar & Grill for lunch. Food here is simple and classic – much like most of Oxford itself. If it’s food with a view you prefer, enjoy a meal at Ashmolean Rooftop restaurant with views sweeping across the city.

Should you find yourself peckish for afternoon tea, head straight to The Grand Café’s gold-leafed doors. The site of the first coffee house in England, this impressive venue offers a selection of cream and high teas from dusk until dawn. With opulent marbled pillars and twinkling chandeliers, it’s hardly a surprise that advance bookings are impossible – but I promise the scones are well worth the wait.


Foodie diary dates to watch:


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1 The Blenheim Palace Food Festival, 26th – 28th May 2018
This fun festival promises regional food and drink from 120 stallholders, including artisan bakers, craft brewers, gourmet burgers, international cuisine, traditional ice creams, and handmade sweets. See more here.
2 The Oxford Vegan Festival, 10 March 2018
Feast your way through a number of stallholders, enjoy talks and cooking shows with this upcoming vegan festival. See more here. 
Artisan Cheese & Wine Evening, 13th April 2018
Wine and cheese may be a match made in heaven, but clearly not every wine is made for every cheese! Learn more about the complex world of cheese and wine pairings at this informative masterclass.  See more here.

Written by Web Editor Sophie Ritchie. See more of Sophie’s writing here.

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Web Editor for Good Things