You might have caught my post all about the UK destinations I’d love to visit. Now I can say, I’ve ticked one off! Last month, whilst I was in London for the week, I caught the train up to Oxford. The train cost £20 for a return (with a railcard) from Marylebone and took less than an hour. Oxford is a city I’ve wanted to visit for the longest time, I have no idea why I haven’t been before – Especially as I lived in Birmingham for three years! Aside from wanting to explore the little cobbled streets and Harry Potter locations, one of the main reasons was to catch up with Jess from Journeys with Jessica.
Before my visit, I got clued up with my trusty Marco Polo Guide which the Oxford edition launched last year. On my first impression of Oxford, it really reminded me of York with the incredibly beautiful architecture, the Harry Potter connection and let’s not forget the famous university. Oxford University is actually the oldest English speaking Universities with 38 college buildings all over the city.
After meeting Jess and popping in a few shops along Cornmarket Street which is the main high street. At the end of the street is the Carfax Tower which at the top offers some great views over the city. Admission is £2.20 to climb the 99 steps to the belltower top viewpoint so an absolute bargain!
One of the most famous sights in Oxford is the Radcliffe’s Camera in the heart of the old town. I was pretty excited about seeing this in person as it’s so iconic and such a magnificent piece of architecture. You can have a guided tour of the Radcliffe’s Camera which is now used as a reading room and is part of the Bodleian Library tour which costs £14. The Bodleian Library is just next door and is one of the main filming locations for Harry Potter in Oxford. There are many different tours in which you can take to explore these filming locations but you can also visit the Divinity School for as little as a £1!
It’s well worth having an afternoon of exploring if you are a big Harry Potter fan like me. The library was used many times throughout the films. I’d highly recommend the mini-tour which takes you to Duke Humfrey’s Library which was used as the actual Hogwarts library! Another fan favourite to visit is Christ Church College which inspired the Great Hall in Hogwarts. Sadly, we didn’t have time to visit.
Just across the road is the Bridge of Sighs. This bridge is actually called Hertford Bridge and joins to parts of Hertford College. The bridge is based on the one you’ll find in Venice. Keeping with the theme of Harry Potter filming locations; if you spot the tree which is part of the New College grounds just further past the Bridge. This was actually a filming location with Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy where Harry is told: “he won’t last 10 seconds here”. Who remembers that scene?
Moving on to a spot of shopping, we ventured over to The Covered Market which is full of lots of independent stalls. There wasn’t too much open as it was a Sunday Afternoon but we came across the cutest little bakery. This city really does love Harry Potter and there was some incredible themed cakes and cupcakes. If only, it had been open – I’d have got them all! On the rooftop of The Covered Market is The Varsity Club where you can enjoy a drink with amazing views over the city.
Oxford actually seemed pretty great for shopping. They have an ultra-modern Shopping Centre called Westgate. You’ve got all your big name brands here including Primark, Lush, New Look and many more. The rooftop is where we ended up, there are so many restaurants and bars up there including some favourites of mine such as The Breakfast Club and Pizza Pilgrims. We also discovered a place called Victor’s which has the most beautiful decor and perfect for drinks with the girls.
On the hunt for food, we stopped by the Oxford Castle Quarter. This is actually one of the oldest parts of the city but there’s a few new additions with places to eat and a couple of shops. I was rather excited to stop by this area as I’d heard about the famous Malmaison hotel which is in this area. You might well know that Malmaison is a chain of pretty lovely hotels but at this location, in Oxford, the hotel lies in the building of a former prison. I’ve seen this advertised so much online where you can stay in a prison for a night. We didn’t go inside but it actually looked pretty nice. Also, we all know how much I love brunch at Malmaison.
As it was a Sunday, I was on a mission to hunt down a spectacular Roast Dinner and I think I found it. The Chequers Pub has located down a little alleyway off the high street and not only does it have insanely delicious food but it’s a pretty historic pub. It’s alleged that a group of monks were taken into an underground passage where the pub is and sealed in! You can read the full story on the plaque outside of the pub. Slightly terrifying when apparently the monks’ screams can still be heard!
Back to the food, The Chequers Pub has a selection of traditional English food but of course, I went for the Roast Chicken Roast. Much to my delight, pigs in blankets were still available for an extra cost so obviously, I had to get them! The food was a really generous portion and it was pretty damn good.
After filling our faces, we still had time to wander around the city before I had to get my train back to London. We stopped by the Brasenose College which wasn’t too far from The Chequers pub before heading back round to the Radcliffe Camera. Even at dusk, it’s a pretty spectacular building.
I had such a lovely day exploring Oxford for the first time and catching up with Jessica. To be honest, a day just wasn’t enough time. There’s still so much more to see in the city and I’ll definitely come back at some point. I think Oxford would be a great place for a UK staycation weekend break. The Marco Polo Guide for Oxford was so handy to have there’s plenty of suggestions of where to visit, eat and stay. Also included in the book are different walking discovery tour routes so you don’t miss out on any of the top sights. Now, I know I’m not allowed to mention the C-word but I think it might be time for me to visit Cambridge next!
Have you visited Oxford before?
*This post is in collaboration with Marco Polo Guides