Travel Tuesday | Oxford, the Land of Literature and Harry Potter
Happy Travel Tuesday, friends!
It’s that time of the month, the time when I share travel tips on how to pack, what to do, where to stay, and more from some of my favorite travel destinations. Born out of a reader request for more travel content and a sadly empty travel schedule in 2018, I intend to share past travel experiences with you to keep the wanderlust flowing all year round! Make sure to tune in the second Tuesday of every month for more Travel Tuesday stories.
Welcome to Oxford, UK
Oxford is easily one of my favorite cities in all of England. With strong ties to Harry Potter and C.S. Lewis, truly amazing libraries, so much history, and some seriously amazing food. With activities for every traveler from the museum fiend to the castle explorer, Oxford is truly a cultural hub just a short trip outside of London.
Where to Stay
Full disclosure, I have only stayed overnight in Oxford once at a bed and breakfast that I do not recommend. Since it’s so close to London, all other visits have been day trips that begin and end in my own bed back in London. So I guess that’s my biggest recommendation – stay in London and make a day of Oxford!
Where to Eat
The Eagle and Child – This incredibly historic pub is the meeting spot of The Inklings, a literary discussion group connected to University of Oxford. These gents met for nearly two decades and their member list include such names as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. As such, this unassuming pub is covered in Narnia and Middle Earth references beyond serving up excellent pub grub and pints (it comes in pints?!). No need to make a reservation. | https://www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk/restaurants/southeast/theeagleandchildoxford
Gee’s Restaurant and Bar – Visit this Victorian conservatory during the summer months to enjoy the city’s best and best-known restaurant. Magnificent food, incredible history, and a truly unique dining experience? Sign me up! Reservations highly recommended. | https://www.gees-restaurant.co.uk/
Vaults & Garden – Looking for a cafe with an organic menu, loads of vegetarian options, and easily the most unique dining experience in the whole town? Vaults & Garden, one of Oxford’s healthiest places to dine, lives in the undercroft of the University Church of St. Mary’s. Dine indoors or al fresco in warmer months. Only make a reservation if you’re coming with a larger group. | https://www.thevaultsandgarden.com/
Rooftop Restaurant at Ashmolean – You know this Chicagoan is privy to a good rooftop experience, and being in Oxford is no exception. Make a reservation in advance for a delicious evening treat at this restaurant which includes a terrace and lawn of lounge chairs. Views with a side of imaginative food will certainly highlight your trip. | https://www.ashmolean.org/cafe-and-restaurant
Where to Drink
Turf Tavern – Now I know you’re looking for a well kept secret. After all, the Eagle and Child is going to be ripe with tourists. All of the restaurants are delicious, but after a meal you’re itching to go out for a drink. This pub has everything you could want in a true English night out: low beamed ceilings and flagstone floors, tucked away behind the medieval city wall and only accessible down a narrow passageway, with a plethora of excellent ales starting at just ￡3/pint. | https://www.greeneking-pubs.co.uk/pubs/oxfordshire/turf-tavern/
Kazbar – Looking for some music with your pint? Kazbar is an excellent tapas bar with a Moroccan ambiance sure to keep you content to eat and drink all night long. I’m swaying to the music with a glass of Spanish wine even as I think of this place. | http://kazbar.co.uk/
The University – Obviously, go on a tour of the University! Visit such places as the Bodleian Library, Radcliffe Camera, Christ Church College, and more. The university was used as a film site for many Harry Potter scenes as well as heavily inspiring others (the Christ Church dining hall is, in fact, not The Great Hall. Sorry, friends.). Beyond that, the libraries offer some stunning architecture and books to enjoy. | http://www.oxfordwalkingtours.com/
Ashmolean Museum – This free museum has some amazing collections including an impressive Ancient Egyptian exhibit! Founded in 1683, it’s the oldest public museum in England and originally housed Elias Ashmole’s private collection of curiosities. | https://www.ashmolean.org/
Pitt Rivers Museum – A museum within a Museum, this eclectic collection sits in the back of the Oxford Museum of Natural History. Take a wander – you never know what you’ll discover! All sorts of knick-knacks from around the world have come to reside here. Just watch out for the shrunken heads. Those will certainly take you by surprise. | https://www.prm.ox.ac.uk/
Punting – It wouldn’t be a visit to one of the oldest university towns without hiring a punting tour. If you’re familiar with the activity and can drive a boat yourself, simply rent the boat! Otherwise, hire a professional (often students at the university) to show you around. Highly recommended mid-afternoon just after lunch. | http://www.oxfordpunting.co.uk/
Oxford Castle – 1,000 years old, former prison, hotel, and more, Oxford Castle and its surrounding buildings are definitely worth the visit. The tour, while gimmicky as can be, offers some amazing insights into the castle itself. Spend some time exploring the ancient building and enjoying the views of Oxford from the top! | https://www.oxfordcastleunlocked.co.uk/
Blenheim Palace – Have a day to go explore the surrounding area? Blenheim Palace is a truly stunning Baroque World Heritage site. Explore the house and grounds, say hello to the resident sheep, and more. I highly recommend visiting during the holidays as the decorations are truly breathtaking. Don’t forget to catch a glimpse at Sir Winston Churchill’s birthplace as well! I have to admit, trying to envision the grumpy faced, cigar smoking Prime Minister as an infant certainly brought more than a few giggles to my day. | https://www.blenheimpalace.com/
Alice’s Shop – Yes, that Alice. Located just across from Christ Church College, Alice’s Shop calls to mind our classic Wonderland adventure. Lewis Carroll had incredibly close ties with Christ Church. So of course there’s a sweet little Alice in Wonderland themed shop!There is plenty University gear available as well. | https://aliceinwonderlandshop.com/
Markets – This should go without saying but check out the markets! All your favorite knick-knacks, plus amazing local crafts, fresh foods, and so much more. The market experience is one not to be missed! | http://oxford-coveredmarket.co.uk/
This wonderful city offers everything I love about England in one place. A bustling cultural hub close to London with the charm of a small town where you can peek down alleys and into small shoppes. Enjoy your travels in Oxford and don’t forget to check the back of your wardrobe for Narnia before going to sleep tonight!