Our latest Great Escape is brought to you by Emma Diffey, founder of Bright Young Things Oxford to showcase Oxfordshire’s emerging creative talent. We visit Oxford with her and she shares with us her tips on the best places to shop, eat, stay and visit in the city of Oxford.
Where is it?
Steeped in history, Oxford is a renowned university city and centre of academia, famously referred to by writer Thomas Hardy as the ‘city of dreaming spires’.
Why should I go there?
Today Oxford is a buzzy, colourful city famous for its university colleges and fabulous architecture. The city centre is compact and full of culture and inspiration, making it easy to explore the many delights that the area has to offer.
Will I find interesting local products to buy?
Crafty types should pay a visit to Darn It & Stitch, a unique and inspiring haberdashery shop where you’ll find an eclectic mixture of old and new, from buttons and ribbons to luxurious yarns and vintage fabrics. Comma is a new design-led gift shop selling homewares, books, prints and other lovely bits and bobs. While at Unique Creations, you can create your own works of art as well as buying gifts, cards and craft supplies. Other shops worth a visit are Aspire Style for vintage inspired fashion,, and Fabulous Flowers which not only lives up to its name, but is also home to The Fabulous Flower School.
Where can I eat locally sourced food?
No trip to Oxford is complete without a visit to the famous Covered Market, where you’ll find a variety of independent shops and restaurants. Take afternoon tea in splendour at the Grand Café, England’s first coffee house dating from 1650 according to Samuel Pepys diary. Or treat yourself to some funky flavours at G&D’s Ice Cream Cafe. Visit Door 74 for contemporary British cuisine featuring seasonal, local and organic produce, or combine a wonderful meal with a traditional punt on the river at Cherwell Boat House (pictured).
Can I stay somewhere with a bit of character?
For boutique accommodation in the city centre try The Old Bank Hotel or The Old Parsonage (above), or you could even stay in a ‘luxe cell’ at the Malmaison Hotel (pictured), formerly Oxford Prison! Further afield you’ll find Raymond Blanc’s world famous Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons at Great Milton, the quirky Crazy Bear at Stadhampton, and The Feathers in Woodstock.
What should I see, do or visit while I’m there?
Architecture fans should head for Christ Church College, Wren’s Sheldonian Theatre, the Bodleian Library and Radcliff Camera and the Bridge of Sighs, while art lovers should look out for Anthony Gormley’s sculpture ‘Another Time’ above Blackwells Art Bookshop on Broad Street. Oxford’s world class museums and galleries include the famous Ashmolean, the Museum of Modern Art and the Pitt Rivers Museum. While night owls will find Oxford jam-packed with theatres, clubs, bars and restaurants, as well as a vibrant music scene.
Head out of town and enjoy a walk from The Trout Pub at Wolvercote across Port Meadow to The Perch Pub at Binsey – a favourite of ours! The university’s Botanic Gardens are well worth a visit, or why not take a guided walking tour with Oxford On Foot? Further afield you’ll find Churchill’s birthplace at Blenheim Palace (pictured), William Morris’Kelmscott Manor, the Rothschilds’ Waddesdon Manor, and the idyllic scenery of The Cotswolds.
When is the best time of year to go?
Oxford is beautiful at any time of the year, whether punting on the river in the summertime or enjoying festive celebrations such as Christmas at Christ Church, or ‘Rapunzel’ at the Creation Theatre which is being performed in a 100 year old mirrored tent until 15th January (pictured).
In August this year the first Bright Young Things Oxford event took place in which 20 selected local artists and designers exhibited and sold their work for one week. Due to its success, the show is now set to become an annual event in Oxford’s calendar.