If you are on the ‘overseas tour’ and find yourself with only a few hours in Oxford don’t despair, you can get a true taste if you pick the right route round the city! This guide will take in a handful of colleges, some unusual shops and cafes and the river.
You will feel all Brideshead and dreaming spires by the time you have finished!
Starting in New Road on the westside of the city you will find yourself right next to the mound and part of what I imagine to be the oldest section.
You are right slap bang next to the castle which you can visit and if it’s been an early start there are restaurants and cafes for coffee and or breakfast.
Malmaison Hotels have used the old prison to offer rooms for a night and although I haven’t stayed there the cocktail bar makes for an unusual ambience (in a good way!) and a classy start to an evening in the city.
Taking a left turn into New Inn Hall Street you will get you first glimpse of a honeyed stone college which is St Peter’s and being summer, some lovely white hydrangeas edging the building.
Taking a right turn into St Michael’s we get a chance to see Oxford laughing at itself by using bikes to decorate their buildings and also as advertising for hotels and restaurants.
You will then find yourself on the Corn Exchange and there are several entrances into the Covered Market which hosts several specialist shops and is worth a browse. This will then lead you nicely into Turl Street and the pretty Brasenose Lane which makes me feel all Harry Potterish each time I visit.
Next stop is the square and no doubt you will bump into groups of tourists gazing up at the beautiful domed building that is the Radcliffe Camera, an open square which begs to be walked round.
Once you have had your fill of photos it neatly takes you onto the High Street and continuing east you will see Magdalen College and its bridge. If you are lucky you will get to see some punters and if you need a breather from the city you can escape into the deer park or cross the street into the botanic gardens.
By now you will need a rest and I suggest the sophisticated Grand Cafe which is all teal and gold in decoration on the exterior and all glass and marble inside.
The atmosphere is grand (of course!) and the service the same, the mirrors give the illusion of a much bigger space but to me it felt like an entry into a grand hotel of yester year and very Downton Abbey, I loved it! The High Street also has lots of quirky one off shops if you fancy something different to a chain store to shop in.
By returning westwards up the High Street you will meet New Road and have completed a circular route.
You can enter some of the colleges and opening times can be found on their respective websites. By doing this route you will pass more than half a dozen, many with quaint quadrangles, silent gardens and of course the obligatory bicycles.
The tourist information centre in Broad Street will equip you with a map and answer your questions.