OXFORD (Reuters Life!) - Got 48 hours to explore the dreaming spires of Oxford?
Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a visit to the home town of one of the world’s leading universities.
6:30 p.m. Begin your trip with a look at Oxford’s historic center from a slightly different angle. Bill Spectre’s Oxford Ghost Trail (+447941041811) departs from Oxford Castle Unlocked (44-46 Oxford Castle), and offers a walking tour of the sights, plus the nightmarish tales that lie behind them, complete with costumed guide, props and illusions.
8:15 p.m. Dine in style at the beautiful Old Parsonage Hotel Restaurant (+441865310210) on Banbury Road. With jazz every Friday from 8 p.m. and a delightful setting, the restaurant serves simple British and modern European classics using the best seasonal produce. Alternately, try its more central sister restaurant, Quod Brasserie, on the High Street (+441864202505) for a lively and robust eating experience.
9:00 p.m. - Begin your day at Broad Street, the heart of the city, to admire the imposing facade of Balliol College, one of Oxford’s oldest. A cross outside on the street marks the spot where Protestant Bishops Latimer, Ridley and Cranmer were burned at the stake. While on Broad Street, admire the Sheldonian Theater and Radcliffe Camera (closed to visitors), a part of the Bodleian Library built between 1737 and 1749.
10:00 p.m. Pay a visit to the Bodleian’s Divinity School (+441865277224). The Divinity School is the oldest teaching and examination room in the university, and a masterpiece of English Gothic architecture. Just opposite is the historic Bridge of Sighs, a Venetian-style bridge linking two sides of Hertford College.
11:00 p.m. Browse some of Oxford’s antique shops on the High Street, or head to Little Clarendon Street for vintage clothing. For the ultimate shopping experience, enter the Covered Market, home to everything from organic butchers to shoe shops, cafes, boutiques and the famous Cake Shop with its stunning window displays of bespoke confectionary. Climb the narrow staircase to Georgina‘s, a colorful cafe whose walls are covered in posters.
1:00 p.m. - lunch at the Nosebag, St Michael’s Street (off Cornmarket Street) for informal, buffet-style dining with a wealth of hearty dishes to choose from, as well as a great selection of cakes. Or grab lunch on the go at one of Oxford’s delis: Olives Delicatessen on the High Street serves freshly made baguettes with fillings from its deli selection, home-made soups and ice cream, and Fasta Pasta in the Covered Market offers good value custom-made ciabattas.
2:30 p.m. For an unforgettable experience, visit Oxford’s quirkiest museum, the Pitt Rivers collection in the Natural History Museum (+441865270927, reopens May 1). It displays archaeological and ethnographic objects from all over the world. See stuffed animals, shrunken heads and tribal clothing.
4:00 p.m. Wander back to the center of town via Wadham College, and stop to admire New College on Holywell Street, one of Oxford’s largest and most beautiful, and Exeter College, with its unusual chapel.
5:00 p.m. Explore some of Oxford’s most famous pubs. The Turf Tavern (+441865243235) is hard to find - tucked down an alleyway between Holywell Street and New College Lane - but worth a visit. It is one of Oxford’s oldest pubs, a favorite with students, and appears in two of the Inspector Morse books. Offering a good selection of ales, the Turf also serves food and provide outside seating with coal braziers where you can toast marshmallows in the colder months. The Bear Tavern on Alfred Street features a bizarre collection of over 4,500 pieces of ties on the walls and ceiling. These are mounted complete with the patron’s name and college; the tradition began in the 1950s where customers could donate a tie in exchange for a free pint of beer. Unfortunately, this no longer applies! The White Horse on Broad Street is another classic Oxford tavern, and possibly England’s smallest pub. It claims to offer the best fish and chips in Oxford. For a true gastropub experience, take a taxi to the frequently recommended White Hart in Wytham (+441865244372). It dates back to the 16th century and offers a weekly a la carte menu, fresh fish specials and Sunday roast dinner, plus a large wine and ale selection.
7:30 p.m. - If you don’t fancy a pub dinner, head to the High Table (+441865248695) on the High Street for sophisticated and elegant modern European food, or Fishers (+441865243003) on St Clements for a daily changing selection of fresh seafood dishes. In term time you might see a few gown-clad students in the town, on their way to formal dinner in hall.
11:00 p.m. Sample Oxford’s nightlife with a visit to The Coven (+441865242770) on Oxpens Road, or The Bridge on Hythe Bridge Street (+441865242526). Or, if you don’t fancy clubbing, visit G&Ds, Oxford’s late-night ice cream cafe (until midnight). Venues on St Aldates, Little Clarendon Street and Cowley Road.
9:00 a.m. Spend the morning visiting more of Oxford’s famous colleges. Christ Church (+441865276492) is perhaps the grandest, and famously provided the setting for the Great Hall in the Harry Potter films. Make sure you include a stroll around its beautiful meadows after your visit, where you can watch students row along the Isis. This will take you to the back of Merton College (entrance on Merton Street, off the High Street), one of Oxford’s oldest (it was founded in 1264) and home to the bizarre Time Ceremony tradition, where students dress up in formal academic wear and walk backwards for an hour around Fellows Quad from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. as the clocks go back in October, in order to preserve the space-time continuum. Exiting Merton via Rose Lane will take you near Magdalen College (+441865276000), alma mater of Oscar Wilde and worth a visit for its beautiful cloisters and deer park.
At 6 a.m. on May Day morning, the choir sing from the top of Magdalen Tower, and - before health and safety regulations intervened - it used to be traditional for students to jump into the river off Magdalen Bridge.
11:00 a.m. Visit the Museum of Oxford on St Aldate’s (+441865252761), Oxford’s only museum dedicated to the history of the city.
12:30 p.m. For stunning panoramic views, climb the tower at the Church of St Mary the Virgin on the High Street.
1:00 p.m. Lunch at the Vaults and Garden cafe (+441865279112), next to the church, for excellent value organic food and Fairtrade tea and coffee.
2:00 p.m. From March to October, you can try your hand at punting or rowing along the river Cherwell, or hire a chauffeur if you don’t feel confident enough to brave it yourself. Visit Magdalen Bridge Boathouse (+441865202643) at the end of the High Street and enjoy Oxford’s beautiful scenery from the river.
4:30 p.m. Stop to admire the beautiful Examination Schools on the High Street - look out for students in gowns sporting carnations, meaning they’re in the middle of taking exams - and then pause at The Rose, High Street (+441865244429) to indulge in the British institution of afternoon tea. Reputed to bake the best scones in Oxford, The Rose also serves sumptuous homemade cakes, clotted cream and finger sandwiches as part of its selection, as well as a comprehensive tea menu.
Editing by Paul Casciato