By Anna Munday – Co-founder of Independent Oxford
I’ve lived in Oxford all my life, worked in some of Oxford University’s most impressive buildings and have been running Independent Oxford with Rosie for five years, and so I know Oxford very well! But sometimes we can all forget to really open our eyes, look around and appreciate Oxford the way a tourist would. We can often take it for granted.
Think about the last time you visited another city – I bet you marvelled at the beautiful buildings, revelled in the discovery of cobbled street and small indie shops…
Well we’re inviting you to do that for Oxford. Treat this city like you’re visiting for the first time and see what you can discover. Want to know how? Here’s seven top tips for seeing Oxford like a tourist.
1. Hop on your bike
Oxford is famous for cycling so get on your bike! Hire one or bring your own if you live nearby or can hop on the train. It helps the environment, ticks your exercise box for the day and it means you get to experience and explore more of the city. Feeling fancy? Swing by one of Oxford’s many florists and stick some posies in your basket.
Not got a set of wheels? Hop on the bus and you’ll still be doing your bit for the planet.
2. Fuel up for the day with your morning coffee
Oxford seriously knows good coffee, so start your day with a trip to one of Oxford’s many indie coffee shops. People watch on the High Street at Jericho Coffee Traders, visit student hot spot The Missing Bean on Turl Street, or stop at the always trendy Society Café on St Michael’s Street.
3. Start sightseeing and get those cameras at the ready
There are so many beautiful places to visit that are oozing with charm and history in Oxford. The classic Oxford sights include The Radcliffe Camera, the Bridge of Sighs and the Sheldonian Theatre. If you live here, don’t be ashamed to get that classic selfie under the bridge. Though the selfie stick is optional…
A fantastic array of world-renowned museums such at The Ashmolean, Pitt Rivers Museum and the Museum of Natural History are ready to be explored too.
We’d also suggest taking a turn around the latest exhibition at Modern Art Oxford (reopening October) or viewing upcoming, and often local, artists at the Old Fire Station on George Street or The Jam Factory.
4. Lunch time
Oxford has an abundance of places to eat. And while it has your usual chain restaurants, we’d suggest eating somewhere local to truly experience the city.
A lite bite? Try the Covered Market for plenty of places to curb those cravings or take a trip to the tucked away Handlebar Café on St Michael Street for a plate of carefully sourced delicious food. After somewhere fancy? Try Quod’s heated Italian garden terrace on the High Street for a two-course lunch.
Alternatively head a few minutes bike ride out of town and you’ve got the pick of the bustling Cowley Road to the East of the city. Or venture North instead and experience Gee’s iconic Victorian glass house.
Much like restaurants, Oxford ticks all the high street shopping boxes, but indies are where you’ll discover some real gems.
The High Street has Payne and Son, an eighth-generation family jewellers established in 1790, as well as the wonderful, curiosity awakening Sanders of Oxford – a necessary visit for any map or print lover.
A must see for any visitor or staycationer is the Covered Market. You’ll find many independents in this Georgian marketplace, which houses everything from butchers to florists, bakeries to gift shops. There are countless more indies in Oxford and too many to list here, so I’d strongly suggest taking a look the Independent Oxford directory (with handy map page) to discover them all
6. And relax
You’ve seen the sights, explored the shops and now give yourself a well-earned break. If the weather is nice, head towards Magdalen Bridge for a spot of punting down the river (be sure to use the Oxford end) or take stroll around the Botanic Gardens. Alternatively book a table at the 17th century Old Parsonage for a traditional afternoon tea.
7. Time for bed
After a full-on day of taking in the sights, sounds and tastes of Oxford it’s time to hit the hay. If you want to prolong your stay, check out Oxfordshire Living for a range of city centre homes and apartments for short stays. If you’re after a spot of luxury, then make a beeline for the Old Bank Hotel’s ‘room with a view’.
I hope that this gives piques your curiosity and gets you looking at Oxford differently next time you visit. If it does, make sure you shout about it by using #indieoxford and #RediscoverOxford on socials.