You will be surprised how much you can pack into 48 hours in Oxfordshire. Take some inspiration from our weekend guide.
Start by taking part in one of the guided tours around Oxford and its colleges – by far one of the easiest ways to get acquainted with some of Oxford’s iconic buildings and to find out a little more about the city’s history. Then check out the famous Ashmolean, on Beaumont Street. The oldest museum in the UK, it has undergone a multi-million pound redevelopment and now has a world-class building to match its world-class collections of art and archaeology.
Or head to Oxford’s quirkiest museum The Pitt Rivers, just around the corner from the Museum of Natural History on South Parks Road. This is an eccentric collection of exhibits gathered by a Victorian anthropologist from cultures all over the world and is guaranteed to provide food for thought – not least the infamous shrunken heads.
After all that culture, it’s probably time for some light relief. Head to Little Clarendon Street for a rummage around the vintage shops and down into bohemian Jericho to soak up the laidback atmosphere. At lunchtime, dive into The Covered Market, off Cornmarket Street, and pick up a bag of locally-produced goodies such as fresh bread, Oxford Blue cheese and a tasty pastry from one of the numerous independent food shops within. Take your picnic down to Magdalen Bridge Boathouse and hire a punt – and gondolier – for an hour.
Drifting down the Cherwell, enjoy your food as you glimpse sights including the Botanic Gardens, Christchurch Meadow and St Hilda’s College.
Once back on land, take a detour off the High Street and down New College Lane. Here you’ll find Hertford Bridge, often referred to as The Bridge of Sighs because of the supposed similarity with the famous Venice bridge. It’s a romantic and secluded spot for a photograph.
In the late afternoon, take grand high tea at Chelsea Clinton’s favourite, The Grand Cafe, on High Street. For just over £27, you can enjoy a stand stacked high with sandwiches, scones and petit fours, plus a glass of champagne. It’s the perfect spot for some people-watching and the surroundings are delightfully lavish.
The White Horse, on Broad Street, is reputed to be the city’s oldest pub – and it’s almost certainly the smallest. Cram in and order a pint of White Horse Wayland’s Smithy, a fiery and aromatic beer brewed in a small, old-fashioned brewery in the Oxfordshire countryside.
As night falls, take a bus or taxi across Magdalen Bridge to Cowley Road, where you can take your pick from a huge variety of restaurants, from a traditional Italian trattoria to a laid-back Carribbean. Aziz is an award-winning Indian and Bangladeshi restaurant which is always buzzing, while North African-themed Kazbar is the perfect spot for sharing delicious tapas dishes with friends.
Those in the mood for dancing should pay a visit to the O2 Academy, formerly legendary Oxford indie venue The Zodiac, where you are bound to find a live gig or one in a range of club nights.
The oldest museum in the UK, the Ashmolean has undergone a multi-million pound redevelopment and now has a world-class building to match its world-class collections of art and archaeology
Get up early to visit Bicester Village, which offers discounts of more than 50 per cent on designer label clothes and lifestyle brands – at that time of day, you’re bound to get to the best bargains before anyone else does.
When you’ve shopped till you’ve (nearly) dropped, take time out to visit the beautiful Cotswold village of Woodstock. In this quaint little town, see the house once occupied by poet Geoffrey Chaucer and The Oxfordshire Museum, located in the historic Fletcher’s House.
Only a short journey from here is Blenheim Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Admire the hand-painted ceilings, tapestries and paintings, and wander through acres of sweeping lawns and formal gardens. When you’ve worked up an appetite, treat yourself to Sunday lunch in The Orangery or a light bite in The Water Terrace Cafe, which, as the name suggests, overlooks the palace’s inspirational water terraces.
In the afternoon, head over to the ancient Cotswolds village of Burford, with its sloping high street that leads down to the river at the foot of the hill. Crowded with grand houses and Tudor cottages, this beautiful medieval town is full of antique shops, chic boutiques and tearooms – perfect for a mid-afternoon break. Huffkins, on the High Street, is one of the town’s most renowned bakeries and cafes. Try one of their mouth-watering array of home-made cakes or take home a pot of locally-made jam.
If you’ve fallen in love with the place, stay for dinner at the Lamb Inn’s much-praised and two AA rosette-awarded restaurant. Originally a row of weavers’ cottages built on Sheep Street, the buildings date from the 15th century and, with flagstone floors, gleaming brass and antiques, it’s easy to imagine you have stepped back in time while spending an evening here. Depending on the season, take your pick from a spot by the log fire or a table outdoors in the courtyard and walled garden. For a less traditional evening meal head to local favourite The Crazy Bear, at Stadhampton, known for its imaginative Thai food and funky decor.
After dinner, head to Oxford and pay a visit to local institution The Randolph, whose Morse Bar celebrates the hotel’s long association with one of the world’s most famous TV detectives. From here, it’s only a short walk to the Oxford Playhouse, also on Beaumont Street, to catch a hot new play or contemporary dance show. While you’re waiting for the curtain to go up, look out for the illustrations of Michael Gabriel which are often displayed on the walls. Gabriel’s charming sketches capture on-stage action over the years – perfect for finding out what you’ve missed. Then hit your bed for some much-needed sleep – you’ll have earned it.
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