The Locals' Guide To Oxford

Oxford is not just a university town; it's THE university town. Elegant, old-fashioned, and endlessly charming, it’s the idyllic England that has inspired films and books from Brideshead Revisited to Harry Potter. Some of the most eminent politicians, authors, and poets have emerged over the centuries from its ivory towers, and while walking amongst the mortarboards and gowns, you can hear snippets of conversations on everything from politics to philosophy.
It’s a pocket-sized city steeped in history and culture, with an emerging modern edge of galleries, exciting restaurants, and boutique hotels. What’s more: It’s a mere 50 minutes from Paddington, making it perfect for a weekend jaunt.
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Photo: Courtesy of North Parade.
North Parade Produce Store
Muddy carrots? Check. Local cheeses and delicious charcuterie? Check. Other enticing organic accoutrements? Check. This tiny former butcher’s shop is a sweet, little love note to sustainable, organic food; all produce is from local, organic gardens. We predict you’ll be impulse-purchasing grassy-green, unfiltered olive oil and wheels of Oxford cheese.

North Parade Produce Store, 2 North Parade, Oxford OX2 6LX.
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Photo: Courtesy of Scriptum.
If the thought of another email or text message is making you bristle, you will love this independently owned stationary boutique. It is an opera-filled sanctum (seriously, you can shop with Verdi playing in the background) of hand-stitched, leather-bound notebooks — plus inkwells, elegant writing paper, and quills. The highly covetable collection is a credit to owner and curator Azeem Zakaria’s terrifically good taste.

Scriptum, 3 Turl Street, Oxford, OX1 3DQ.
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Photo: Courtesy of Cherwell Boathouse.
Cherwell Boathouse
You can’t come to Oxford without taking a punt on the river, one of the city’s most eccentric and iconic pastimes. Pack a bottle of Bolly and start at the Cherwell boathouse. Once you've finished toiling on the waters, reward yourself with a bite to eat with a soundtrack of quacking ducks and the swish-swash of passing boats. The Franglais menu is full of gastronomic hits such as: fennel, tarragon, and chicken verrine; crab-crusted brill; and layered summer pudding with elderflower sorbet.

Cherwell Boathouse, 50 Bardwell Road, Oxford, OX2 6ST.
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Photo: Courtesy of Randolph Restaurant.
The Macdonald Randolph
The décor of this rather grandiose room may be slightly antiquated, but the exceptional food here is anything but. The seasonal menu from head chef Simon Bradley reflects his starry CV with stints at Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons and The Ritz in Paris. Try a startlingly fresh heritage-carrot salad with nuggets of chickpea cake and guinea fowl with summer truffles. Leave room for the jewel in their crown: the Marjolaine, a dreamy confection of almond meringue, pistachio cream, caramelised vanilla custard, raspberry spherification, raspberry sorbet, and rosewater. It, alone, is worth the trip.

The Macdonald Randolph, Beaumont Street, Oxford, OX1 2LN.
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Photo: Courtesy of The Missing Bean.
The Missing Bean
Fighting against the perpetually percolating onslaught of the high-street coffee chain is independent coffeehouse The Missing Bean. The shop has a rabidly loyal following and serves exceptional coffee, which is roasted in-house. There's a good selection of cakes, too, but do drop by The Alternative Tuck Shop, affectionately nicknamed the ATS by Oxford undergrads who seek sweet sustenance in its Bakewell Tarts.

The Missing Bean, 14 Turl Street, Oxford, OX1 3DQ.
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Photo: Courtesy of The Eagle And Child.
The Eagle And Child
The Eagle and Child, on the broad boulevard of St. Giles, is a cozy pub but has gained celeb status given that it's where Tolkien and C.S. Lewis would meet on Tuesdays. Also of literary note is the Lamb & Flag across the road, where Graham Greene liked to drink. It's worth swigging a pint of ale at the Turf Tavern, too; it looks like something straight out of Chaucer and is allegedly the place where Bill Clinton did not inhale.

The Eagle And Child, 49 St Giles, Oxford, OX1 3LU.
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Photo: Courtesy of Objects Of Use.
Objects Of Use
This shop's everyday objects — from dusters to pens — are sublimely designed make your daily tasks a more pleasant undertaking. And, they're made to last, using the finest materials with low environmental impact. We defy you to pop in without falling in love with something you never knew you needed.

Objects Of Use, 6 Lincoln House, Market Street, Oxford, OX1 3EQ.
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Photo: Courtesy of Malmaison.
Malmaison Hotel
Forget Orange is the New Black — get locked up at this quirky, converted prison. The Malmaison hotel group has a knack for finding old buildings of interest and brushing them with a sweep of chic. Work up an appetite by walking around town, and then check in for dinner at the Brasserie, where a menu of crowd-pleasing dishes such as ahi tuna tartare, Goan prawn curry, and sticky toffee pudding go well beyond the porridge former residents would have been accustomed to.

Malmaison hotel, 3 New Road, Oxford, OX1 1AY.
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Photo: Courtesy of La Femme Eclectique.
Unicorn Vintage Clothing
Unicorn is a tiny, orderless shop, but all the more charming for it. There are a few racks, but the main stock is heaped into a pile like a bonfire. The agile shop owner launches herself on it on request, emerging forth with treasured pieces — from vintage ball gowns to bow ties. Look out for the archive '30s items, which will look like you inherited them from a stylish ancestor.

Unicorn Vintage Clothing, 5 Ship Street, Oxford, 0X1 3DE.
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Photo: Courtesy of The Ashmolean.
The Ashmolean
This neoclassical museum has had a whopping £60-million makeover. The result is that its famed holdings, including an original Stradivarius violin and Oliver Cromwell’s death mask, are now displayed in full resplendence. If all that history makes you hungry, pay a visit to the rooftop restaurant.

The Ashmolean, Beaumont Street, Oxford, OX1 2PH.
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Photo: Courtesy of Christ Church.
Christ Church College
You may want to admire Christ Church college for its hallowed halls of learning; Sir Christopher Wren, Albert Einstein, Lewis Carroll, and 13 British prime ministers were all educated here. Nowadays, though, you are more likely to be dazzled by the throng of Harry Potter fans milling around its meadows — because it’s the place that stood in for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in several Harry Potter movies. Follow the tourist route through courtyards, gardens, and halls, and make sure to visit the exquisite dining hall where centuries of brilliant students have eaten. Artsy? Don’t miss the Picture Gallery; it’s moneyed walls display gems such as Annibale Carracci’s The Butcher’s Shop and some rare Botticellis.

Christ Church College, St. Aldate's, Oxford, OX1 1DP.