From Sunrise to Sunset: A Perfect Day in Historic Oxford

Oxford City & Oxfordshire | Magazine 

A Perfect Day in Historic Oxford

As the sun gently illuminates the dreaming spires of Oxford, start on a captivating journey through this historic city, where each cobblestone whispers tales of knowledge, tradition, and timeless beauty. Oxford, a city renowned for its prestigious university, has much more to offer than academia alone. This is a city where history and innovation harmoniously coexist, where ancient architecture and lush green spaces enchant the soul, and where the pursuit of knowledge is as palpable as the crisp morning air. Join us for a day of exploration, where we’ll guide you through the cultural treasures, culinary delights, and hidden gems that make Oxford a quintessential destination for any traveller seeking to unravel its rich tapestry.

Breakfast: A Great Start to Your Oxford Adventure

As the sun gently illuminates the dreaming spires of Oxford, start on your day of exploration with a hearty breakfast at one of the city’s charming cafes. With many great places to choose, below are a couple of suggestions to try:

The Handle Bar Café: Cycling into a Tasty Breakfast Adventure

Nestled above Oxford’s beloved oldest bike shop, The Handle Bar Café beckons breakfast enthusiasts with its unique charm and delectable morning offerings. Opening its doors at 9:00 am, this cosy gem in the city centre has become a local favourite. The café’s menu boasts an array of tempting breakfast options, from the indulgent Coconut Pancakes to Smashed Fava Toast, crowned with crispy streaky bacon and halloumi. The café’s décor is a whimsical nod to cycling culture, making it a must-visit for those intrigued by Oxford’s hipster side.

Opera Café Oxford: A Mediterranean Breakfast Oasis

Step into a world of Mediterranean flavours at Opera Café Oxford. Since opening its doors in 2015, this vibrant café has been on a mission to introduce locals and visitors alike to the rich, aromatic tastes of the Mediterranean. Opera Café’s breakfast served daily from 8am Monday to Friday and 08:30am Saturday and Sundays the menu is a symphony of flavours, featuring dishes like the indulgent Eggs Royale, the exotic Moroccan Egg Wrap & Salad, or simply a delightful pastry. What sets Opera Café apart is its commitment to quality, using locally sourced coffee beans and the freshest ingredients to craft each dish. From the comforting warmth of red lentil soup to the sweetness of Baklava and the soothing embrace of mint tea, every bite and sip here transports you to the bustling streets of a Moroccan souk.

The Vaults & Garden Café: Where history, culture, and culinary artistry harmoniously coexist

Kickstart your day of exploration with a hearty breakfast at the Vaults & Garden Café, conveniently located across from the historic Radcliffe Camera. This charming café offers a cosy ambiance where you can relish a diverse breakfast menu, catering to various tastes. Whether you opt for the classic Full Oxford Breakfast, a contemporary Avocado Toast, or the inventive Oxford Cheese Rarebit, each dish is a culinary delight. As you enjoy your meal and sip freshly brewed coffee, you’ll enjoy stunning views of the Radcliffe Camera, making your breakfast at Vaults & Garden Café a harmonious blend of Oxford’s rich history and modern gastronomy, setting the stage for an unforgettable day in this timeless city.

Morning: A Literary Journey at the Bodleian Library

After breakfast, immerse yourself in Oxford’s rich literary heritage by visiting the Bodleian Library, one of the world’s oldest libraries. Marvel at the enchanting architecture of the Bodleian’s various buildings, such as the Divinity School and Duke Humfrey’s Library. Take a guided tour to explore the exquisite interiors and learn about the library’s profound history. Don’t forget to gaze up at the enchanting Radcliffe Camera from within the Bodleian’s enchanting Old Schools Quadrangle.

Late Morning: Spiritual Serenity at St. Mary the Virgin

A short stroll from the Bodleian Library will bring you to St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford’s magnificent university church. Climb to the top of its tower the oldest part of the church for stunning views of the city, including the Radcliffe Camera and the historic skyline of Oxford. The 127 septs up to the top lead you past the Clore Old Library and the historic bell ringing chamber. Inside, admire the stunning stained-glass windows and peaceful ambiance that make this church a serene haven amidst the bustling city.

Lunch: A Culinary Interlude

Recharge with a delightful lunch at one of Oxford’s charming eateries. With a vast selection to choose from, below are just a couple of suggestions – please visit our food and drink section for a list of many fabulous and don’t forget to check out the Oxford Covered Market food stalls.

A Taste of History: Lunch at The Historic Turf Tavern, Oxford

Nestled in the heart of historic Oxford, the Turf Tavern is a time-honoured Grade II listed establishment that has welcomed England’s literary giants, politicians, world leaders, and Hollywood stars through its doors since 1381. However, the one guest who has never departed is Rosie, the enduring resident ghost, who continues to await her long-lost love’s return. The Turf Tavern offers an array of culinary delights, including a creamy Seafood Risotto brimming with king prawns, salmon, and crispy squid, as well as classic Fish & Chips featuring crispy battered Atlantic cod. Delight your taste buds with the Vintage Cheddar Mac & Cheese, prepared with 1833 Barber’s Vintage Cheddar.

As you explore the labyrinthine layout of this historic tavern, interconnected by winding passages and staircases, you can dine in the picturesque patio courtyard beer gardens that envelop the establishment on three sides. Experience the unique charm of this legendary tavern, known to viewers of the beloved Morse and Lewis TV series.

Blending Tradition and Sophistication: Lunch at The Red Lion, Oxford

Located in the heart of Oxford’s city centre, behind George Street, The Red Lion effortlessly blends the best of traditional British pub charm with contemporary sophistication, inviting you to enjoy a diverse range of British and Mediterranean-inspired dishes.

Among their tempting menu offerings, you’ll discover delights like the Nourish Bowl, a fusion of hummus, mixed grains, avocado, roasted cauliflower and squash, mooli, pomegranate seeds, watercress, all brought together with a zesty blood orange dressing. If you’re in the mood for a hearty sandwich, try the Fillet Steak Sandwich with a caramelised red onion chutney, rocket, beef dripping sauce, all served on toasted ciabatta. And for those craving something with an exotic flair, the Sweet Potato Massaman Curry with sticky jasmine rice, green beans, spring onion, and a hint of red chili is sure to tantalise your taste buds. Whether you’re in for a quick bite or a leisurely feast, The Red Lion promises an unforgettable dining experience in a great location.

Afternoon: Stroll Through Christ Church Meadow

In the afternoon, take a leisurely walk-through Christ Church Meadow. This picturesque stretch of greenery offers tranquil views of the River Thames and the famous Christ Church College. Enjoy the serenity of this natural oasis as you stroll along the tranquil riverbanks and admire the lush meadows dotted with cattle.

Late Afternoon: Exploring Christ Church College

As your stroll through Christ Church Meadow concludes, head toward Christ Church College, one of Oxford’s most renowned and captivating colleges. Explore the grandeur of its impressive Tom Quad, a magnificent square surrounded by stunning Gothic architecture. Don’t miss the stunning cathedral, which boasts a marvellous fan-vaulted ceiling and remarkable stained glass windows. Walk in the footsteps of literary greats like Lewis Carroll, who found inspiration for “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” in the college’s enchanting gardens.

Early Evening: The Iconic Bridge of Sighs

As the sun begins to set, take a leisurely walk through Oxford’s historic streets to discover iconic landmarks like the Bridge of Sighs, an enchanting covered bridge that connects two parts of Hertford College. This architectural gem is a delightful spot for photographs, especially as the sun’s warm hues cast a magical glow over the city.

Dinner: Culinary Delights to End Your Day

Complete your day in Oxford with a delectable dinner at one of the city’s fine restaurants.

Dining in Elegance: An Evening at The Old Parsonage Grill, Oxford

The Old Parsonage Restaurant, set in a charming historic building, offers a sophisticated dining experience. This charming eatery is renowned for its intimate, bohemian ambiance, complete with a picturesque outdoor dining area and an impressive collection of eclectic oil paintings featuring portraits of renowned writers and artists. Enjoy dishes prepared with locally sourced ingredients in an intimate and elegant setting. Situated in the heart of the city on the elegant St Giles Boulevard, it provides the perfect vantage point for exploring Oxford’s iconic landmarks.

The Parsonage Grill’s delectable menu boasts enticing dishes such as succulent pork belly with caramelised onions, pancetta, carrots, and apple cider sauce, a vibrant pea and broad bean risotto adorned with wild rocket and goat’s cheese, and a mouth-watering fillet of sea bream accompanied by braised fennel and brown shrimp butter. A dining experience that seamlessly blends history, culture, and culinary excellence awaits you at the Parsonage Grill.

Enjoying Excellence: An Evening at No. 1 Ship Street, Oxford

No.1 Ship Street, where Oxford’s most exciting cuisine is harmoniously paired with attentive service across two inviting floors. This Modern British brasserie takes pride in its daily fish specials, featuring a delectable array that includes fresh oysters, succulent mussels, and luxurious lobster. The menu is a testament to culinary craftsmanship, ensuring that each dish is a delightful journey for your taste buds.

Experiencing the Vibrant Flavours of Mowgli, Oxford

Mowgli, vibrant flavours of India is located in the heart of Westgate, Oxford. This culinary gem is all about the exhilarating burst of healthy, fragrant herbs and spices that infuse their dishes. Mowgli’s menu is a testament to simplicity, with each dish crafted fresh every morning at the restaurant, ensuring a taste that’s true to its roots.

Explore a menu filled with delights like the Mowgli House Keema, a rich lamb dish simmered for hours with aromatic spices, the enticing Monkey Wrap featuring charred tandoori chicken, pomegranate jewels, spinach, mint, and a spectrum of homemade Mowgli chutneys, and the Goan Fish Curry, a medley of boneless market fish bathed in a fragrant, fiery, and tangy mahogany sauce, offering an unforgettable journey for your taste buds.

Evening: A Night-time Stroll Through History

After dinner, enjoy a leisurely evening stroll through the enchanting streets of Oxford. The city’s historic buildings, illuminated by soft streetlights, exude a timeless charm. You can also take a guided ghost tour for a spine-tingling journey through Oxford’s haunted history, perfect for those seeking a different kind of adventure.

Late Evening: A Nightcap in Oxford’s Pubs

Wrap up your day in Oxford by visiting one of the city’s traditional pubs. The Bear Inn, one of Oxford’s oldest pubs, provides a cosy atmosphere where you can enjoy a nightcap or perhaps a pint of real ale, continuing a tradition that has lasted for centuries.

With its captivating blend of history, culture, and culinary delights, a day in Oxford promises to be a truly memorable experience. Whether you’re exploring historic landmarks or enjoying local cuisine, this city will leave an indelible mark on your heart and mind.

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