48 hours in Oxford: the complete weekend guide

By , 26th March 2015

Our ideas of travel are perhaps reinforced by other peoples’ Instagram photos of the Eiffel Tower or of memories of thumbing through foreign phrase books – but it doesn’t have to be. That’s why we’re bringing you our 48 hour guides for some inspiration on how to travel and experience new destinations close to home –perfect for a weekend trip!

Oxford may be small, but it’s filled to the brim with things to see and do – making it an ideal city-break. But it’s not all about the famous university – discover the popular local haunts, visit the multicultural Cowley Road and explore what delicious bites the city has to offer. With a sizeable student population, you can also expect to find top-notch nightlife.

Here’s how to see it all in 48 hours and get the most out of your weekend in Oxford.

Click here to see it on Google Maps.

Day 1: Morning

Vaults & Garden Cafe is your first stop for your weekend in Oxford. Photo by y_liu

Start your morning with a leisurely breakfast in the historic heart of Oxford, at the quaint Vaults and Garden Café. If the weather is warm, go ahead and take a seat outside, surrounded by aromatic flowers and herbs. Eco-conscious visitors will also love the café, which sources only local, organic and ethically-produced food.

Try the Mediterranean Breakfast – complete with grilled halloumi cheese (yes, please), fresh houmous and “giant” beans for a reasonable £4.95.

Join Footprints Walking Tours to see the university colleges in Oxford.
Ready to stretch your legs and walk off that grilled halloumi? It’s time to join Footprints Tours. This is the easiest way to squeeze in a dozen or so University Colleges in two hours – the best time-saving hack to your 48 hours in Oxford. Among the honey-hued buildings, cobbled alleyways and stories of lore, the experienced guides will also show you Oxford’s Bodleian Library, the oldest public library in the world, as well as Christ Church and Merton College.

The walking tours are completely free – but tips are welcome!

Day 1: Afternoon

Stop by Jericho Cafe for a hearty weekend lunch in Oxford.Photo by pippin125

By now, your feet are tired and your stomach is rumbling – and there’s nothing more you want than, say, a home-made creamy fish pie or a classic British beef burger. A short stroll through the artistic and trendy suburb of Jericho will bring you to these mouth-watering dishes at Jericho Café. A popular haunt for students and locals, the café offers a relaxed and friendly atmosphere – there’s even free wifi, so you can catch up on your day’s plans.

The café offers a selection of hearty mains for less than £10.

The Pitt River Museum in Oxford houses over half a million artifacts.
You’ve recharged your batteries and checked into Facebook – so now head down to the Pitt Rivers Museums to while away the afternoon. Looking more like a movie set than a museum, the galleries are decked with glass cases containing half a million anthropological and archeological artifacts.

Admission is free. Check the museum’s opening hours here.

Day 1: Evening

Qumins restaurant fish curry_Oxford
Explore Cowley Road for its multicultural scene. This is the best place in Oxford to experience diverse dining. Get dinner at Qumins Restaurant, just off the main road, where you’ll find some of the city’s most beloved and authentic Indian cuisine. The family-run restaurant offers a great selection of familiar dishes such as butter chicken and tandoori lamb – but they also have several vegetarian options and some more unusual ones, such as Koddu Ghost (mutton cooked with pumpkin).

Mains range from £8-£15, with sides (such as rice and naan bread) ranging from £2-£4.

Cafe Tarifa is worth a visit during your Oxford trip.
Café Tarifa is just down the road and is perfect for your after-dinner cocktail in intimate and relaxed surroundings. The Moroccan-inspired décor certainly brings the space to life, with low-seating, Persian rugs and elegant fairy-lights, whilst the outdoor terrace is great for warmer nights. Expect to find a smartly-dressed crowd of 20 to 30-somethings mingling with a Mojito in hand.

Lola Lo club in Oxford
Then jump in a cab to Lola Lo to dance the rest of your night away to some fresh house beats. Not only is the Polynesian-inspired club fashioned with tiki carvings, hula girl motifs and bamboo furniture, but it also offers a colourful menu of tropical cocktails to match. Ask one of the talented mixologists to whip up a Daddy Diggy Diggy Doo (that’s Amarula and butterscotch schnapps with vanilla syrup and cola-toffee popcorn), and you’ll be set for a good night.

Day 2: Morning

Door 74_OxfordPhoto by michwongy

Headache? We feel your pain. Go to Door 74 to fix you up after your heady night out – they’re known to do a mean English breakfast.

Punting on the River Cherwell in OxfordPhoto by up to 2011

But you’re still feeling languid? Wander up to the Magdalen Bridge Boat House – it’s not far, we assure you – and sit back and enjoy the sunshine as you go punting along the river. Picturesque views along the River Cherwell include the Botanic Gardens, Magdalen College School fields and Christ Church Meadows.

Day 2: Afternoon

Classic pub food at The White Rabbit in OxfordPhoto by Rachel Grabiner

Your weekend in Oxford wouldn’t be complete without some quality pub food. That’s why we recommend you head to The White Rabbit. The owners’ philosophy is to serve up a good pizza and a pint – and we promise you’ll also be a believer once you’ve sampled their menu, home-made from Italian dough with love. They also serve a range of local craft beers to boot.

A classic magherita costs £5.95. If this leaves you with spare change after lunch, check out the famous Fudge Kitchen to satisfy your sweet tooth.

The Castle Crypt is a must-see for your weekend in Oxford.
A visit to Oxford Castle is not to be missed. Built in 1071 for William the Conqueror, the castle plays a large part in the city’s heritage: it was home to the first Oxford teachings, was a place for public executions, and up until 1996, a prison. Guided tours are now available at Oxford Castle Unlocked, where you’ll have the opportunity to experience some of the castle’s grisly and turbulent past.

Entry for adults costs £10.25 and £6.95 for children (free for kids under five). Pre-booking is recommended.

Day 2: Evening

Head to the Oxford Kitchen for a classy dinner.Photo by Simon Minter

It’s time for dinner at somewhere fancy – but don’t fuss about putting on your best suit and tie. The Oxford Kitchen, in the upmarket suburb of Summertown, prides itself on “relaxed fine dining” – so you can savour the flavours of fine British cuisine in the comfort of your trusty jeans.

Top tip: try the five course tasting menu for £49 per person.

Raoul's Bar is a must-visit on your city-break to Oxford.Photo by Bethhibb

Finally, there’s no classier way to end your 48 hours in Oxford than with visit to one of Oxford’s most dedicated cocktail bars, Raoul’s Bar. Here, only freshly squeezed and 100% pressed fruit juices are used, so you know the bartenders are serious about serving up quality beverages.

But if cocktails aren’t your thing, simply pop around the corner after dinner to The Oxford Wine Café, where you can sip your night away to live jazz instead.


But throughout all of this, you need a place to sleep, of course. And there are few finer pleasures in life than returning to a sumptuous bed after an action-packed day.

Sleep at the Malmaison for a unique stay in Oxford.
For a truly unique Oxford experience, we suggest trying a night behind bars at the Malmaison Oxford. Thankfully, the former castle-turned-prison-turned-hotel is no longer the threadbare affair it used to be. It’s now fully equipped with the latest creature comforts such as power showers, ambience lighting and digital TVs, so you’ll almost be tempted to have the night in. Or you could simply trapeze downstairs to mingle with Oxford’s finest at the hotel’s signature Malbar. Room rates are available here.

Stay at the Macdonald Randolph Oxford for the height of luxury.
Another option is the Macdonald Randolph Hotel, offering guests the height of luxury. The hotel’s classic suites are perfect for a short getaway, complete with a cushy bed, a private lounge with cosy armchairs and Molton Brown toiletries. But don’t let the comfortable bathrobes stop you from dressing up and enjoying a night out in town – or from visiting the Randolph’s award-winning restaurant. Click here to compare room rates.

Both hotels are located in the centre of Oxford, surrounded by lively nightlife – so you can literally stumble to bed after one-too-many cocktails.

To see more accommodation options, go to trivago.co.uk
Have we missed any must-do activities? Let us know below!