England

Romance in the city | three romantic hotel breaks in Oxford

Laura is back to take us on a romantic exploration of her beloved hometown, Oxford.

I think Oxford has a lot to do with why I’m a daydreamer. All those whimsical, poetic vibes seeped into my soul after growing up in and around the city; and they’ll seep into yours too, if you let them. For me, that what makes the city of dreaming spires the perfect place for a romantic break for two.

Oxford’s cobbled streets and whimsical buildings set the backdrop for real romance in the city. Over the centuries, it has captured everyone from artists to scientists to writers. Whether you want the authentic Oxford experience in an ancient hotel, or to discover the modern side of the city with a slick and stylish stay, there are some great places to rest your head after a day spent exploring together.

Here are my top three hotels that’ll suit any budget for a romantic break in Oxford.

A luxury romantic weekend with a setting that is fit for royalty at The Randolph

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The Randolph has been an Oxford institution for 150 years. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t entranced by its grand entrance and its swaying British flags above the door. It’s one of those hotels I used to wander past as a child, thinking: “who gets to stay there?”. Well, you can, and it’s the ideal place to splash out and splurge on a special trip for two.

Sitting opposite the grand Ashmolean Museum (one of my favourites) The Randolph provides five-star luxury from the off, with architecture that wows even amidst this iconic part of the city. Inside is just as glorious, the gothic design continues with a stately staircase and high ceilings; the Randolph is exactly what you’d expect from an ancient Oxford icon.

Perfect for special occasions, anniversaries & birthday weekends away

Romance in the Rooms: Plush, classic luxury with modern touches

Recently refurbished, the Randolph’s rooms are classic luxury meets modern style. Plush interiors keep it cosy but opulent, roll top baths with Molten Brown goodies are perfect for pampering, while the room service menu gives great British clout with afternoon tea that you may as well enjoy in bed. Treat yourself to a suite and you’ll get access to the Club Room, where big leather armchairs and champagne on tap make it difficult to tear yourself away.

Romance in the city: let us entertain you

With the Ashmolean museum opposite, culture is covered with a romantic Oxford break at The Randolph. There you’ll find everything from ancient Egyptian mummies and Renaissance art to a rooftop restaurant, but the Natural History Museum and Pitt Rivers are also a short stroll away if you want dinosaur skeletons and to meet the city’s famous dodo.

Take a short romantic walk along the city streets to nearby George Street, here you’ll find restaurants galore and the New Theatre, which is stalwart for travelling musicals and big-name plays. The Playhouse theatre also sits a few doors down from the hotel, staging everything from opera and amateur dramatics to ballet and comedy.

My last visit to Oxford culminated in a trip to Franco Manca on George Street because I was told by an American that here they had tried the “best pizza, ever”. I was sceptical having tried unsurpassed slices in New York and Chicago but after a night in this slow-rising sourdough heaven, I was soon proved wrong. You can’t book, there is often a queue, but it’s well worth the wait.

If you’re after a more intimate setting, pure romance is on the menu at Gee’s, a nearby restaurant set in a fairy lit Victorian Glasshouse. The twinkly lights and greenery have been drawing me here since I was a little girl, but it’s the ever-changing, inventive menu that keeps me visiting again and again as an adult. Gee’s sits on the edge of Jericho, one of Oxford’s coolest pockets and the perfect place to enjoy a post-dinner cocktail in the Duke of Cambridge or Raoul’s. There’s also a Phoenix Picturehouse here if you fancy a cosy flick the next day.

Macdonald Randolph Hotel Oxford

Oxford, 0.1 km to Ashmolean Museum
8.0 Very good (3539 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.4 / 10
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A romantic weekend staying amidst the spires at The Old Bank

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Oxford’s High Street runs from the medieval Magdalen College to the heart of the city, and is where you’ll find one of my favourite places to stay in Oxford, The Old Bank hotel.

Set in, you guessed it, an old bank building, this elegant hotel provides a dreamy location amidst some of Oxford’s most famous landmarks. Opposite you’ll find the Radcliffe Camera and the Bodleian Library, with All Souls and Merton colleges on either side together with a collection of cute cafes and boutique shops on the High Street.

Perfect for sightseeing, art fans & shopping

Romance in the Rooms: Plush, classic luxury with modern touches

Owned by an art collector, the Old Bank hotel is as cool as they come. Pared back interiors provide the ideal setting for an art collection worthy of a gallery – take a wander around the hotel together and you might just stumble across a Damien Hurst. Rooms set the tone with crisp white linen, grey and burnt orange accents and unique artwork. If you’re feeling really flush, there’s a new rooftop suite, The Room With The View, which will put you quite literally within the spires. The suite gives pure once in a lifetime romance with 7ft high windows, a private terrace and a room remote control so you can enjoy the view from your bed in the morning. That said, it does come with a four-figure price tag…

Romance in the city: a dreamy step back in time

If you’re visiting Oxford for that romantic, old-school atmosphere, you’ll get it at The Old Bank. Oxford’s colleges are almost unavoidable in this area, and cobbled streets, alleys and the notorious Brasenose Lane are just a short walk away (head here at night time and huddle together as you wander down this famously haunted Oxford passage).

Walk along the High Street to The Grand Café for high tea, cocktails and champagne – it’s just what a romantic break in Oxford was made for. The country’s first coffee house, this lavish little bar now oozes fancy French renaissance vibes with its mirrored walls and gold leaf. It also boasts a certain je ne sais quoi for pastry. Try an eclair, you won’t regret it.

Wander across the road for hot chocolate and late lunch at the Vaults & Garden Café, set in the crypt and churchyard garden of the University Church of St Mary. It specialises in fresh, organic and sustainably sourced ingredients, so you can dig in guilt-free, surrounded by one of the best settings in the city.

A romantic break in Oxford would not be complete without seeing its spires by night, and nearby The Varsity Club offers just that from its rooftop. Make your way through the revellers on the dance floors and climb to the very top. If you can’t stretch to the Old Bank’s The Room With The View, you’ll get your fill up here, with cocktails and a blanket to boot.

Old Bank Hotel

Top rated
Oxford, 0.6 km to Ashmolean Museum
9.1 Excellent (1234 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.6 / 10
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An affordable romantic weekend for riverside frolicking at The Oxford Townhouse

A romantic weekend in Oxford doesn’t have to break the bank, with plenty of budget hotels and B&Bs that still offer pretty settings along the city streets. The Oxford Townhouse is one of those hidden gems.

It may be a ten-minute walk from the centre, but what a walk it is. Wandering into town will take you over Folly Bridge, where you can stop for a waterside drink at the Head of the River pub, or you can divert through Christchurch Meadow with its huge swathes of green and riverside paths. If you’d prefer not to walk around the city, you can even jump on a boat at the bridge and punt your way romantically past the very best sights.

Perfect for lazy weekends, walks in the park & shopping

Romance in the Rooms: an old Victorian townhouse with cosy rooms

Set in an old Victorian townhouse on Abingdon Road, the Oxford Townhouse provides a cosy setting that is perfect for a budget romantic Oxford break. Muted greys and blues in the rooms give them a relaxed feel, while chic touches keep things special and high ceilings and plenty of light prevent them from feeling small. Bathrooms are modern and pleasant with underfloor heating and stylish toiletries. You’ll also find the perfect balance of personal service and plenty of privacy during your stay.

Romance in the city: shop 'til you drop and laze by the river

This end of town is great for fulfilling that dreamy image of lazing on the river in a rowing boat or being chauffeured across the waterways snuggled up in a punt. Wander to either Salter’s Steamers or Oxford River Cruises on the Folly Bridge for everything from boat trips to self-drive hire. You can even enjoy afternoon tea with a difference on the River Cruises’ Mad Hatter Tea Party or on the Pimm’s Cruise.

Wander further up the Abingdon Road and you’ll arrive in the heart of the city, where you can seek out the newly opened Westgate Centre. It is filled with every type of shop imaginable and my favourite feature, a rooftop with a pick of stylish places to eat and drink. The Alchemist serves cocktails with flair (think smoking glasses and colour changing liquids), while Mowgli Street Food offers rope swing seats beside the window – great if you fancy reverting back to childhood together over some tiffin tins of Indian food. If that isn’t enough carefree fun, wander to the Thirsty Meeples Board Game Café and get competitive over a game and a bottle of craft beer.

The Oxford Townhouse

Oxford, 1.5 km to Ashmolean Museum
8.4 Very good (1231 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.3 / 10
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Laura Feasey

A writer living in London, Laura is currently working on her debut novel – a fictional tale inspired by her travels across America. When she’s not checking out the ideal hotel bed thread-count, she’s penning short stories, writing for various publications & brands, and sharing fashion tales on her blog, LauLauLand.
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