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Pocket Guide: Oxford City Centre

Oxford City Centre hotels

Home to one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world, Oxford is overflowing with historic and cultural charms. If you’re looking for a hotel in Oxford city centre to explore everything it has to offer, there is plenty of choice available to you. However, it makes good sense to book in advance, especially if you plan to visit during popular events such as the Boat Race and graduation ceremonies.

Oxford is popularly known as “the city of dreaming spires”, for Christ Church Cathedral and Tom Tower, a bell tower with a dome that was designed by Sir Christopher Wren. The city escaped relatively unscathed from German bombs during World War II and, as a consequence, you can still see many superb examples of architecture on the streets of Oxford that have survived down through the ages.

For a small city, Oxford has a remarkably diverse population, so deciding on where to dine out can sometimes present a challenge. Many of the best restaurants are to be found close to hotels in Oxford city centre, which is fairly compact with several pedestrianised streets. There are some 36 colleges scattered around, with the most well-known being Balliol, Trinity and Christ Church.

Getting to Oxford is a breeze. The city is just an hour from Heathrow International Airport, while London, Bristol, Southampton and Birmingham are all within a two-hour drive, should you be interested in a day trip.

Where to stay in Oxford city centre

The hub of Oxford city centre is Carfax, or “crossroads”. Here stands the 12th century St Martin’s Tower, which you can climb to the top for splendid views across the city. From Carfax, St Aldate’s leads down to the Thames river, while the High curves to the east, and is lined with independent retailers and beautiful historic buildings including the covered market. Cowley Road, the main shopping and nightlife area, is close by.

Oxford has a wonderfully varied selection of accommodation available, whether you’re after cheap hotels in Oxford city centre that put you on the doorstep of key attractions, cosy bed and breakfasts, or stylish modern properties. There are also a number of elegant luxury hotels in Oxford city centre, offering everything from spa services to brasserie dining and breathtaking views across the city skyline.

If you’re driving in, then you can easily find hotels in Oxford city centre with parking. Most visitors tend to get around on foot for the most part, or join a hop-on, hop-off bus tour.

What not to miss in Oxford city centre

The trick with Oxford city centre is not so much finding things to see and do, but more how to pack everything in. You might begin with an illuminating guided tour of the vast Bodleian Library, one of the oldest and largest in Europe, and where you must recite a traditional oath before entering. A natural place to continue your literary exploration is the magnificent Christ Church Cathedral, where you can see the grave of Henry Liddell, father to Alice, who served as the inspiration for CS Lewis’ “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. If you’re bringing the kids along, then Oxford’s Story Museum will make for a fascinating and entertaining excursion.

The 18th century covered market has many independent boutiques, eateries and other unique stalls, making it ideal for gift-shopping, and you can always find a treasure or two at Boswell’s of Oxford, a huge department store that has been trading since 1738.

As you wander around Oxford city centre you will pass many buildings and streets that have been used as locations for TV shows and films such as Inspector Morse and Harry Potter. The Bridge of Sighs and Folly Bridge are particularly noticeable, while the bizarre Headington Shark, a sculpture of a great white shark disappearing into a rooftop, is a famed local landmark.

The Ashmolean Museum is the oldest in the UK and holds works by artists such as Turner, Michelangelo and Picasso, and many other stunning artefacts, including an incredibly valuable Stradivarius violin. The University Museum of Natural History meanwhile has several jaw-dropping dinosaur skeletons, among them a tyrannosaurus rex and a triceratops.

For a spot of scenery, you might roam the beautiful University of Oxford Botanic Garden, which has some 8,000 species of plant and tree, stroll along the riverside, or take a relaxing boat journey along the Thames. The spectacular Blenheim Palace is also just a 30-minute trip away by car.

Get your trip to Oxford off to the best possible start by saving yourself time and money. You can book hotels in Oxford city centre together with flights, car hire and even excursions, with the Expedia search tool.