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Oxford travel guide

From punting on the River Thames to grandiose historical colleges and the oldest botanic garden in Britain, you'll never be short of things to do in Oxford. 

The seat of Britain's oldest university, Oxford's famous dreaming spires – of Christ Church Ca­the­dral, Tom Tower and Magdalen Tower – can be seen for miles around. The city has given its name to many things from marmalade to move­ments, and is where un­der­grad­u­ates, cycling around corners, trail their gowns in the wind. But Ox­ford is also the site of the first Morris Motors works, and since World War II it has been an in­dus­tri­al city in addition to an academic one, although this is now less marked than several decades ago. Yet despite the inevitable takeover of Cornmarket Street by the usual high-street chains, the city has reached the 21st century relatively unscathed, and you can still enjoy historic places to visit in Oxford such as the Bodleian Library and the Sheldonian Theatre.

Read more about the culture and history of Oxford...

Top hotels in Oxford

  • Bath Place Hotel

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4–5 Bath Place

Oxford

tel: 01865 791 812

A charming family-run hotel occupying a group of restored 17th-century cottages in the heart of Oxford right next door to the Turf Tavern. Reputedly the scene of Richard Burton–Elizabeth Taylor trysts.

  • College Guest House

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103–5 Woodstock Road

Oxford

tel: 01865 552 579

A good-value guesthouse located in one of the huge red-brick Victorian houses that typifies the Woodstock Road. Offers 12 modest but cosy rooms, some with en-suite or private bathrooms.

  • Malmaison

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3 Oxford Castle

Oxford

tel: 01865 268 400

Occupying the former prison – with each room consisting of three cells knocked into one – this stylish boutique hotel offers the ultimate escape. Rooms offer internet access, DVD players and roll-top baths. Elsewhere in the hotel is a chic brasserie and bar, and a gym.

  • The Tower House

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15 Ship Street

Oxford

tel: 01865 246 828

Located centrally off Cornmarket, this friendly, family-run guesthouse dates to the 17th century. The seven bedrooms are furnished with antiques and decorated to a high standard.

  • Macdonald Randolph Hotel

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Beaumont Street

Oxford

tel: 0844 879 9132

A city landmark, located opposite the Ashmolean Museum, and Oxford’s most famous hotel. Grand tradition rules, from the decor in the rooms to the classic afternoon tea in the drawing room (a favourite for post-graduation celebrations) to the wood-­panelled Morse Bar.

Top restaurants in Oxford

  • Brasserie Blanc

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71–72 Walton Street

Oxford

tel: 01865-510 999

A link in Raymond Blanc’s chain of upmarket restaurants, where you can get light but traditional French dishes in a bright and airy dining room. Children’s menus available.

  • Gee’s Restaurant

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61 Banbury Road

Oxford

tel: 01865-553 540

One of Oxford’s best and most atmospheric restaurants, serving modern British food, much of it from the owner’s Oxfordshire farm. Live jazz on Sunday evenings.

  • Luna Caprese

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4 North Parade

Oxford

tel: 01865 554 812

This long-established Italian restaurant is impervious to fads, and justifiably so, given the consistent quality of the food. The walls are decked with fishing nets and shells, the pasta is always freshly made; if it is your birthday, the Italian waiters may even sing for you.

  • Quod Restaurant and Bar

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92–4 High Street

Oxford

tel: 01865 202 505

A stylish and bustling brasserie-style establishment, offering a varied menu with an Italian slant. It is particularly worth visiting during the week between the hours of noon and 7pm, when an excellent-value set-lunch menu is available. Children are welcome here.

Read more about England

Read more about England in Insight Guides: England

Insight Guides: England

Insight Guide England is a comprehensive full-colour guide to the culture, history and people of this varied and exciting country. Our inspirational Best Of England section illustrates the country's...

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