Review: A City break to Oxford

After a summer in London, a break to another UK city might seem like a strange choice for a weekend away. However, so many of us take for granted the rich history of our little island and the wealth of beautiful metropolises, which lie within its shores. I’ve therefore decided to try to experience more of them, while doing a bit more ‘stacationing’ over the next few years and so I began with a trip to Oxford.

Known as the “city of dreaming spires”, Oxford is famous for its architecture, culture and, of course, its education establishments. Just over two hours from Greenwich, the city offers a great place to escape the doldrums of London for a weekend of opulence.

And it really does have a feeling of wealth as soon as you clap your eyes on the majestic buildings, which litter the city centre.

But before you can get to the lavish eateries, and designer retail outlets you have to contend with one of Oxford’s other famous ‘attractions’, the traffic. If you are planning to go for a weekend, I would advise leaving as early as possible; the traffic on Fridays in and around Oxford is monstrous

I arrived at my fairly modest lodgings after a four-hour car journey (I did get a bit lost, which didn’t help) and was heartened that I was to be staying at the Holiday Inn, which additionally boasts a spar. After a tumultuous and busy few weeks at work and a stressful expedition to get there, the facilities immediately helped to loosened me up and gave me a holiday feeling right from the start.

The hotel has simple décor, but is extremely well maintained and offers a sauna, gym, steam room, Jacuzzi, treatment room and a decent sized swimming pool (unlike the tiny ones you often get in hotels). There is also an excellent restaurant on the premises, which provided a fulsome feast for my first night in residence and a huge breakfast to see me off on my city excursion the next day.

It’s also really conveniently located on the edge of the city – near to the airport – and just a stone’s throw from the park and ride, so I was able to board a bus and get into the city within 15 minutes at a cost of just £2.

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And it turned out to be a good time to visit, as fortuitously it was the annual Oxford Open Doors weekend. The festival offered free entry to many of the historic buildings and colleges and so after a fun little jaunt around on a vintage bus, I crossed the thresholds of some of the most famous buildings in the city – many of which had exhibitions and events to entertain me, but which I probably wouldn’t have made the effort to go to if I’d had to pay. I did shell out to ascend Carfax Tower however – as I had heard it was the place to go for the best views over the city and I wasn’t disappointed.

But I wasn’t just there to be educated and I made good use of the myriad of retail establishments; all situated conveniently close together and linked by a matrix of intricate back streets, which housed an abundance of continental bars restaurants and interesting little independent shops. There was even an open-air food market where you could sample cuisine from around the world and all of the big high-street retailers. With a new mall opening in October, the city centre is likely to become even more popular as a shopping destination.

Oxford did also provide me with a home from home feeling, as – a bit like Greenwich – the city contains a good amount of green space and waterside amusement amidst the exquisite historical architecture and urbanisation.

After a few more swims and an enormous final breakfast I embarked on the journey home, which with the quiet Sunday morning roads took just over two hours.

Oxford is easy to get to so you don’t feel like you’ve taken up too much of your weekend on travel time and despite it being an affluent destination; it can be experienced on a fairly humble budget.


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