Traveling is definitely a hobby here at Della's Kitchen. I love discovering new places and have often found unique products for the shop while touring. We were able to make a quick stop in Oxford while in the UK and are sharing a few tips of things to see and do should you make it across the pond.
Oxford is a lovely college town about 50 miles from London. I would suggest a 3-4 day visit to be able to see most of the local attractions. I stayed in a quaint hotel, the Vanbrugh House, right in the center of the town and only a 10 minute walk from the train station. If you need an elevator, look somewhere else, but they will help you with your bags to the room.
We started the tour with brunch at The Grand Cafe, which claims to be the first coffee house in England. It's a small cafe, so there may be a short wait but it's worth it for the daily specials and dessert selection.
Next, we headed to the ticket office to book same day tickets for a tour of Oxford University's Bodleian Library. You can book tickets in advance, but I wasn't that organized. I would highly recommend the 1.5 hour tour so you can visit both Duke Humfrey's medieval library (where scenes from Harry Potter were filmed - no photography allowed) and also tour the Radcliffe Camera. The tour guides are knowledgeable and kind. We recommend getting in line a few minutes before the ticket office opens to guarantee a same day ticket. It's right next to the Radcliffe Camera.
After touring the library, head to the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin next door for a tower tour and stunning views of the Radcliffe Camera. We were lucky to find it on a beautifully sunny day. The tour costs a few pounds to help with church maintenance.
If the weather is rainy, the historic covered market is a great place to shop. Be sure to visit the Hat Box to peruse those traditional British accessories. Just outside the covered market is a fun store called Objects of Use, a modern hardware store that's both beautiful and informative. Jericho Coffee is a local coffee shop, and a latte hit the spot before heading off on the next tour.
The History of Science Museum is free with a recommended donation of 5 pounds. This fascinating museum houses the earliest of instruments in a variety of technical fields, such as chemistry, astronomy, medicine, and more. In those early days, instruments were also works of art. Notably, you'll also find a chalk board that Albert Einstein wrote on during a lecture at Oxford in the 1930's.
The Christchurch Picture Gallery was the next stop with a lovely collection of artwork. There is a small entrance fee and no photography is allowed. The staff is more than willing to answer any questions about the artwork and also discuss connections between artwork in the Ashmolean Museum. Unfortunately I didn't have time to visit the Ashmolean, but it comes highly recommended by others.
Dinner at Gino's Spaghetti House was delicious. A reservation is recommended, especially if you're dining after 7pm. Just say yes to the cheesy bread!
If you're a bookish person, we recommend visiting Blackwell's Bookshop. Or if you're looking for something more unique, visit St. Philip's Books. They sell unique second-hand books. I happened upon a first edition book about Helen Keller (who grew up not far from my home!). Next to St. Philip's Books is Alice's Shop. I didn't know the connection of Alice in Wonderland before I had visited, but it's an interesting story to learn. Alice's Shop has plenty of Wonderland goods for your favorite fan.
Day 2 started with a hearty breakfast from George Street Cafe.
One of the stores I was most excited to visit was Sanders of Oxford. It's an antique print and map shop with the most beautiful collection. Your only problem will be how to carry it all home (and maybe your pocketbook, too). I was able to bring back a framed print and a few smaller prints that I'll have framed soon.
The Old Fire Station is another great place to shop. The tenets there have items made in the UK, often hand-made locally.
The Weston Library was my second library visit of the trip. Free to enter, they have varying exhibits and some permanent collections for viewing. It's free to enter, and has beauties such as Illustrated books and an original Jane Austen manuscript. The exhibits here were relatively small at the time we visited, so you won't need too long at this stop.
If you have kids, a fun stop will be the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. They have bones and fossils of all types. Did I mention dinos??
Blenheim Palace came highly recommended, but with only two days to visit there was no time. The Palace is a few miles from town, so you'll need to grab a bus to visit for the day. Their website provides instructions for bus options and there is plenty to see and do for a full day at the Palace.
We hope you enjoyed visiting Oxford with us. Let us know if you're able to go!