Wondering where to stay in Oxford? Don’t miss this insider’s guide. Everything you need to know to plan your perfect Oxford escape.
Oxford is the perfect destination for a short break.
The city is packed with history, great walks, fantastic restaurants and so many things to do.
The cobbled streets encourage you to spend hours enjoying the quaint independent shops and snapping pictures to your heart’s content.
The picture-perfect backdrop provides an incredible setting for the hundreds of movies and TV shows filmed in the city. Think Harry Potter, X-Men and Mamma Mia! Meaning, from the moment you arrive in Oxford, everything feels magically familiar.
With a population of little over 150,000, this city certainly knows how to pack a punch. Everyone will find something they love in Oxford, from nature lovers to history seekers and everyone in between.
Here is your complete guide to the best places to stay in Oxford.
Where to Stay in Oxford – Six of the Best Locations
Best for First-Timers
Those on their first visit to the city will undoubtedly be the most unsure about where to stay in Oxford.
I would go as far as to say that Oxford is the most un-citylike city in the UK. No skyscrapers and the tiny population giving the area much more of a village feel.
However, there is a huge amount to see and do in Oxford for a relatively small city. So, basing yourself as central as possible is the best option to enjoy all of the beautiful attractions.
Why The City Centre is One of the Best Places to Stay in Oxford
The heart of Oxford is its legendary university – the oldest university in the English-speaking world, to be precise. But, whilst only a privileged few of us can boast of studying here, exploring the magnificent grounds is an activity open to all who visit the city.
The architecture of the various Oxford colleges is genuinely mind-blowing. There truly is no better place than Oxford on a sunny day. (I know… this is England, right?) But if you are fortunate enough to be blessed with bright, warm weather, you should dedicate the entire afternoon to wandering the central university grounds. Continue the stroll into Christ Church Meadow and enjoy the stunning greenery in the heart of the city.
For book lovers, no trip to Oxford would be complete without a peruse around Blackwell’s famous book shop. Over three miles of bookshelves dedicated to academic and specialist texts.
Blackwell’s is a sight to behold even for those who aren’t overly excited by literature. Plus, we get to enjoy that delicious new book smell that the kindle just cannot rival.
Harry Potter Filming Locations
As I’m sure you are aware, Oxford provided a tremendous amount of inspiration, and filming locations, for many of the Harry Potter movies we all know and love.
The grand Bodley Tower at Christ Church College provides the marvellous staircases that featured heavily in the first two movies.
Additionally, the Christ Church Dining Hall inspired the majestic Hogwarts Grand Hall, and the New College Courtyard was used in many Goblet of Fire scenes. So for any Harry Potter fanatic, a tour around these locations in central Oxford is not to be missed.
When you’ve had your daily dose of culture, be sure to head to one of Oxford’s cocktail bars, like the centrally located Varsity Club’s rooftop bar – for unbeatable views of the city. With an extensive wine list and reasonably priced cocktail menu, it’s one of the best places in the city to catch the sunset.
Suggested Places to Stay in Oxford City Centre
The Randolph Hotel
The Randolph Hotel is one of the most popular places to stay in Oxford, and for a good reason. The rooms are decadent, the staff are attentive, and the food is excellent. Double rooms start from £279 per night.
The Old Bank Hotel
For exquisite décor and the best views in the entire city, visit The Old Bank. This centrally located, 5-star establishment has been welcoming guests for decades.
Be sure to indulge in a cocktail on the Quod restaurant terrace bar and make use of one of the best photo spots in the city. Double rooms here start from £254.
My favourite hotel in the area has to be the Malmaison – situated inside a former Victorian prison; the architecture in this hotel is like nothing else I’ve ever witnessed.
Double rooms at the Malmaison start at £179 per night.
Best for Relaxation
If you’re looking for a little rest and relaxation from your trip, but want easy access into the city, South Oxford will be for you. The area is extremely popular with couples, due to the incredible spas with Oxfordshire countryside views.
Why South Oxford is one of the Best Areas to Stay
Spend afternoons strolling around Iffley Meadows and The Kidneys, enjoying some of the best greenery this area of the country has to offer.
South Oxford is an ideal location for those who want to make the most of the beautiful yet complex canals. I recommend taking a Water Cruise which will afford you stunning views of the rolling countryside, as well as a glimpse at the highlights of the city.
The beauty of staying in south Oxford is that it is only a 20-minute walk (or 7-minute drive) into the centre. Thus, allowing you to dip your toe into the Oxford nightlife but enjoy the serenity or a more rural hotel.
Suggested Places to Stay in South Oxford
Voco Oxford Spires
If a spa situated in 40 acres of woodland sounds like your vibe, then Voco – Oxford Spires will be the south Oxford hotel for you. Couples will particularly enjoy this offering, with a fabulous onsite health club and spa, as well as the beautiful Deacon’s Restaurant.
Rooms here start at £124 per night.
Best Place to Stay in Oxford for Families
Just north of the city centre is the affluent area of Summertown. The red-brick Victorian houses stand proudly on the tree-lined, family-friendly streets.
Why Summertown is one of the Best Places to Stay in Oxford
Summertown is extremely popular with families due to the quieter nature of the spot. (But this is not to say that Oxford is by any means rowdy, especially if you’re used to the chaos of central London.)
In addition to its peaceful nature, choosing a location slightly outside of the centre tends to afford more space for your budget. Furthermore, parking is readily available in the area, making it ideal for those with young children who need considerably more luggage.
Explore the Canals
The canal network provides peaceful walks into the countryside from Summertown. However, if you would prefer to stay closer to your accommodation, Cutteslow Park offers a great outside space for the children to let off some steam.
The fantastic North Oxford golf club is also a short walk up the road for those searching for a child-free morning.
Summertown is the ideal base for those hoping to Visit Blenheim Palace, which is just a 15-minute drive away from the area. This UNESCO world heritage site was the birthplace of the former Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, and served as the Churchill family home for nearly 300 years.
The site is now a popular tourist attraction, with visitors flocking in their thousands to enjoy the stunning buildings and grounds. You guessed it – Blenheim Palace is also a popular movie filming location, providing unique backdrops for Indiana Jones and James Bond films.
Suggested Places to Stay in Summertown, Oxford
The Galaxie provides a great family option – with comfortable twin rooms starting from £112.00. There are 32 lovely rooms in total, with a few interconnecting options which are ideal for families.
This charming b&b is right on the doorstep of all the best Summertown has to offer.
Marlborough House is another excellent North Oxford offering. Whilst the décor might not be as modern and stylish as some of those in central Oxford, the location and service here are incredible.
The family room starts from £150 per night and provides the perfect base for an Oxford adventure.
Remont Oxford Hotel
Another fantastic family offering is the Remont Oxford Hotel. Rooms here start at £107 per night, with plenty of family rooms readily available.
This rate includes clean, colourful rooms with parking and a delicious breakfast – what more could a family need?
Cowley and East Oxford
Best for Great Food and Street Art
Cowley is one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Oxford. It is diverse, full of life, and has some of the best restaurants in the city. Situated in east Oxford, Cowley manages to hone in on the best elements of Oxford (incredible buildings and even better food) yet add its own entirely independent twist.
Why Cowley is one of the Best Places to Stay in Oxford
Food and Drink
The food and drink options in this area of the city are endless. For incredible North African inspired tapas, head to Kazbar. Alternatively, try amazing Tibetan dumplings (known as momo’s) from Taste Tibet. Finally, for some of the best vegan food I have ever tasted, visit Happy Friday Kitchen.
Though not truly in Cowley, just up the road from the fantastic eateries is the stunning Magdalen College. This working academic institution welcomes visitors to wander the iconic hallways and gardens. Tickets are £8 per adult and £7 per child but offer an incredible insight into life studying at Oxford University. The college is open year-round and doesn’t require pre-booking.
Across the road is the brilliant Oxford Botanic Gardens – the perfect place to enjoy a picnic after your college tour.
A whole day could be dedicated to enjoying the fantastic street art in Cowley. The massive mural on Moberly Close is a recent addition which adds even more animation, colour and personality to the area.
If you’re planning a summer trip, try to line it up with Cowley Road Carnival, which is attended by over 50,000 people each year. The carnival focuses on bringing together the community and champions an inclusive policy – welcoming individuals from every age, ethnicity, and social group.
Suggested Places to Stay in Cowley, Oxford
The offerings around Cowley road tend to be self-contained apartments rather than fully serviced hotels. These apartments are great for those looking to visit Oxford on a budget due to their facilities, which generally include a fully fitted kitchen.
This modern apartment sleeps four adults, has free, secure parking and starts from £199 per night. It is ideally located just a 10-minute cycle from Cowley high street and its incredible food scene.
Cornwallis House comfortably sleeps up to five adults in its sizable three bedrooms. This is an excellent option for bigger families looking to explore the idyllic city of Oxford – prices here start from £398 per night.
Jericho and North Oxford
Best for Nightlife
From one hipster area to the next, Jericho is another of my favourite places to stay in Oxford.
Why Jericho is one of the Best Areas to Stay in Oxford
Situated in the north of the city, this area is a true melting pot of the best Oxford has to offer. You would be forgiven for mistaking Jericho for a London suburb, with its pastel houses and independent cafes.
Bars and Restaurants
Of course, no trip to this north Oxford spot would be complete without a visit to Love Jericho. This fabulous cocktail bar creates the centrepiece for the eclectic independent scene in the city. I recommend the chilli-chocolate martini to get your night off with a bang!
Additionally, there are two fantastic museums nearby. Visit Britain’s first public museum, Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, to enjoy an extensive and varied collection of archaeology from all over the world. Admission here is free, and the venue holds regular exhibitions such as the current ‘Tokyo: Art & Photography’, which is running until January 2022.
The Museum of Natural History is also nearby. Whilst this spot is great for adults, it’s even better for children. Interestingly, the museum actively encourages visitors to touch some of the exhibits (very different to most museums I have visited), including the stuffed bears that greet you as you enter the building. Again, tickets are free but must be pre-booked before arrival.
When you tire of exploring the city vibes, head to Port Meadow for a relaxing stroll. This serene slice of the countryside, just a stone’s throw away from the hustle of Jericho, is what makes Oxford so wonderfully unique.
Suggested Places to Stay in Jericho
Cotswold Lodge Hotel
Cotswold Lodge Hotel is a true oasis. Just a 10-minute walk from the buzzing Jericho scene, this grand manor house welcomes guests for a weekend of tranquillity.
Double rooms with a balcony overlooking the courtyard are available from £210 per night.
The Old Parsonage Hotel
For one of Oxford’s more boutique offerings, try the Old Parsonage Hotel, which offers double rooms starting at £276. The location is fantastic, the rooms are light and bright, and the bar is incredible.
Best for Those on a Budget
Are you searching for places to stay in Oxford that offer a little more bang for your buck? Then look no further than Abingdon-On-Thames.
Why Abingdon is a Great Place to Stay Near Oxford
This quaint market town is nestled just six miles south of Oxford, making it an excellent base for your countryside escape.
Now, this picture-perfect town can easily accommodate a weekend break all on its own, but I think it’s a great place to base yourself for a weekend in Oxford. The city is just a 15-minute drive up the road or a 40-minute cycle should this be your preferred method.
Interestingly, Abingdon is the oldest continually occupied town in the entire UK.
The stunning abbey secured Abingdon a place on the map, and is a must-see for anyone in the town. While the abbey church is no longer standing, remnants of many of the other buildings are. (Pretty impressive considering they were founded in the late 7th century!)
When you’ve exhausted the abbey ruins, explore the town on foot to best enjoy the beautiful sights. Stroll around Abbey Meadow, which is particularly lovely at sunset, and take a jaunt across Abingdon bridge for unrivalled views along the Thames.
You will find an incredible mix of people enjoying Abingdon-On-Thames, which is what makes it such a special town.
Couples often head to Abingdon to make use of the great spas on the outskirts, with some of the best English countryside views on offer here. Additionally, many families chose Abingdon as their base, as the hotels in central Oxford cannot beat the competitive prices in this area.
Abingdon is also perfect for those who love hiking and the outdoors. The reasonably priced b&bs offer an ideal option for those hoping to explore the great Oxfordshire countryside.
Suggested Places to Stay in Abingdon
Hilton Garden Inn
Hilton Garden Inn. If you’re the type of person that loves to know exactly what they’re going to get from a hotel, then this Hilton favourite will be for you.
Rooms here are large, clean and comfortable, and come with free parking. Double rooms start at £139 per night.
The Cosener’s House
For something a little more countryside chic, stay at The Cosener’s House. The rooms are spacious and tastefully decorated, with stunning views from every angle.
The food here is fantastic, with complimentary breakfast for guests and an exquisite afternoon tea available. Double rooms start from £140 per night and include parking.
Where to Stay in Oxford: Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Best Area to Stay in Oxford?
For your first visit to Oxford, the ideal place to stay will be the city centre. While the prices are significantly higher than those in the surrounding suburbs, the city centre is by far the best place for exploring the delights that Oxford has to offer.
How Expensive is Oxford?
As with every UK city break, the prices can vary hugely depending on your preferences. For example, those based in central London will likely find the costs of Oxford relatively reasonable, whereas those used to less expensive cities may be shocked at the prices.
Expect to pay around £10 for a main meal in most restaurants, rising to around the £15 mark in the more exclusive venues.
How Long Should I Spend in Oxford?
I recommend three nights in Oxford to enable you to soak up all of the sights and culture. A long weekend will allow you to take exploration at your own pace, eating and drinking your way around the city.
The highlights of Oxford can be packed into a day trip from the capital, but a long weekend will allow you to unwind and take in the attractions fully.
What Are the Highlights of Oxford?
There is so much to do and see in Oxford, but I appreciate not everyone has tonnes of time to throw at the city.
Of course, no trip would be complete without trying your hand at punting. With canals to rival Venice’s beauty, this activity should not be missed from your itinerary.
In addition to punting, those short on time should be sure to check out the iconic university buildings, in particular Christ Church, for Harry Potter fans. However, just a little out of town is Magdalen College which is a personal favourite.
Be sure to also visit the covered market to grab an excellent lunch from one of the independent vendors.
How Do You Get Around in Oxford?
To be honest, Oxford is an incredibly walkable city and the easiest way to get around is simply to walk.
Taxis here can be a convenient way to explore if you’re further out, but there’s still a lot of traffic in the city centre. Of course, this is also the most expensive way to get around the city.
The bus network in Oxford is reliable, and exploring by foot is an excellent way to soak in the sights on a sunny day.
However, the best way to explore Oxford is on two wheels. There are tonnes of bike rentals across the city and many dedicated cycle lanes in the busier parts of town. Once you’ve got to grips with the bumpy cobblestones, you’ll find yourself flying through this picturesque part of the country like a true local.
Practical Tips to Consider Before Booking A Place to Stay in Oxford
- Oxford is easily accessible from London – taking just over 50 minutes by train. Megabus and national rail also offer multiple coach services connecting Oxford and central London.
- The drive takes slightly longer, at around 1 hour 15 minutes depending on traffic. Many hotels and b&bs offer onsite parking at no additional cost, but otherwise parking in the city centre is limited.
- There is a massive amount of history in Oxford, so consider booking one of the fantastic guided walking tours to make the most of your trip.
- Visiting the iconic university buildings is a must during your visit to Oxford. However, it would be impossible to squeeze them all into one weekend. So, be sure to plan ahead to ensure you can fit in the best.
- Remember not to rush your trip. There is a huge amount to see here, but the proximity to London means you can take your time and have the perfect excuse to plan another fantastic weekend break in Oxford!