Europe / Travel / UK

Oxford Bar Guide

I recently spent a day and night in the prestigious university city of Oxford. I was there for a training session, and had intended to spend the rest of my day sightseeing and soaking up some history. However, the glorious sunshine and packed out beer gardens of Cowley Road tempted me otherwise. So, as I don’t know much else of Oxford, here’s my guide to the best bars and pubs the city has to offer…

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The City Arms
This is the perfect place to start a Cowley Road bar crawl. I fell in love with Cowley Road, one of the city’s main student areas, straight away. It’s a mile long stretch of bars, multicultural shops and restaurants and vibrant street art. The City Arms has a cute little beer garden at the side of the road that’s great for people watching as the street goes by. The drinks here are cheap too, which is rare in Oxford, so shouldn’t be missed!

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Photo: cityarmsoxford Instagram

Cowley Retreat
This is where we actually did start out, and it was dry to say the least. Expensive beer, minimal atmosphere, too many Tories… possibly better here at night but I probably wouldn’t return!

Cafe Baba
A small Moroccan themed cocktail bar, also on Cowley Road. I really liked it here, partly because of its leafy, hidden garden, and partly because of its amazing cocktail deals. Most places on Cowley Road offer a happy hour but Cafe Baba’s 2 for 1 cocktails (5-8) were the cheapest, and nicest, and after 8pm they’re only £4 each anyway.

Big Society
This was my favourite place on Cowley Road. A really cool student bar with good music and bar games, and was busy even during the day. They also serve food and do THE BEST fried chicken I’ve ever tried. I had it with mac and cheese and it was unreal, see:

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Photo: bigsociety Instagram

The Mad Hatter
A barman from Big Society recommended we go to this Alice in Wonderland themed speakeasy cocktail bar. It’s more of the place for a civilised drink and a chat rather than to party; it’s pretty quiet apart from the soft jazz playing, and the cocktails are fancy but pricey. Oh, and you have to answer a riddle to get in. It’s a bit hipster for my liking but I appreciate the novelty.

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Turf Tavern
I wholly recommend this pub to anyone who goes to Oxford, if nothing else for its location alone! It’s hidden just off the high street; a maze of cobbled lanes lead you past some incredible university buildings on the way there. I felt like I was in Harry Potter! It’s definitely worth trying to find, it’s a lovely, traditional English pub, and was completely packed out by the time we got there.

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Photos: turf_tavern Instagram

Purple Turtle
This was where we ended our night, so it’s a bit hazy, but I’ll do my best to remember… It’s an underground club/bar that’s dark, dingy and very messy! I think they have different music every night, but on Saturdays (when we went) it’s mid 2000s pop punk, indie and emo. This is right up my street (I loved it) but obviously not for everyone! If you aren’t sold yet it’s £2 for vodka mixers… come on!

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Photo: purpleturtlebar Instagram

***special mention*** Ahmed’s Bar B-Q Kebab Van
I had no idea what this takeaway van was called so I had to Google it, and the people of the internet seem to agree with me – it’s the best! Honestly, best drunk food ever. I had a falafel wrap and it was massive and so cheap, I had to give it a shout out. Right in the middle of the high street, you can’t miss it!

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