Khoollect explores: a weekend in Oxford

Blogger and Oxford local Pauline Chatelan of The Croissant Postcards shares her insider’s secrets to her beautiful part of the world …

Oxford is a fascinating place: its combination of the old and the new between the impressive Hogwarts-like architecture and the food and coffee scene make studying here incredibly exciting despite the stressful workload. As a fourth year student, I’ve had plenty of time to explore this (sometimes surreal) city, making it possible for me to bring you a little guide, perfect for a quick visit, which I hope will give you an insight into the student life of a food and coffee lover.

Cafés

With numerous deadlines every week, early morning rowing outings for some, lectures, and late night library sessions, most students in Oxford are fuelled by coffee. This makes the coffee scene particularly vibrant and great for people watching. Here are a few of my favourite cafés where you can enjoy a lovely cup of coffee while gazing at cyclists rushing to their next class, couples on their first date, or procrastinators frantically typing their essay away.  

  1. The Missing Bean
    One of my headquarters with other Instagram friends, owing to the lovely window seats which allow the perfect insta shots (not to forget the delicious coffee!).  The staff is super friendly and forms a great team which affects the atmosphere in the most positive way. My drink of choice is the dirty chai latte, and it should be yours too.
    14 Turl Street, OX1 3DQ
  2. The Handlebar
    Avocado toast is old news, except when topped with feta, pumpkin seeds, toasted almonds and cayenne pepper; this is but one of the many treats to enjoy at one of Oxford’s most hipster spots, with the obligatory bikes hanging on the walls. The Handlebar, nestled above the bike shop that has saved many a student, is a beautiful space with again, lovely light coming through its windows, and a fun menu for brunch, lunch or just a quick snack.
    28-32 St Michaels’ Street, OX1 2EB
  3. Barefoot
    Forget the best salted caramel brownie you’ve ever had, because Barefoot’s is better. Tracing its beginnings to food market stalls, Barefoot has now established itself as the Oxford cake provider. Its exceptional brownies and unique banana bread can be found in many cafés across town, but only its shop in the lovely Jericho neighbourhood offers the cake stand show: colourful cakes, plump sourdough loafs, vegan friendly and gluten-free sweet treats etc. It’s a must and well worth the little detour.
    74A Walton Street, OX2 6EA

 


Restaurants

The best restaurants in Oxford aren’t located in the centre of town, which has been overrun by chains which cater to a lucrative clientele: tourists. But there are many wonderful addresses in the North and South parts of town meaning you get to explore the other and slightly more “authentic” side of Oxford. My personal recommendations are all located in the North, where I’ve lived for three years and which knows how to bring me comfort on my most hungry days.

  1. The Rickety Press
    Bottomless 2£ coffee on weekends, ridiculously juicy burgers and piping hot wood-fire oven pizzas – the menu may seem low-key but the ambiance and quality of the food are brilliant. This place has evolved over the past years and has become a hybrid between a pub and a burger/pizza joint to welcome both families and large groups of students who are just looking for a chill and affordable time around food, drinks or board games. Dogs are welcome too!
    67 Cranham Street, OX2 6DE
  2. Branca
    More on the trendy side, Branca is THE place to be on a Saturday evening. Its high ceiling, spacious interior, outdoors terrace, and Italian inspired menu are the promise of a good evening. The team is lovely and welcoming and never stops bringing you a dangerously delicious focaccia to prepare you for the “pièce de résistance”. They serve a killer duck breast on a bed of kale with crispy gnocchi which I keep ordering again and again.
    111 Walton Street, OX2 6AJ

Colleges

Now, beyond food and drinks, there are definitely things to see in Oxford, otherwise why would Cornmarket Street (which I advise you avoid at all cost) be as busy with tourists as London’s Oxford Street? There are 38 colleges in Oxford and many are well worth the visit but as you can’t visit them all (I still haven’t) during a short stay, here are the few that I personally recommend.

  1. New College
    Unless you absolutely want to go to Christ Church and see THE Hogwarts dining hall and staircase, I would recommend visiting New College instead. Despite its name, like many things in Oxford, it’s not new at all and dates back to the 14th century! It takes a little walk down New College Lane and going under the famous Bridge of Sighs to get to the main visitors’ entrance which overlooks the first quad. It may seem pretty impressive at first but wait until you venture further inside the college where many more green spaces (on which you’re allowed to walk!) and the last remains of the Oxford city wall await you. The dining hall is as splendid as you’d imagine an Oxford dining hall to be and the chapel is one of my favourites in Oxford. But the bit of college you need to visit is the cloister which you may recognise from one of the Harry Potter films.
    New College, Holywell Street, OX1 3BN (entrance via the Old Lodge on New College Lane)
  2. Exeter
    All the Turl Street colleges are very pretty despite their small size but there’s something extra special about Exeter: a secret garden. As you step inside the college, Exeter may seem ordinary. But see that small door on the other side of the quad? It leads to the lovely and peaceful Fellows’ Garden which I believe offers one of the best views of Oxford. Just climb up the stairs against the stoned wall at the back of the garden. I won’t add any more details about the view and will leave it there for you to discover yourself.
    Exeter College, Turl Street, OX1 3DP
  3. Keble
    On the more “modern” side, Keble, which was built in 1870, is one of the most original colleges in Oxford from an architectural point of view. Its neo-gothic red brick style may not appeal to everyone but you can’t argue it’s interesting and I personally find it beautiful. Everything there is on a bigger scale than most colleges – the magnificent chapel resembles a cathedral. I recommend wandering through the quads and examining all the walls where rowing crews have drawn in chalk the blades from their many victories in Oxford inter-collegial rowing races.
    Keble College, OX1 3PG
  4. Green Templeton
    As the smallest college in all of Oxford, Green Templeton is wrongly forgotten despite its charm. Located in Jericho, it’s definitely worth walking into after a coffee break or lunch at one of my recommended places, at least just to see the magnificent observatory of Oxford which overlooks its colourful garden.
    Green Templeton College, 43 Woodstock Road, OX2 6HG

I hope that thanks to this guide you will enjoy your visit at Oxford and experience all of the things that I believe make it such a great place to live and study.

Follow Pauline’s Instagram and blog to see where she ventures next …

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