Oxford city guide for students

Oxford - the city of dreaming spires - diverse and student-friendly

Oxford is an excellent place for students to live in. From its historic buildings to its scenic riverside pubs, it is a place where every student can feel at home.

It is difficult to find another city in the United Kingdom that can match the diversity and the student atmosphere of this city. Oxford has been a centre of learning since the late medieval period and is famous for its rowing tournaments that have been held for many centuries. Oxford is, in a way, kind of like the stereotypical image of England – the sort of image that foreign people who have never been to the country would imagine England to be like – the historic buildings, the punting and rowing, the small streets, the narrow alleys, etc...


Oxford lies in southern-central England but isn't easy to define into a particular region. The BBC defines Oxford as belonging to the far northwestern fringe of the 'southeast'. If you drew a line from Bristol to London, Oxford would roughly be in the middle and a little further north.

Here is some useful data about Oxford's distance from the UK's largest cities =(in miles)= travelling by car using the quickest routes:

  • From London: 62
  • From Birmingham: 68
  • From Bristol: 73
  • From Southampton: 70
  • From Plymouth: 192
  • From Norwich: 160
  • From Manchester: 158
  • From Liverpool: 170
  • From Leeds: 176
  • From Newcastle: 254
  • From Glasgow: 361
  • From Edinburgh: 363
  • From Aberdeen: 494

You may also be interested to know how long a typical rail journey would be from other cities:

  • From London (Paddington): around 70-80 mins (direct)
  • From Birmingham (New St): 70 mins (direct)
  • From Bristol (Parkway): 75-90 mins (1 change)
  • From Southampton: around 2 hours (if direct)
  • From Plymouth: around 4 hours (1 change)
  • From Norwich: 5 to 6 hours (3 changes)
  • From Manchester: around 3 hours if direct
  • From Liverpool: roughly 4 hours (changing once)
  • From Leeds: 4 hours 30 mins (if direct)
  • From Newcastle: around 6 hours (direct trains are available)
  • From Glasgow: roughly 7 hours (direct trains are available
  • From Edinburgh: roughly 7 hours (changing once)
  • From Aberdeen: 10 to 12 hours (changing twice)

Getting there

Oxford is relatively easy to access from most of the major metropolises, despite having only one railway station. There are regular direct trains and buses available to and from London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Bristol. For international students there is a direct bus service to and from Heathrow and Gatwick Airport during the day which runs every three hours.

While you will not be allowed to keep a car at Oxford's universities as a student, you may want to know which is the easiest way to get there from the large cities if you intend to arrive by car (for starting uni for example).

From London the quickest way to get to Oxford is via the M40 northbound. Then get off onto the A40 towards Wheatley, keep going straight on towards Headington and the road will take you into the city centre.

From Birmingham the quickest way would to travel whichever route you choose to get to the M40 and head down the motorway (southbound obviously) to get off to head south on the A34, then turn left on Woodstock Road, pass the roundabout and you eventually reach the city centre on that road.

From Bristol the easiest way is to get onto the M4 then head off left onto the A436, then right onto the A420 and keep on it and you will eventually reach the city.

From Manchester get onto the M6 towards Birmingham then when you reach the West Midlands head south onto the M42. Then get of the M42 to get on the M40 southbound. Get off the M40 to head south on the A34, then turn left on Woodstock Road, pass the roundabout and you eventually reach the city centre on that road.

From Leeds use the M1 then get off onto the M69 and the A4600 which takes you onto the M40 towards Oxford.

From Liverpool get the M57 onto the M6 and simply follow the above directions from Manchester from there on.

From Scotland the is an extremely long journey but if you think you can cope with it the M6 is your best route and then you follow the directions given from Manchester/Liverpool.

From the Newcastle area use the M1 then get off onto the M69 and the A4600 which takes you onto the M40 towards Oxford.

From the far southwest the quickest way is the M5 up to Bristol and the M4 up to Swindon (then follow my directions from Bristol).

The Universities

There are two universities within the city boundaries. Oxford University is the oldest and most famous one. It is the oldest English-speaking university in the world and comprises of 39 separate colleges and seven permanent private halls. Most of these were founded more than half a millenium ago. Oxford University is rated outstanding for teaching and research in virtually all of its taught subjects and is internationally regarded as one of the best universities in the world. It is ranked as outstanding for virtually all measurable performance indicators, from graduate employment to its ranking by leading academics. In a recent national league table (The Sunday Times University Guide 2007) 90% of Oxford graduates achieved a 1st or a upper second class honours degree. Oxford's traditional rival is Cambridge University, which shares Oxford's accolade as one of the oldest and most highly ranked universities in the world. There are around 18,000 students studying at Oxford University, including roughly 11,000 full-time undergraduates.

Oxford Brookes University is a much more modern university, which despite not being as academically and historically renowned as its neighbour, boasts an impressive 24 subjects rated as excellent for teaching and is placed in the top 15 institutions in the United Kingdom for the quality of its teaching overall (Sunday Times Good University Guide 2007). Brookes also has an excellent graduate employment record, and in the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise, the university's history department received a higher research rating than the history faculty at Oxford University. There are roughly 19,000 students studying at Oxford Brookes, which includes roughly 9,000 full-time undergraduates.

Students from both universities enjoy the many social and cultural activities that Oxford has to offer and thrive from living in a city celebrated for its diversity, cultural heritage, excellent student atmosphere and its beautiful architecture.

Best digs

You will find that for a city of its size, Oxford boasts an impressive range of nightclubs, bars and pubs to suit everyone. It’s no London or Birmingham, so if you’re used to the buzz of the large urban clubs then you might find Oxford a tad tame in comparison (but usually there's still a great atmosphere here nevertheless). However, since the Oxford to London bus services run 24 hours a day you can always treat yourself out to a night out in the capital once in a while if you want the 'best of the best'.

For clubbing in Oxford, if you are looking for trendy atmosphere, then look no further than Ocean and Collins, which is situated on Park End Road between the city's train station and the High Street. Also just down the road on Park End Street is Lava & Ignite (formerly Park End) which has just had a huge refit and is a brill night out for student but is a place to avoid at the weekend. If you are looking for somewhere a little more down-to-earth, then why not try Clementines off the Cowley Roundabout towards Headington which is more of your typical crowded nightclub, playing trance music well into the early hours. There's Filth which is another typical 'studenty' nightclub that plays [email protected] and trance and hosts an excellent Halloween Party as well. The Bridge Nightclub is a place that does sum up Class and Trendy. The drinks are a little bit more expensive but it has a lovely VIP area and the staff are great.

Lava Ignite and Kukui on Park End Road are great clubs.

The O2 Academy on Cowley Road is one of the most popular clubs which also draws some of the best bands as well. It hosts the infamous "Fuzzy Ducks" every Wednesday night.

For the very alternatives out there, the cellar (just off cornmarket street down an alley next to Lush) hosts "Sundat Roast" every other Sunday. A night full of 60/70s rock, free cake, bunting and board games. That's right, Scrabble, Jenga and Buckaroo!

Leisure and fitness

People in Oxford seem to jog and cycle a lot of more than in other places. Because it is such a horrible city to drive in many people walk, jog and use their bike as a means of getting around. Of course, there is the fantastic bus network (arguably one of the best of any town or city) but because it is a relatively small city, you will find it does not take very long to walk or cycle from one part of the city to the next. There are plenty of gyms around. There's LA Fitness which is large and hosts state-of-the-art equipment. The universities have good gyms - I think all Oxford University colleges have their own gyms and Oxford University also has a large main university gym with loads of sports activities including an excellent powerlifting room. There's also an excellent sports centre at the main Sports Hall of Oxford Brookes University with a huge fitness suite and loads of other sports-related activities. There is also a large outdoor swimming pool called Hinksey Pool, about a mile south of the city centre.

Rowing is one of Oxford's most famous activities. During the summer months the River Isis is a particularly popular destination for rowers and punters alike.


Oxford isn't quite the shopping mecca of, say, Birmingham, but it has still has everything a student would need. There's the Westgate Shopping Centre and there is the Clarendon Shopping Centre, where you can find lots of clothes and retail shops. The city also has lots of pretty bakeries and posh (expensive!) eateries. As you would expect for a city with such a high student population, there are plenty of book shops around and about, most notably the Blackwells Book Shop, which will have everything you need for educational purposes (on four floors).

There are numerous supermarkets, including two large Tescos (one in Cowley and one just to the south of Cowley at the far edge of the city). There's a Co-Op and Somerfield in Headington and two Sainsbury's in the city centre (the largest is in the Westgate Shopping Centre and the much smaller one is near Magdalen St).

Eating out

Well most students would find Oxford's restaurants a tad on the expensive side but if you're going to have a rare treat (that your parents aren't paying for) then some nice restaurants for a traditional English cuisine would include The Oxford Retreat, The Swan Inn, The Trout and Big Bang.

Cafes seem to be everywhere and are obviously very popular with tourists. Some of the nicest pastries I've eaten I've bought at Bonjour Rapide on the High Street and Cafe Loco is well known for its pizzas.

Or you could just buy a kebab from the any of the stalls scattered around the city centre (they probably make most of their money at 3am in the morning when people are leaving nightclubs).

Edamame is lauded by almost everyone who's ever eaten there. A tiny Japanese restaurant on Holywell street with regular rotating menus, communal dining and arguably the best food in Oxford, everyone should try it once.


Oxford has a wonderful snacking selection. Moo Moo's(Covered Market) is a great milkshake snack taking whatever flavour you order(from over 200) e.g. Mars Bar, stick it in a blender with some ice-cream and whizz it into a heavenly paste. The best of the sandwich shops are probably Harvey's and Olives(High Street), and there are a LOT of sandwich shops, all of which are of a good standard, if not the cheapest.

Religious Facilities

The universities have their own chaplaincies and the city offers a wide range of religious facilities. Oxford has some beautiful churches and there is a particularly large number of them in the city.

Churches in Oxford include:

-Anglican Churches-

St Clement's

Sunday services: 10.30am and 6.30pm

Address: Marston Road (at the end of the road closest to the city centre)

Contact: Revd Bruce Gillingham

Tel. 01865 248735

Holy Trinity Headington Quarry

Sunday service: 10.00am

Address: Quarry Road

Contact: Margaret Whipp

-Roman Catholic Churches-

Oxford Brookes Catholic Chaplaincy

The Chaplaincy, Helena Kennedy Student Centre, Headington Hill, Oxford, OX3 0BP.

St Anthony of Padua

Mass times: Saturday 6.30pm and Sunday 10.00am

Address: Headley Way, Headington

Contact: Fr. Aldo Tapparo

Tel. 01865 762964

Corpus Christi

Mass times: Sunday 09.00am, 11.00am and 6.30pm

Address: Margaret Road, Headington

Contact : Fr John Baggley

Tel. 01865 762433

Our Lady of Lourdes

Mass times: Sunday 10.00am

Address: Crown Road, Wheatley

Tel. 01865 762433

Our Lady of the Rosary

Mass times: Saturday 6.30pm and Sunday 9.15am

Address: Yarnells Hill (just next to Westminster Way), Harcourt Hill

Tel. 01865 437066

-Baptist Churches-

Headington Baptist Church

Sunday services: 10.30am and 6.30pm

Address: 78 Old High Street, Headington

Contact: Rev James Bloice-Smith; web site

Tel. 01865 432436

-United Reformed Churches-

Marston URC

Sunday Service: 11.00am

Address: 352 Marston Road

Contact: Revd Diana Townsend

Tel. 01865 862084

-Orthodox Churches-

Russian Parish of St Nicholas the Wonderworker

Sunday service:11.00

Address: St Giles Hall, 10 Woodstock Road, Oxford

Contact: Father Stephen Platt

Tel. 01865 511823

Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity and Annunciation

Sunday service: 10.30am

Address: 1 Canterbury Road, North Oxford

Contact: Father Ian Graham

Tel. 01865 200717

-Methodist Churches-

Cowley Road Methodist

Sunday service: 10.30am

Address: Cowley Road (corner of Jeune Street)

Contact: Revd Dr Robert Bates

Tel. 01865 488349

Lime Walk Methodist

Sunday services: 10.30am and 6.30pm

Address: Lime Walk, Headington

Contact: Rev Dr Tony Bell

Tel. 01865 763676


Friends Meeting House

Sunday meetings: 9.30 and 11.00am

Address: 43 St Giles, Oxford

Contact: Robert Card

Tel. 01865 557373

-New Churches-

Oxford Community Church

Sunday service: 10.30am

Address: The King's Centre, Osney Mead

Contact: John Bilson

Tel. 01865 402141

-Other religious groups-

Oxford accommodates well for all religions.

-Muslim Mosques-

Central Oxford Mosque

Manzil Way, Cowley, Oxford, OX4 1DJ

Madina Mosque

2 Stanley Road, Oxford, OX4 1QZ

-Jewish Synagogue-

The Jewish Centre, 21 Richmond Road, Oxford OX1 2JL

-Sikh Centre

Oxford Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara, 69,Cherwell Drive, Marston, Oxford

-Buddhist Centre-

18 Bhandari Close, Cricket Rd Tel. 01865 777297

Services: Mon 7.30pm-10pm

-Buddhist Mediation classes (Samatha Trust)-


Monday evenings at 7pm, in the Chaplaincy Room, Helena Kennedy Student Centre, Oxford Brookes University, Headington Campus (Headington Hill). New class starting Monday 6 October 2008.

Tuesday evenings at 8pm, in the Oriel JCR Annex, Oriel College, Oxford. Classes run during term time (14 Oct/08 - 2 Dec/08).

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Address: 430A Abingdon Road, OX1 4XG Oxford

Phone: 44.1865.250.687

Sunday Services: 10am-1pm


This is always useful to know! If you're an international student or you don't know much about the climate in Oxford it's generally temperate with cool to mild winters and fairly warm summers. Some summers in recent years have been quite hot with some intense heatwaves (2003, 2006), whereas the summer of 2007 was a complete washout (with two severe floods in the city in June and July). It rarely gets intensely cold in the winter months and snow often happens at the end of brooke's term dates, making travelling home very difficult! (Snow is most frequent in late winter and early spring). Likewise, most summers generally experience no more than a handful of days above 30c (86f). Rain can fall at any time of year but usually not in particularly large amounts (although summer 2007 was an exception). January is the coldest month - the average temperature is 3.6 degrees Centigrade, with a mean minimum of 1.2°C and a mean maximum on 6.6°C, although in January 1930 it reached 14.7°C one day and on 14th January 1982 plunged to -16.6°C - the lowest air temperature ever recorded. July is usually the hottest month: average temperature 16.4°C, mean minimum 12°C, mean maximum 21.4°C/ Had you been here one day in August 1932 however, you would have sweltered in a temperature of 35.1°C - a record not beaten by summer 1990.

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