Each Oxford college tends to have their own club nights, and thus big college outings occur, to much hilare. It must be noted that student nights in the popular clubs are very well-attended, with long queues frequently seen, especially during Michaelmas term (as no-one has exams). You may have to get used to leaving for the club at freakishly early times, such as quarter past nine, in order to avoid queueing. Either that or rock up late. Or get to know the organisers.
Emporium (formerly Camera)
Quite a central location, situated just off the High Street. They have a habit of opening later than advertised though.
The layout of Emporium is essentially two big circles; one on top of the other. It's usually packed on a Tuesday and Friday, and as a result if you lose your friends you'll end up doing the infamous "Camera lap", in which you push through the crowds several times, alternating between floors once every three or four revolutions: all to no avail, whereupon you shall lose all hope, spill out onto the street for some air, and will (most probably) not be allowed in again by a bouncer until you've coughed up another fiver. At this point you'll go home via McDonalds.
Atik (formerly Park End)
Biggest club in Oxford - with the FUBAR night on a Wednesday. Big sports night out after crewdates and socials. Large queues from about 10.15 til 11pm. Always a long queue for the cloakroom (and an annoying cost of £1.80).
Good drinks deals and 4 bars so never have to wait too long to be served.
3 different dance floors; white room for dance music, red RnB room and the legendary cheese floor. Music usually stops around 2.15, by which point everyone has piled onto the cheese floor.
Good on Thursdays, open til 3 (sometimes later for special occasions - has a very late licence). Maybe a little more pricey than other places but still not too unreasonable for students - with 2 floors with 2 different styles of music. Busy VIP area.
Queues are often long, and there's the threat of being 'Anuba-ed' (being made to wait in the bar downstairs before going into Bridge itself).
Since Oxford has no official night on Mondays, Brookes night at Bridge is probably your best bet if you want to start your week with a hangover.
Lola Lo's Oxford
Previously known as Po Na Na and still at the same location, but the venue has been completely renovated and rebranded and describe themselves as a tiki/Hawaiian style cocktail bar and nightclub.
Hosts popular hip-hop and drum and bass nights, as well as offering live music. It is found just off Cornmarket.
Frequented by hipsters. Entry can often be a little on the pricey side.
The Purple Turtle
The Purple Turtle (or PTs) is situated underneath the Oxford Union, with free membership for members of the Union. For non-members it's £3 entry, so you can still bring friends from home / non-Union members. There are a lot of drink deals (£1 a pint 5 til 9 on weeknights) - prices brilliant, but maybe not the best venue - the dance floor is small and cramped, it's all a bit fluorescent and the whole effect is quite claustrophobic.
I second what the above author said - PT's is claustrophobic. As a result it's properly - and I mean properly GRIMY. Sweat rises like steam from the crowd, condensing on the ceiling which is often no more than 3 feet above your head, and then drips back down like a diabolical peversion of the water cycle. Obviously, by this point it's more alcohol than bodily fluid, but you get my drift.
The college themed shooters, at £2 a time, are reasonably worth going for too, if only for the novelty.
The O2 Academy
Oxford's premier live band venue. Attracts some big names in rock, and hosts a range of club nights catering for a wide-range of genres including hip-hop, indie, brit pop, metal and drum and bass. The venue is found quite a way down Cowley road, so it is a bit of a trek from most colleges.
Host of the infamous Wednesday night Brookes' night, Fuzzy Ducks. Said by FHM to be the 'easiest place to pull in Britain'. Every week has a different fancy dress theme, and they even hosted The Hoff last term. A night to be experienced at least once in your Oxford life.
A late night cocktail bar with dancefloor located directly opposite Atik and adjacent to the similarly premised Anuba. Often more enjoyable for the beer garden, which has shisha, an outdoor bar and, on occassion, games of Fifa being played on the television.
Keep an eye out for people handing out stickers for a free jagerbomb with your first drink at the city centre end of Park End Street.
Oxford has a decent number of Pubs, but has not been immune to closures. The local CAMRA group have produced a guide to every pub in town.
Angel & Greyhound
On St. Clements, just past Magdalen roundabout. Youngs Pub with light, airy interior. Only bar billiards table in town. Seating front and back. Decent range of stuff, 4 handpumps. Price of a pint ~ £3.15
The Cricketers Arms
Located at the beginning of the Iffley road (walk down Circus Street from the Cowley Road). Recently changed hands a number of times. Pool table and music occasionally. Late opening (1am Fri & Sat). Greene King owned.
The Lamb and Flag
St John's bought 12 St Giles from Godstow Abbey, and opened a tavern here in 1695. The pub is named after the two symbols of John the Baptist, although only the lamb is shown on the inn's sign. Lamb & Flag Passage runs through the south side of the pub and leads into Museum Road and on to Parks Road. Full of character, the Lamb and Flag is a cosy place to have a pint, and has a good selection of ales. Price of a pint ~ £3 (Early 2012)
The Kings Arms
The "KA", as it is mostly referred to, is found at the crossroads of Broad Street and Parks Road. This is one of Oxford's most lively pubs, being popular with both tourists and students alike, and serving good, plentiful food at not a bad price. Above the normal student prices for drinks, but can be worth the splurge. It is regarded as something of a hangout for the posher sort of Oxford student, and referring it as the "KA" may earn mockery in less rarefied circles. Price of a pint ~ £3.25 (Early 2012)
Far from the Madding Crowd
The Madding is found down Friars Entry, a passage that runs from between St Giles and the back of the Oxford Playhouse. They serve good food, and are essentially quite a local pub. Gets absolutely packed solid late in the evening - but I guess there's a reason for that! It is know for Thespian clientele: expect to overhear conversations about WONDERFUL first nights and the word "DARLING!" a lot. Also a good pub quiz on sunday nights.
The Turf is a popular pub located between Hollywell Street and New College Lane. It is especially popular for post-exam celebrations, but also for every tourist in the world; as such, it acts as a black hole where finance is concerned. Often packed but has a good and changing range of guest ales and the potent Old Rosie cider. Price of a pint ~ £3 (Early 2012)
The Turl is found down an alley on Turl Street, funnily enough. It serves alcohol, and you may sit to drink. It is effectively a part of the Mitre across the road, itself a Beefeater establishment, not good or bad just a bit dull <NOW CLOSED - Never to return>
A long, long walk can be taken across the meadow to reach this destination, if one so desires. The only pub in Oxford to feature real working peacocks. Serves good but pricey food, possibly somewhere to take the parents.
Duke of Cambridge
To call the Duke a pub is really stretching it a bit. Really it's a cocktail bar, but with the happy hour the drinks become affordable and it's a nice change from the college bar. Located on Little Clarendon there is a wide variety of cocktails to choose from, from old favourites like Martinis and Sex on the Beach to some more exotic things.
The Royal Oak
On Woodstock Road, this is a large pub with a beer garden and lots of sofas and board games. A good place to see off a hangover, serving excellent food including superb puddings.
The Royal Blenheim
Tucked just off of the main road, behind the Clarendon centre (opposite Camera), this pub is owned(-ish) by a local brewery and is usually busy. Lots of real ale, cider and whisky (as well as the lagers etc). Owned by a mad welshman, absolutely rammed whenever the rugby is on [note - they don't show football]. Quiz on Wednesday nights, which is usually pretty random (one of the answers is always the word 'cheese'). Pretty good pub food, with a wide range of veggie/vegan options (menu is 50% veggie). Price of a pint ranges from £2.40 to £3.50, average of £3 for real ale (Early 2012).
The Half Moon
Irish pub on Magdalen roundabout/St Clements (next to clems). Spit and sawdust kind of place, with music/things happening regularly. Late opening (does it ever close?!?) but you need to be in before 12.30 to get served. Small, dark and quite cool. TV in one room, piano in the other. Greene King owned, but decent rotation of ales plus Guinness, Fosters and a few other lagers + spirits. Cost of a pint ~£3.25 (Early 2012)
A bit out of the way, along the path that follows the Isis you head out of town towards Donnington Bridge & keep going for another 500 yards and it's on your right. Only open on select days in the winter and most days during the summer, all the beer is locally sourced and does good food. Music regularly, usually of the folk variety. Look them up online before going to check if they are a) open and b) where it actually is... Price of a Pint ~ £3 (Early 2012)
Tiny, but not bad during the day for a very old-school pub feel - don't miss the old ties that plaster the walls/ceiling. Near Christ Church/Oriel.
The Eagle and Child
A cosy but bustling pub, on St Giles' also and owned by St. John's. Accustomed watering hold of J. R. R. Tolkein and C. S. Lewis.