Christmas Cheer Countdown Starts Here
Christmas is Coming to Oxford. Your Christmas Cheer Countdown Is Here!
Yes, it’s happening, Yuletide cheer, Christmas shopping, family celebrations are on their way.
If you’re like us then you’ve already noticed the tinsel finding its way into shop windows and you’ve already thought about checking your Christmas card list ready for an orgy of card signing, message writing and stamp licking.
Even with all the hard work, budgeting and saving, Christmas is a great time and we’re here to help you and your family make the most of it all. No, we won’t be decorating your Christmas tree, wrapping presents, or peeling the spuds – that’s down to you, but the team got together to create a whole load of ideas for Christmas shopping, where to go for some Yuletide cheer and a few places to make a festive season stay in Oxford marvellously memorable.
No matter what happens, with all our good intentions it always seems that many of us leave the Christmas shopping to the last minute but after checking out our suggestions there’s simply no way to use the excuse that you didn’t have any idea what to buy or where to find it! Shopping in Oxford can be a wonderful experience, catering to all tastes and Oxford is waiting for you to help you create the perfect Christmas stocking!
Christmas Shopping in Oxford City Centre
The biggy, when it comes to the Oxford Christmas shopping experience is, yet again, the Oxford Christmas Market. Running from 7th to 17th December on historic Broad Street. Nearly 60 stalls filled with Christmas gift ideas, decorations, goodies to eat and drink – if the shopping was all that’d be a marvellous festive shopping experience.
There’s much more though; alongside the mulled wine and the hot street food, including a hog roast with all the traditional trimmings, there’s rides for the kids (and big kids) and musical entertainment from carollers, brass bands and more, the musical entertainment will, of course, be dependent upon when you are at the market.
Here’s our top picks from the multitude of stalls selling high quality goodies of all types:
Check out Demijohn the liquid deli from Scotland who now have a shop on Clarendon Street, as well as their market stall. Taste their award-winning products before they are bottled into refillable glass bottles. I have already ordered a gift hamper containing sloe gins, liqueur chocolates, their own blend of Scotch whisky, chutney, cordials and more – a great Christmas gift for the person who already has everything.
Adrian Higgins will be selling his fine art prints and digital illustrations – all in limited run editions and signed, a collectable heirloom for the future.
The Hot Choc Club are sharing over 30 different flavours and blends of hot chocolate including festive spices and they don’t ignore vegan and gluten free buyers either!
All lovers of felt gifts and Christmas decorations will love the creations at Amica Felt, all handmade including some remarkably cute felt dogs and other fun animals that are just too good to be only for kids!
Moving away from the Christmas Market to shops that are open all year round there’s a must-see little shop at 55 High Street: Podarok. The shop’s name means ‘gift’ in Russian and gifts is what they do very well. Podarok, near Magdalen College, are proud to offer handmade gifts, many of which are absolute one-offs.
My personal favourites are the Scaramanga range of leather bags, most of which are gorgeously distressed and look as though antiques have moved from a museum into the shop. At the same time, you can buy marvellous tchotchkes such as a book called The Joy of Sheds or a set of bird and butterfly tea lights from Hannah Blossom that look just too good to set light to!
A visit to Boswells department store at 1-4 Broad Street is a must if you have kids, or just love checking out the best in toys to satisfy the big kid in you. The best place in Oxford for toys but with a full range of departments to satisfy almost every need around the house – a real treasure trove for the jaded gift buyer with a long list of gifts to buy.
We have featured the Oxford Covered Market before but it shouldn’t be missed during the festive season as stallholders seek to outdo each other with all kinds of seasonal goodies for the dinner table, drinks cabinet and Christmas stocking!
Find the market on the High Street or through the Golden Cross in Cornmarket Street. There’s more than 40 traders here and they can proudly boast being one of the top ten markets in the United Kingdom.
There’s many good reasons to visit but, for me, at this time of year, it is the foods that will be the big draw; from McCarthy’s Greengrocers to M Feller Son and Daughter the butchers, who have been standing on this market since 1979, via Pieminster and their great range of fresh baked pies.
Time to Eat and Drink
Gone are the days of a few old-fashioned restaurants and the kebab shops aimed at students being the only eating choices in Oxford. These days there’s a wide range for all tastes and budgets. The team has been looking, in particular, at places that are offering something a little different for the winter and festive season.
A year-round favourite is the Cherwell Boathouse. Yes, a real boathouse where students and tourists can hire punts for waterborne picnics on the river Cherwell, but it is also a great restaurant. In the winter the dining room’s focus moves from the terrace into the boathouse itself. The Boathouse is open 7 days and can be found by the river at Bardwell Road. This is a great location for your Christmas party able to serve up to 75 partygoers at once with a special Christmas menu.
Something of a change for the next suggestion! I love a buffet and, at this time of the year, having a buffet with a Christmas theme is just too good to miss. I hope the editorial team will find an evening to spend at the Cosmo World Buffet restaurant at 8 Magdalen Street in the centre of town. Tuck into all the usual world kitchen dishes that are normally on offer or enjoy the Christmas menu additions available from the 27th November until 31st December. As much turkey, cauliflower, roasties and sprouts as you can handle!
Another ideal family venue next, Turl Street Kitchen at 16-17 Turl Street. This place operates as a part of the Oxford Hub charity. Turl Street Kitchen makes every dish from scratch every day using locally sourced produce. The bright room with large wooden tables is popular with professionals popping in for lunch as well as being family friendly with children’s portions of most dishes.
An ideal venue for a small family Christmas get together before the end of term and with a great Christmas menu that doesn’t include turkey!
Lastly, in this small round-up can we suggest a that prides itself on fresh organic ingredients with lots of thought given to what vegetarians enjoy. The Vaults and Garden at 1 Radcliffe Square is situated under the university church, Saint Mary’s. All year round it is possible to sit outside and enjoy one of the loveliest architectural views in all of England. In the winter the staff will make sure that you are kept warm and cosy with blankets and hot water bottles. This isn’t a dinner venue, they serve breakfast through to tea, closing at 18:00.
Whether you sit outside or in the vaulted interior you will be part of a centuries old tradition while enjoying well prepared, fresh, local, food. Vaults and Garden also runs Will’s Deli at 15 Woodstock Road and Alpha Bar at the Covered Market, both are well worth a visit.
And Now Where to Stay While Making Merry?
There’s no shortage of places to stay in Oxford ranging from a castle to student rooms but in this section, we are casting an eye over places to stay where the festive season is, well, festive!
Starting with the Macdonald Randolph hotel situated right in the heart of Oxford on Beaumont Street the Macdonald Randolph kicks off the festive season with their Disco Party Nights running from the 24th November to 23rd December. These nights are ideal for a party with friends and family before the real Christmas festivities.
There’s a 3-course dinner preceded by sparkling wine to set the mood and after the dinner there’s a DJ until midnight. Of course, there’s a special rate for those wishing to combine the party with an overnight stay.
Over the Christmas holiday the hotel is running a traditional Christmas break for three nights celebrating the best of Christmas without any of the hard work – there’s even a trip to the panto!
Next up is the Oxford Witney Hotel, just outside Oxford in a lovely green location on Ducklington Lane, Witney. Among the special Christmas themed events here is one that’ll please the youngsters in the family: Sunday Carvery Lunch with Santa! Now even the most sceptical of children will be able to meet Santa for real and be convinced play along with the magic of Santa for just one more year.
There’s a full carvery lunch for all the family and Santa will have a gift for all the kids under 12. You can combine your generous lunch with a relaxing overnight stay at a special price. There’s a full package of Christmas and New Year events with more information here.
How about a refined Christmas weekend in style? Christmas at the Parsonage? The Old Parsonage hotel dates back to the 17th century and is a luxury country house that now finds itself close to the centre of modern Oxford.
The hotel is at 103 Banbury Road in Oxford and well situated for the city centre, shopping, Oxford’s Christmas lights and St Giles’ church for services and carols. Your Christmas weekend stay at the Old parsonage starts with a welcome bottle of champagne to enjoy next to the roaring open fire, or in your own room.
There’s a traditional Christmas Day lunch with all the trimmings you expect and a few that you probably didn’t. On Boxing Day, a guide will take you on a themed tour of Oxford in winter. Christmas here is a great way to enjoy a luxurious Christmas that’ll set the end to a great year and get you ready for the next year with batteries fully charged!
Lastly, a slightly different option for staying in Oxford, one where you get to make all your own fun in complete privacy and where you come and go as you please. OK, you must do the planning yourself, there’s no hotel fairies to make everything happen by magic; but many people prefer the flexibility and privacy that comes from renting a house or apartment for a few days.
Short Let Space has houses and apartments in and around Oxford available over the entire festive season. Stay for as few, or as many, nights as you wish.
Many of the locations are pet friendly and have easy parking. If you fancy a few nights in the historic suburb of Jericho in the heart of Oxford, then you can. If Saint Clements rings your bell then that’s an option too, with Short Let Space.
Wrap Up Well!
Oxford has so much to offer visitors at any time of the year, but Christmas is a little bit special. We have touched the surface of what is on offer for visitors (and locals) in Oxford. Hopefully three’s an idea or two to spark off some plans for a very special Christmas in the City of Dreaming Spires.
If you have any additional suggestions, ideas or comments please let us know my sharing in the comments section below.
While it might be a little early right now let’s take a moment to wish a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.