The café culture in Oxford is bursting with history, a history which is set in stone, quite literally in most cases. The beautiful array of buildings offers a teatime experience unlike any other. These are the meeting places of Oxford University students, book clubs, first dates, and the creative workhouses of writers, poets, and artists. There are just so many wonderful hideaways to be found, but here are some of the classics.
The Vaults And Garden Café
For anyone who knows, and loves, all that is Oxford, there is nothing better than spending an afternoon with friends testing out the Vaults‘ daily cake selection and watching people pass by the cobbled streets that surround the Bodleian Library. The definition of a ‘hidden gem,’ the café sits buried below St. Mary’s Church, a space originally intended as a congregation house and which dates back to 1320. One can absorb this long-standing and ever-beautiful building from underneath the vaulted ceiling (from which the café’s name derives) or in its delightful garden. The afternoon tea is right on point and even offers gluten-free and vegan options.
University Church, 1 Radcliffe Sq, Oxford, UK +44 1865 279112
The Old Parsonage Hotel
If you’re looking for tradition then The Old Parsonage is the place to go. Its unbeatably scrumptious and quintessentially British cream tea comes complete with three-tiered cake-stands and silver teapots, as well as a mouth-watering menu of various beautifully cut sandwiches and fluffy scones with cream and jam. The building itself dates to the 17th century and is gloriously Romantic in appearance, with wisteria creeping up its handsome façade and simple, wooden garden furniture out front. This picture-perfect milieu is hidden behind a low stone wall, making it feel secretive when in reality you are plonked right in the centre of town. You may find you walk a little bit taller, with your head in the clouds as you leave this dreamy venue.
1 Banbury Road, Oxford, UK +44 1865 310210
Turl Street Kitchen
Although relatively new to Oxford, TSK has fast become a favourite. The space itself holds memories, for all who have lived in Oxford long enough, as a string of much-loved restaurants. However the story of this elegant Georgian building started in 1785 and was rediscovered by the QI Club who once occupied it. TSK have kept its history alive and share the story behind the house on their website. There have even been tales of a ghost who loiters in the rooms below, an added flavour to an already captivating café. The buzzing atmosphere and hearty menu is a winner, with all the produce carefully sourced. A steaming hot coffee and sweet pastry are the perfect escape from the busy world outside. As a bonus, all profit gained goes towards the charity based upstairs called the Oxford Hub which encourages students to get involved with social and environmental issues. Any student’s idea of heaven.
16-17 Turl Street, Oxford, OX1 3DH. Tel: 01865 26417
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