10 reasons to live in Oxford
Oxford, famed the world over for its rich history and glorious architecture, takes its place as our Local site of the week. Our Local editor, Camilla, guides us through the very best aspects of her picturesque hometown and explores the reasons why Oxford is so popular with those looking to escape larger, busier cities for a place where town and country meet and mix.
1. Thing about the area
You can have an amazing day out without spending much money – or any at all. It’s so beautiful here and you can reach everywhere on foot and absorb the wonderful architecture and hidden courtyards. Now we have some warmer weather (at last) you can take advantage of the city's glorious picnic spots, such as Christ Church Meadow.
For less clement conditions, there are lots of free-entry museums. Later in the year, events such as the Winter Light Night are fantastic: all the shops and museums are open late and there's all sorts of entertainment, from parlour songs in the History of Science Museum to songs from local choirs in the Divinity School, a magical night out.
2. Child-friendly café
Three spring to mind, though I’ve only tried out one personally (really must rectify this!) G&Ds (Cowley) is very spacious and child-friendly – baby-changing for mums and dads, a good selection of savoury and sweet treats and, most importantly in this weather, delicious and exciting ice-creams. The other two with good reputations are Queen’s Bakery on Windmill Rd (good for those on a tight budget) and The Jam Factory (very spacious with homemade cakes).
3. Child-free night out
I have it on good authority that Kazbar on the Cowley Road is an excellent place to start the night, with North African tapas and exotic drinks of both the soft and alcoholic variety.
Average semi-detached house price
Average class size for primary schools
Oxford: 27.1 pupils
UK: 27 pupils
In fact the Cowley Road is really the place to go for most of the good foodie haunts. If you’re after a really riotous night out then you have to follow dinner with cocktails at Café Tarifa (to continue the Eastern vibe) or the Duke of Cambridge.
4. Outside space
As with most of our English cities, Oxford isn’t lacking in green spaces. For some Inspector Morse points, take a stroll across Port Meadow and over to The Perch (good locally-sourced grub) or there’s Christ Church Meadow as mentioned above. Also University Parks and South Park, which has a children's play area with a zip wire if you need to keep the younger generation entertained – don’t forget the picnic!
5. Hidden gem
Oxford isn't short of hidden gems so I can't pick just one!
Christ Church Picture Gallery has an incredible selection of Old Masters, including Leonardo, Michelangelo, Dürer, Raphael and Rubens. The exhibits change roughly every three months, so keep an eye on the website to see what’s coming up – or just keep going back to see what’s new.
Many of the colleges have intriguing exhibits for visitors; it’s worth visiting some of them to get a better perspective of what is primarily a university town. Information on this can be found here.
For film fans, Christ Church College must rear its not at all ugly head again, as many of the scenes in the Harry Potter films are shot in various locations there; as you walk around the cloisters and quadrangles it is easy to see why.
The Botanic Gardens also come highly recommended and have an excellent range of family events and activities throughout the year.
- "Best Hidden Gem has to be Oxfork on Magdalen Road... and in fact all of this part of East Oxford, with the Magdalen Arms, Magic Cafe etc. all in one place." feltgiraffe
6. Community venue
Barefoot Books in Summertown is an amazing community resource where families can gather to browse books and experience live storytelling, music, arts and crafts, yoga and more. They regularly add events to Mumsnet Oxford, so keep an eye out to see what’s coming up.
7. Free visitor attraction
You can’t visit Oxford without popping into a museum or two, and some of the best are free. The Ashmolean, Britain’s first public museum, has a diverse and fascinating collection including the world's largest stash of Raphael drawings as well as Egyptian and Anglo-Saxon treasure and the largest collection of modern Chinese art in the Western world.
The Natural History Museum is also worth a visit, though it's unfortunately closed for the remainder of 2013 due to renovation work. Next door, Pitt Rivers is definitely good for curiosities aficionados – look out for the mummy's toe and the witch in a bottle!
8. Day out
Surrounding Oxfordshire is full of great days out, but if you focus on central Oxford then it has to be tourist activities all the way – try a combination of some of the locations and activities mentioned above, plus a ride in an open topped bus and a spot of punting from Cherwell Boathouse (for preference). More information can be found here.
9. Places to live
In the words of one of our Oxford Mumsnetters, “Botley, Grandpont or the Abingdon Road get the most bang for your buck. In Botley you can get an extra bedroom compared with most areas, and the schools are much better too.”
Another poster votes for Iffley, if money is not so tight – “an easy trip into town but also has a nice villagey feel”. However, the postcode is apparently not great for secondary schools, so those with older kids, be aware.
Headington is also a nice area, with a mix of young families and students, but if money is no object then all votes seem to be for Summertown or Jericho, though nearby Marston is a little cheaper whilst still having easy access to all of Summertown’s fabulous facilities.
Basically, if you stay to the East you’ll probably do alright, but if you have any queries, do pop over to our talk boards and ask.
10. Places to shop
The Albion Beatnik Bookshop in Jericho has a great calendar of poetry and music events, themed literary evenings and general talks and debates. It has a reading group which meets each month and a great little café. It’s open until 11pm at least four nights a week – perfect for those trying to juggle strange working hours or children's sleep patterns!
The Covered Market is a super resource as long as you’re not a vegetarian and/or squeamish; a whole, skinned goat, for example, is not a rare sight. If you want a magical Christmas outing, the Covered Market is really lovely with lots of lights and mulled wine – and seasonal dead animals like turkeys and wild boar!
If you’re looking for sparkly things, Reginald Davis jewellers on the High Street is a must. Lovely stuff, LOVELY staff. A very good friend of mine found her engagement ring there and can’t sing their praises loudly enough.
Finally St Michael’s Street is a great place to find some more eclectic shops such as Arcadia, selling lovely old prints and books and random pretty things.
I’ve been a member of Mumsnet for quite a while now and have always been a passionate advocate of what it offers. When I fell pregnant, my Mumsnet antenatal group was what got me through the pregnancy and the first year.
Also, one of my very best friends in the area was another Mumsnetter I met through that group. I am very involved in my local area and feel strongly that we should support our community whenever possible. When the opportunity arose to become more involved on a local level and promote both Mumsnet and my lovely home town, I just couldn’t resist.