Oxford’s best hotels
The Oxfordshire branch of the mini chain is one of those places that you feel you want to live in as soon as you arrive – especially if you like traditional inns with all mod cons. Set in an old thatched pub are five beautifully appointed rooms filled with antiques and period fittings, homey touches like anglepoise reading lamps, bright textiles, comfy armchairs and organic Bramley toiletries. But rainfall showers, fast wi-fi, DAB radio, mini-fridges stocked with local goodies and a Nespresso coffee machine ensure there’s nothing olde-worlde or stuffy about the space. Plus, there’s a proper pub downstairs offering great food and live music.
If you’re in town looking for places that are familiar from Oxford’s starring role in TV shows like ‘Inspector Morse’ and films like ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and the ‘Harry Potter’ series, this grand five-star hotel is the place for you, as its bar is the place where the lugubrious DCI Endeavour liked to sit back and ponder cases over pints. That’s not the only reason to stay here though. The location, opposite the Ashmolean Museum and a ten-minute walk from the train station, is perfect: rooms are spacious (some have four-poster beds), there’s a spa and small gym; afternoon tea is served in the Drawing Room, and Acanthus restaurant offers high-end fine dining.
Grand hotels not your bag? How about a gorgeous, expansive boathouse-turned-pub? As the name suggests, the river plays a central role in the accommodation, with 20 nicely individual ensuite rooms offering all mod cons in spaces that feature iron bedsteads, wooden panelling, exposed brickwork or painted floorboards. It’s worth noting that the hotel is busy in summer, when the riverside courtyard fills with drinkers and diners chowing down on everything from croque monsieur to pork belly and steak and chips (though rooms are well insulated from the chatter). If the Thames views induce a desire to get out and mess about on the river, you can hire a boat from Oxford River Cruises opposite.
From its grand Georgian façade on the high street to its 42 beautifully appointed rooms, this luxury hotel is as much of a focal point for locals as it is for visitors, partly due to its location near some of Oxford University’s most famous colleges, Christ Church and All Souls, and opposite the Bodleian library. Rooms are modern and tastefully decorated with contemporary art and bright pops of coloured textiles on muted bases, and kitted out with TVs, tea- and coffee-making facilities and fresh flowers. The Quad bar and restaurant, located in a converted banking hall, are both lively, and if you want to explore you can jump on one of the complimentary bikes available for guests.
This gorgeous twelfth-century honey-coloured Cotswolds-stone manor house set in 30 acres of riverside parkland is a great option if you want to get away from the tour groups hunting down ‘Harry Potter’ locations. If you don’t mind the ten-minute bus trip into town, its grounds, and what they offer, make for a marvellously relaxing place… a game or two of tennis perhaps, a round of croquet, or, if that sounds too competitive, just an afternoon spent in the indoor pool, hot tub and spa complex. Rooms are spacious and contemporary with the focus on muted, elegant interiors, and two nice dining options complete the appeal: Crusaders Bar serves up pizza and fish and chips, while the River Room offers locally sourced food that can be eaten alfresco in summer.
Partially designed by Sir John Vanbrugh (the man behind Blenheim Palace), this centrally located boutique hotel contains 22 ensuite rooms individually decorated in tasteful Farrow & Ball colours and all offering fast wi-fi, Nespresso machines, rainfall showers and fine Egyptian cotton bed linen… which may or may not help you get a good night’s sleep, depending on how lively things get at the Oxford University students’ union opposite. The full English breakfasts are very popular, as are the minibars with complimentary soft drinks and snacks.
Malmaison was one of the first boutique chains but hasn’t rested on its laurels, updating spaces to ensure their hotels remain good, affordable options for those after something a little different – like this fun, quirky prospect: a converted Victorian prison in one of the city’s busiest and most buzzy areas. If you want to experience sleeping in an old cell (in fact three cells joined together to make one room), you need to ask, as many of the 95 rooms are in a modern annexe. And while the central prison atrium is spectacular and the courtyard garden lovely, the focus here is on the moody cocktail bar and restaurant.
Oxford often gets rammed during the summer, so if you’re looking for some peace and quiet but still want to be within walking distance of the action, this 191-room, modern riverside hotel with lots of appealing outdoor spaces makes a great retreat. It’s about a half-mile stroll along the Thames into town (or a couple of minutes on the bus) so instead of being disturbed by merry student banter you’ll get views of horses grazing on the nearby meadows, as well as a leisure complex with a gym, sauna and a pool.
Another quieter option is this 15-room guesthouse on the edge of one of the university’s playing fields, about a ten-minute walk from the centre of town and near enough to the Thames to make the river a viable transport option. Rooms are small but come with ensuite showers, free soft drinks in mini fridges and free wi-fi; superior rooms add Nespresso coffee machines, king-sized beds and rainfall showers. There’s free (first come, first served) parking, plus a complimentary full English cooked to order every morning. Nearby Hinksey Park and Christchurch Meadow are both perfect for a sunset stroll.
As pretty as its name suggests, this five-star boutique hotel set in a seventeenth-century parsonage is equally alluring inside. Decor is modern and stylish, with 35 individually designed rooms and suites (some with a Juliet balcony) featuring fresh flowers and original artworks, as well as striking marble bathrooms. Communal spaces are what it’s about here though: a private library that opens out onto a secluded terrace, a pretty courtyard where afternoon tea is served, and a well-regarded restaurant serving a British menu. If you fancy exploring on two wheels, there are free bikes for guests.