City and nightlife | University of Oxford
City and nightlife
Looking down Queens Street at night taken from the High Street.
(Image credit: Greg Smolonski / Oxford University Images).

City and nightlife

Oxford city has lots of different areas, each with its own character and within 20 minutes walk away, although some people choose to travel by bike as it's that much quicker. With so many students, Oxford is a young city and there is always plenty to do. 

Many student club nights are held in the city. Down on Park End Street, R’n’B, hip-hop, and classic ‘cheese’ dominate the playlists. Just off Cornmarket Street, the Purple Turtle offers free entry to Oxford Union members, and next door the Cellar offers a different theme each night, from dancehall and dubstep through to comedy nights and live bands to electronica and metal.

For more information about participating in musical activities as a student at Oxford please see our section specifically about music.

East Oxford

The area around the Cowley Road is vibrant and diverse and home to lots of students "living out", so this part of town has a community feel. Its restaurants cater to all tastes – Jamaican, Thai, Japanese, Greek, Chinese, Italian, Nepalese, Lebanese and more and many are good value. It is also home to lots of pubs and live music venues, including the O2 Academy which attracts many high-profile acts. The University sports centre is also found nearby in neighbouring Iffley Road.

City centre

The city centre is so alive with people and music and colour.


You will find all the usual high street stores, as well as smaller independent retailers. The famous Covered Market has everything from quirky fashion boutiques to pie shops. If you want to go on a spending spree, you can catch a coach to the enormous Westfield shopping centre in West London.


Just north-west of the centre, the part of town known as Jericho is famous for its cocktail bars and high-end restaurants, although Pepper’s burgers are also legendary. There are also picturesque walks across Port Meadow and an arthouse cinema.

River Thames

In summer a great thing to do is get a group of friends together and cycle up the river for a pub lunch.


Summer Eights, the college's rowing competition, takes place every June and attracts large number of students supporting their college from the river bank. Whether you are sporty or not, you can enjoy the buzz and party atmosphere at the event which lasts several days.

Green spaces 

As well as being a bustling city, Oxford has plenty of green spaces, some of which are grazed on by cows! There are lots of beautiful gardens and parks which run down to the river.  

Arts and Theatre

Modern Art Oxford is one of the UK's most exciting and influential contemporary art spaces, with an international reputation for ambitious and innovative projects.

The Oxford Playhouse is one of Britain’s leading theatres, with regular high-profile productions, while the New Theatre stages a variety of touring shows, including West End musicals and famous comedians. Watch out for posters for the Creation Theatre, who stage plays in unusual places all over Oxford, from Blackwell's Bookshop to the castle. Some colleges also have their own theatres.

Special events

My best Oxford memory (so far) is spending May Morning with friends, watching Magdalen Choir sing at sunrise.


Summer events include Cowley Road Carnival, the Jericho Street Fair and Oxford Pride.

Historic events include ‘May Morning’, where on 1 May crowds gather at sunrise to listen to choristers singing an invocation to summer from the top of Magdalen College tower. Over the years this has turned into a real celebration with balls, parties, and extended opening hours.

What’s the best…

We asked hundreds of Oxford students for their favourite places to spend free time in the city. These are just some of their responses: shop?

The best thing about Oxford as a city is the coffee shops.

My favourite coffee house in Oxford is Missing Bean.

Combibos - best coffee shop and breakfast in Oxford!

Brew - it’s in North Oxford, very relaxed and very friendly, and great coffee too!

My favourite place in Oxford is having coffee with friends in the Turl Street Kitchen.

...night out?

The best part of Oxford is definitely the Park End cheese floor, crazy tunes and a fantastic atmosphere.

Café Tarifa is my favourite cocktail bar, where they do some amazing film and music events.

Itchy Feet club nights! Expect a night of good company, dancing, and 50s music.

The nightlife is a lot better than I expected. I mean the pubs, clubs and even venues where bands perform like Freud's and the O2/Arts Bar. I really enjoy the funk & soul and 80s nights.

Hassan’s is exactly the kind of food you want at 3AM after a night of hardcore dancing in Park End.
Holly cream?

Founded in 1994 by two Oxford graduates, the three G&Ds ice cream cafés are a student favourite, providing an alternative to pubs and clubs for late-night socialising. Their ‘flavour petitions’ allow you to request any kind of ice cream you can imagine.

My best Oxford memory so far is receiving a G&D’s ice cream cake for my birthday.

Where else can you get ice cream in a cafe at midnight?


My favourite restaurant in Oxford is Atomic Pizza.

There’s an amazing sandwich shop on Broad Street that sells the best houmous and falafel wraps in THE WORLD.

My favourite place in Oxford is having scones at the Vaults and Gardens.

I would like to thank Najar’s Place just outside St. John’s College for introducing me to a good falafel wrap. I have never looked back since.

Taylor’s - a very convenient sandwich shop, and my number one stop on the way to lectures.