Just like the city itself, shopping in Oxford is a tumult of old and new, with stores ranging from the most modern and recognisable, to one-of-a-kind, independent boutiques.
The centre of the city is marked by the striking Carfax Tower, a handy, accessible starting point, which joins the busiest shopping streets – High Street, Cornmarket Street, St. Aldates, and Queen Street – together.
These streets host a number of Oxford’s finest restaurants, fashion outlets, antique dealers, jewellers, and gift shops – as well as two shopping centres (the Westgate Centre and the Clarendon Centre). Cobbled alleyways and smaller lanes often weave off of the main strips, carrying wanderers to some of the more interesting and unexpected shopping discoveries. In the heart of it all, connected to several of the main streets, is the hidden-from-view, but sprawling Covered Market, a unique shopping jewel in Oxford’s retail crown.
One of the nicest things about shopping in Oxford is that everything is close together and the stores are interspersed at every turn by historic buildings, stunning feats of architecture, ancient colleges, churches and tumbling pubs.
Outside the city centre there are several neighbouring residential areas that offer their own brand of shopping charm, including stylish Jericho (best accessed by a stroll past shops and restaurants along Little Clarendon Street and onto Walton Street); Summertown, a sought-after neighbourhood in north Oxford best accessed by bus or taxi; and the Cowley Road and St. Clements, which is at the top of the High Street and houses some interesting boutiques and ethnically diverse cafes, restaurants and bars.
One of England's oldest bookshops, Blackwell's Oxford is a cavernous warren of a store with departments spanning every subject under the sun including academic titles (Blackwell's is the leading academic bookseller in the UK), fiction, children's books, rare books and extensive music and art divisions. Dating back to 1879 when Benjamin Henry Blackwell first opened the doors on Broad Street, the store continues to be renowned for its expertise and passion for all things book related. Web: www.bookshop.blackwell.co.uk.
The trendy residential neighbourhood of Jericho, just a five-minute stroll from the city centre, is always worth a visit thanks to its eclectic collection of boutiques, cafes, bars and restaurants. A great example of the area’s vibe is the Albion Beatnik Bookstore, which carries a range of diverse titles ranging from American pulp to Beatnik poetry, and has a comfy, laid-back atmosphere aided and abetted by jazz over the speakers and an onsite café offering fine teas, coffee and cakes. Often open until 11 p.m., the Albion hosts regular events including poetry readings, live music and an annual jazz/poetry festival. Visitors should note the old school focus of the shop is on books and the traditional written word so there’s no Wi-Fi access.
Oxford University Shop
106 The High Street
Oxford, OX1 4BW
+44 (0) 1865 247414 firstname.lastname@example.org
Owned by the university, this shop stocks a wide range of official Oxford merchandise with a focus on collegiate clothing and sportswear for men, women and children. The official Oxford hoodies, college scarves, and Oxford ties are particular favourites with both students and visitors. All profits go towards supporting the university’s work in education and research. www.oushop.com
Ducker & Son
6 Turl Street
Oxford, OX1 3DQ
+ 44 (0) 1865 242461
Located on one of the city’s most historic streets is one of the city’s most historic shops. Ducker & Son, which takes its place on Turl Street alongside several other unique and historic boutiques, has been handcrafting shoes in this location since the 1800s.
Offering a made to order service for those that require it, the leather bound ledgers in the store are full of some of the city’s most recognisable names from over the years including J.R.R. Tolkien, Evelyn Waugh, Rowan Atkinson, and Jeremy Clarkson.
Turl Street is one of the oldest existing streets in Oxford. It links Broad Street at the north and High Street at the south joining onto Cornmarket and the iconic Radcliffe Square. www.duckerandson.co.uk
Oxford, OX1 3DZ
[No email or phone]
The Covered Market in Oxford is a must-visit for shopping. It's like having an elaborate farmer's market on hand every day of the week – with the added draw of gift shops and fashion boutiques nestled among the fresh meat, cheese and vegetable sellers. The market has been trading in the heart of the city centre for more than 200 years and some of the independent local businesses operating there today date back to the original opening. Enter the warren of stores through one of several entrances on the High Street, through an entrance on Market Street, or through Golden Cross on Cornmarket.
In the 1850s, Lewis Carroll, a professor at Oxford, wrote a story for Alice Liddell, the daughter of the Dean of Christ Church College. Carroll often drew from real scenes and characters familiar to young Alice in his famous Alice in Wonderland adventures, and a small grocery shop housed in a 500-year-old building opposite Christ Church College was one such place of inspiration. It's where Alice and her sisters would often go to buy sweets.
The small store was dubbed 'Alice's Shop' as soon as Carroll's stories became well known and today is one of the most famous shops in the world. It no longer sells groceries but instead is a treasure trove of Alice in Wonderland themed souvenirs, gifts and memorabilia. www.aliceinwonderlandshop.co.uk