From its rugged Norman castle to elegant Regency dining halls, Oxford’s got it all, and tourists come in their tens of thousands to experience what the City of Dreaming Spires has to offer. At Footprints Tours, we’re delighted to get the chance to share this beautiful environment with tens of thousands of eager travelers each and every summer on our Oxford Walking Tours (they seem to like us back!). But once you’ve seen the sights, where’s the best place to stop by and sample an authentic English afternoon tea? Whether you fancy a chilled-out lounge outside Brown’s or a trip to the towering Manor at Weston-on-the-Green, here are our 5 top tips.
A Grade II listed building, the Grand Café stands on the site of England’s first coffee house, established some three and a half centuries ago in 1650. The building’s glorious 18th-century façade and opulent interior make it a splendid environment to enjoy a traditional tea including gourmet sandwiches, a variety of teas and coffees from around the world, and, of course, the indispensable scones with jam and cream. The secret’s out though – you’ll have to book 24 hours in advance!
Situated a short train ride outside of the city, the magnificent 11th-century Weston Manor is a must-see, and its tempting range of pastries and cakes make it as regal an afternoon tea as anybody could hope for. Repeatedly awarded AA Rosettes by hotel and restaurant inspectors, the Manor’s catering ensures you won’t go hungry after a leisurely day’s sightseeing around the building and its idyllic countryside surroundings.
Much loved by local residents, students and passing tourists alike, Brown’s is the oldest café at Oxford’s unmissable Covered Market, and one of the cheapest places in town to get a great cup of tea. If you’re open to a more laid-back, less “Jane Austen” approach, take a trip to this down-to-earth, no-pressure hang-out and assemble your own afternoon indulgence from a comprehensive range of snacks and beverages.
The Randolph Hotel
The towering Gothic Macdonald Randolph Hotel is a commanding presence in the city centre, but the hotel’s gorgeous Drawing Room couldn’t be a more welcoming place for afternoon tea, offering a range of tempting options on a sliding cost scale. For a relaxing environment of luxurious upholstery and a classic menu, all attended to by the hotel’s famously professional staff, the Randolph is an excellent option located right in the beating heart of the city, across the road from the famous Ashmolean Museum.-
The Old Parsonage
The Old Parsonage Luxury Hotel is an Oxford institution, operating a stone’s throw from the renowned Natural History Museum and across the road from the gloweringly majestic architecture of Keble College. When you’ve finished ooh-ing at the dinosaur replicas and ah-ing at the college’s cathedral-sized Gothic chapel, there’s no better way to round off your trip than by treating yourself to an Old Parsonage afternoon tea made up of delicious home-made English delicacies and served out on the terrace, if the weather’s fair, or else in front of a good old-fashioned log fire.
Of course, we at Footprints can deliver you to any one of these options at the end of one of our customized Private Walking Tours around the city.