Oxford loves beer. There’s no doubt about that! The city has a student population of approximately 40,000 students so naturally, the pubs do rather well in Oxford! With over 200 pubs in Oxford to choose from however, picking the places best suited for your custom is no easy task. Not to worry because we have selected some of the best pubs in Oxford that you should definitely visit depending on your taste!
If histories your thing, no trip to Oxford is complete without a visit to the Turf Tavern. This pub has been subtly hidden around the back of Hertford College since 1381! A favourite for students and tourists alike, this pub has seen everything. It was at the Turf Tavern where Bob Hawke (Former Prime Minister of Australia) made it into the Guinness Book of Records for downing a yard of ale in 11 seconds! It was also at the Turf Tavern where Bill Clinton confessed to ‘Smoking Marijuana… But not inhaling it!’ Naturally, its stories like this that have encouraged numerous visitors to the Turf Tavern over the years. It’s definitely worth a visit, if you can find it!
Equally, if history is your thing, it is certainly worth paying a visit to The Bear. This is Oxford’s oldest pub and dates back to the year 1242! For a while the pub claimed to be the oldest pub in England but that accolade possibly goes to ‘Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem which dates back to 1189, although this is often disputed! The Bear also has a collection of over 4,500 snippets of club neck ties, started in 1952 by the landlord Alan Course. He used to clip ties that he liked off unwary visitors for a half pint of ale!
Last but not least is The Eagle and Child, often nicknamed the Bird and the Baby by locals. This iconic pub was where the Inklings used to meet to discuss their various creative works. It was in this pub where readings of The Lord of the Rings and The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe were heard for the first time, so if you’re feeling particularly creative, make your way down St. Giles and give this pub a try.
Best Pubs for Beer
Lets face it the main reason people visit pubs is for the beer. Whilst ultimately, the quality of ale in most of Oxford’s pubs are very good, there are two pubs that stand out in particular. The first is The Three Goats Heads.
This pub serves top notch beer from a microbrewery based in Yorkshire. Its pretty much all organic so you can drink your beer with a feeling of satisfaction that you’re not quaffing pesticides. Whilst the pub boasts a slightly older clientele rather than the local student crowd, the personable, no-nonsense bar staff are highly welcoming and are a good reason to keep coming back. This pub is definitely one of the best pubs in Oxford for a pint.
The Lamb and Flag is a St. Johns College favourite, which is natural given that the college actually own it! The profits made by the pub are mostly used to fund D-Phil students at the college, which means you can drink your ale in the knowledge that you could be contributing to a future nobel prize! The ale is particularly brilliant, and ranges from fruity amber ales to heavy and satisfying bitters. Not surprising the ale would be good given this pub is often a contender for the best real ale pub in Oxford. Do be warned, it doesn’t take card payments, so visit an ATM before a visit.
Best Pubs for Food
Whilst most of the pubs listed above do really good food, there is one that is a cut amongst the rest. The Magdalen Arms on Iffley Road does pub food like nowhere else in Oxford. Whilst it is a bit of a trek from the centre, the food is completely worth it. This pub is best enjoyed with company as the big selling point is its sharing platters. In particular, this pub does a slow cooked neck of lamb and potato dauphinoise that would turn even the strictest of vegans!
If you’re not a meat eater, they normally have some quite good veggie options on the menu and not the normal cheddar cheese and mushroom monstrosities that most vegetarians are faced with when eating out! This is one of the best pubs in Oxford for food hands down.
Best Pubs for Students
If it the student vibe you want, The Kings Arms off Broad Street is your best bet. This is one of the best pubs in Oxford if you’re a student at Wadham College. In fact, some teaching actually happens in the rooms above the pub, figuratively offering an education in intoxication! Also, the Scotch eggs are fantastic.
Another good student pub worth visiting is The White Horse, which nestles itself comfortably between Blackwell’s Bookshop. Whilst rather small, the pub is a cozy intimate place to stop for a drink and thus is popular with students looking for a chilled pint. Oh, and Morse drank there! If that isn’t an endorsement I don’t know what is!
Best Pubs for Sports
Visiting Oxford is great, but lets face it, Sport takes priority over sightseeing. If you’re looking for a pub that shows Football, one of the best pubs in Oxford is St. Aldates Tavern is a good option. This pub is the quintessential ‘old boys’ pub so you know you’re going to be surrounded by a good crowd.
If you are more of a fan of Rugby, The Royal Blenheim is a great bet. This pub famously warns its visitors that Football talk will get them thrown out. The ale here is very good (Try the Village Idiot if its on draught) but the real seller is the chips! We’ll never know the secret ingredient but somehow they make them perfectly fluffy in the middle and crispy on the outside. It must be witchcraft!
Here at Footprints Tours we offer an Oxford pub tour, which goes in to a number of the pubs listed above. Its a great opportunity to visit some of these iconic pubs. You can learn about the history of ale and quaff a pint at the same time! If you are interested in this tour, it can be booked by following the link above.0