Oxford hotels

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expert-rated hotels in Oxford
Expert overall rating:4.1 (out of 5)

A delightful boutique aparthotel that suits short and long-stay visitors equally well.

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Oxford is one of the most beautiful cities to visit in the UK. For this reason it can be very crowded, particularly in summer. Locals avoid the centre in June and July when, not only is Broad Street blocked by celebrating undergraduates, but also by parties of English as a Foreign Language students walking ten abreast.

Nevertheless you can always have the city to yourself first thing so try to book somewhere central. Bath Place and The Buttery, though not the most comfortable places to stay, give you great access to all these beautiful buildings any time night or day. The Macdonald Randolph Hotel & Spa Oxford is similarly central and Malmaison Oxford, The Old Bank Hotel and Royal Oxford Hotel are in short walking distance of the city centre.

People are surprised how few hotels there are in Oxford given its popularity as a tourist destination, but the city's proximity to London means that many people just visit for the day. This is such a waste. You need at least two nights in Oxford to get a feel for the place - and at least one early morning walk when you only have the street cleaners and the pigeons for company.

Oxford has not gone down to boutique hotel route although Ethos Hotel, a boutique-aparthotel has a boutique look and feel. What you will find though is a lot of heritage-style hotels - the Old Parsonage Hotel, Cotswold Lodge Classic Hotel and the Macdonald Randolph Hotel & Spa Oxford itself - which play up to the image of old Oxford.

Last night my wife and I cycled back from dinner in the centre of Oxford (hire a bike, cycling is by far the best way to get around Oxford) and yet again I was struck by the unexpected beauty of the city as we came round a backstreet corner and found a vista I'd forgotten. Fortunately we live centrally so there was no question of having to drive back or get a taxi. I'd urge all visitors to do the same. Book into a hotel that's not too far out, hire a bike and enjoy.

Things to consider before booking

What kind of break do you have in mind?
There are very good cheap hotels in the centre of Oxford that are ideal for seeing the sights but you won’t want to spend much time in your room or the public areas (should there be any). The hotels further out are more comfy but you won’t have Oxford on your doorstep. With the exception of the Macdonald Randolph Hotel & Spa Oxford, you are going to have to choose between an ideal central situation and somewhere luxurious to curl up with a good book

Avoid most b&bs 
Oxford has a small number of attractive guest houses and I’ve included these. It also has far too many places that are just cheap and depressing.

Parking is a big consideration if you are arriving by car
Parking on the street in central Oxford is a nightmare. It’s very expensive and you have to keep moving your vehicle. There is one underground car park near Gloucester Green and this is expensive too. A central hotel with free parking is a godsend. A central hotel with guaranteed free parking (rather than first come, first served) is manna from heaven.

Breakfast is sometimes included in your room rate and sometimes not. It’s worth checking on this. Moreover some hotels have just one cover charge for breakfast while others charge per item or offer Full English or Continental at different prices. Newspapers can be another thorny issue in British hotels. If you are offered a morning paper you have every right to ask if it’s complimentary or not. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.

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For a city that is so popular with tourists, Oxford has surprisingly few good hotels. Our proximity to London means that many visitors just come for the day but this is to miss out on the early mornings and late nights when the city can be at its most beautiful.

Aim to stay at least one night and choose your hotel according to the kind of break you are planning.

In my opinion, the best hotels are to be found in the centre. This can be said of many cities, but Oxford is unusual in having all its attractions in an historic centre that has never declined. There is a middle rung of useful hotels outside the historic centre that date from the city’s 19th-century expansion and these are fine if you don’t find the walk into the centre daunting. Finally, there is an outer ring of hotels on or near the Oxford ring road that are ideal if you are just passing through or have business in the area but no pressing need to see the sights.

I’ve also included some hotels outside the city altogether as I wanted to present the best that can be found within the OX postcode. These have great individual charm and are more like destination hotels.

I've lived in Oxford for eight years now and I’ve got to know all these hotels by reputation and by visiting many of them to eat. It’s been a curious experience in the past few months actually staying at hotels only a few miles from home to test them out (however it comes in very handy when you find you’ve forgotten something at home!).

I believe I have selected the 16 hotels that I would recommend to friends and colleagues visiting Oxford supplemented by the top four outside the city. I hope that in the years to come Oxford will have more hotels that that I can recommend and I will be adding these but for the moment I’d urge you not to go beyond this list if you want to have the wonderful, inspiring and relaxing time you deserve in Oxford.

Simonseeks has given star ratings out of five for all accommodation recommendations. With hotels, these will tally with the hotel's official star rating where it exists. Where a hotel has no official star rating, and in the case of b & bs and hostels, the experts have made a judgment as to how many stars the accommodation deserves, in terms of comfort, level of facilities and so forth.

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