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Best Kept Secrets

Best Kept Secrets

Oxford is so well-trod that it’s hard to imagine that anything in the city is a secret anymore. There are still a few places, however, that qualify for the label of undiscovered (or maybe under-appreciated) gems. Here is our rundown of the sites, bars, restaurants, and just general attractions worth exploring.
 
The Ashmolean, Christ Church, The Bodleian: they all draw the crowds. But there are still some amazing attractions in Oxford where you won’t be swamped by tourists. First try the Story Museum. This weird and wacky gallery brings both classic and new tales to life with elaborate theatrical performances and amazing displays. Drop in and roam their building or book a ticket to one of their interactive plays – perfect for kids. If you want to explore the university, there are some stunning colleges that often go unseen. New College is open between 2pm and 4pm and is free of charge. The cloister site was used in the filming of Harry Potter and the back garden holds the mysterious echoing hill. More beautiful still is Worcester College. Again free between 2pm and 5pm, Worcester has a picturesque lake in its grounds, as well as plenty of beautiful lawns and horticulture.
 
Moving on to events. Above the Turl Street Kitchen resides the Oxford Hub, a charitable organisation that also puts on a diverse range of talks and events. Film screenings, plays, story readings, the Oxford Hub has them all – and all the money goes to a good cause. For later in the night, try the Purple Turtle. This club isn’t quite as alternative as its neighbour The Cellar, but its booze is super cheap and they have a drink for every Oxford college. The Half Moon shouldn’t be overlooked either. Just the other side of the Magdalen Bridge, the Half Moon is a pub made up of cubbyholes and antique furniture. They have folk music on Wednesdays and Sundays, jazz on Thursdays and lock-ins … well pretty much every night.
 
Are you feeling hungry? For lunch, there’s no better place than Alpha Bar. Located in the Covered Market, it’s amazing this salad bar isn’t better known. Only £4 for a salad box, and £5 for a hot stew or tagine, it’s great value and very tasty. Out in Cowley you could try Kasbar. This Spanish-Moroccan restaurant serves tapas. It’s a bit pricey but the food is excellent and the cocktails even better. Wash it down with a trip to the Rickety Press. Hidden away in Jericho’s back alleys, the Rickety Press is a fond local favourite and has a great selection of ales. The food is fantastic too if you want to stop by for Sunday roast.
 
Some further things to try. The Ballroom Emporium is a great vintage clothes store. It’s popular with students, particularly their cheap black-tie selection in ball season. They also have some great jumpers and jackets. If you are looking for a good walk, Headington Hill Park is a great spot all too often overlooked. This picturesque hillside is beautifully maintained by Oxford Brookes University and features lots of stunning foliage bursting into colour in spring. Finally, why not visit St. Barnabas Church? It’s a stunning, giant Romanesque chapel tucked away in the terraces behind Walton Street. In any other city, this would be a central attraction. In Oxford, with its plethora beautiful churches, St. Barnabas is barely noticed – a ridiculous shame.

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