Travelling Like a Local in Oxford with Pick Me Up*

oxford travel local visit tourist radcliffe camera

Tourist traps are so easy to fall into whilst travelling. Before you know it, you've been sucked into queuing for attractions which are jam-packed with fellow tourists and you may end up paying an extortionate price for the most basic of services. Travelling like a local is definitely the way forward, using the expertise of those who live in the area to sniff out the best deals and real hidden gems. Actually achieving this can be tricky, however, so to help the thousands of tourists who descend on the beautiful city of Oxford every year, I've decided to put together a local's guide to a few attractions that you might not have necessarily considered, as well as an exciting new way of navigating the city. Get ready to expand your horizons! Here are Oxford's best kept secrets.

oxford travel local visit tourist library rad cam

The Hidden Secrets of Oxford's Most Famous Library

The Radcliffe Camera features in pretty much every book, blog post, and tourist guide to Oxford. It's one of the city's most famous buildings. Inside, Oxford University students peruse the history library collections from dawn til dusk. But what you might not realise when walking across Radcliffe Square is that the majority of the library's books aren't housed in the big rotunda itself, they're located right under your feet. "What?! How?!" I hear you cry. Well, the Radcliffe Camera library is actually connected by a two-storey underground passageway to the Bodleian Library, which is located just behind it. This underground library is called the Gladstone Link and contains reading rooms where students can study, with the tourists wandering around right above their heads! It's pretty cool down there, it looks a bit like a spaceship, as my sneaky insider photos will show. If you have particularly beady eyes, you'll even be able to spot exactly where the tunnel runs from above. In the centre of the underground tunnel, you can look up to see a manhole cover, and when wandering around Radcliffe Square, you can spot this same cover at your feet! So, next time you're in Oxford on a sunny day, taking selfies in front of the Radcliffe Camera, spare a thought for the students beavering away beneath your feet!

oxford travel local visit tourist gladstone link
oxford travel local visit tourist library bodleian

For the best food in Oxford, leave Oxford!

Ok, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but to find the best grub that Oxford has to offer, it's well worth leaving the city centre. George Street is a typical tourist hub when it comes to eating out in Oxford, it's well stocked with chain restaurants - everything from Franco Manca to Gourmet Burger Kitchen. However, if you want a taste of something a little bit different, I highly recommend taking a short trip over Magdalen Bridge and down onto Cowley Road. It only takes about 10/15 minutes to walk from the middle of the city to Cowley Road and it sure is worth it. Here you'll find a huge offering of smaller, independent cafés and restaurants - you'll be spoiled for choice. Firstly, there's the George and Danver ice cream parlour, known affectionately as G&D's, where you can find pretty much every ice cream flavour imaginable. There's also an adorable Greek taverna, which is decorated even on the outside with a traditional Greek feel. I can also heartily recommend the authentic Slovakian food at Moya, which is located on St Clements Street - they do amazing cocktails and have a daily happy hour! Cowley Road is also home to some amazing street art, so you can take in a bit of urban culture as you dine.

oxford travel local visit tourist cowley road G&D ice cream
oxford travel local visit tourist cowley road street art

You don't have to pay to see the dreaming spires

Oxford is also famous for being "the city of dreaming spires". It was a Victorian poet called Matthew Arnold who initally came up with the term to describe the city's stunning architecture and it is a name that has stuck to this day. Naturally, the spires are best admired from above, and many attractions such as Carfax Tower in the city centre will charge tourists to climb up and check out the views. However, you needn't spend a penny to take in Oxford's beautiful sights. All you need to do is head to the rooftop terrace of the newly renovated Westgate Centre. The roof terrace provides gorgeous views of Oxford's spires, as well as being home to bars, restaurants and much more. It's free to wander up and you can spend as much time as you like, even indulging in a cocktail or a bite to eat at venues such as Cinnamon Kitchen while you're enjoying the cityscape. The lower levels of the Westgate Centre are also fantastic for shopping - an essential visit if you're looking for a souvenir or two!

oxford travel local visit tourist westgate centre victors view spires

Travel in style with Pick Me Up

Public transport is by far the best way to travel in Oxford. On sunny days, the city is always heaving with visitors, but the old city streets really aren't the best designed to facilitate traffic. Parking is always a nightmare in the centre, so I would always encourage all visitors not to drive into the city. Thankfully, Oxford's bus network is one of the best I've ever used. The Oxford Bus Company provides many fantastic transport options that enable you to explore Oxford and beyond, with services such as the River Rapids Route in operation. Sometimes a bus just doesn't cut it, however, especially when you need to take multiple buses to reach your destination. That's exactly why the Oxford Bus Company have introduced their new Pick Me Up service, an on-demand ride-sharing minibus covering Oxford's Eastern arc.

oxford travel local visit tourist pick me up service oxford bus company

The brand new service offers the convenience of a car-pool at a price cheaper than your average taxi, in comfortable air-conditioned surroundings with free WiFi and USB charging. All you need to do is download the app, link your credit or debit card, and enter your current location and desired destination. The app will assign a driver to you and they'll arrive within approximately ten minutes. You may have to walk 100m or so to a designated pick-up point but this isn't too much hassle at all. You can then sit back and enjoy your journey, alongside other passengers on similar routes. For a limited period, you can travel using Pick Me Up to any destination in the coverage area for just £2.50, which is amazing value if you ask me! I found the Pick Me Up app really easy to use and will definitely be using it to navigate Oxford again in the future.

oxford travel local visit tourist pick me up minibus oxford bus company

Kevin, my driver, was really friendly and knowledgable about the service and it already seems to be really popular with Oxford locals. Kevin told me that they'd had over 1000 passengers in the first couple of weeks of the Pick Me Up service being in operation, which is certainly a vote of confidence. My only small complaint about the Pick Me Up app was that you can't rotate the map, it has a fixed orientation so you can't explore it that easily. Currently, the hours of service are slightly limited, with minibuses stopping at 1930 on a Saturday and 1900 on a Sunday, but as Pick Me Up expands, I'm sure that the hours will increase as it would be an ideal way of getting home after a night out in town. Pick Me Up is ideally suited to locals and travellers alike and it's a service that I would highly recommend.

oxford travel local visit tourist pick me up minibus service oxford bus company

If you'd like to give the Pick Me Up service a whirl, you can enjoy a free journey using my promo code:


Have you ever visited Oxford? Where are your favourite spots for a day out local to you? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time,

A x

*This is a collaborative post with the Oxford Bus Company