Oxford is located in central southern England, and much of its life revolves around the prestigious Oxford University. It’s known for its architecture, with the spires of the 38 colleges dotting the landscape of the medieval city centre. Located only an hour from London, it’s a great spot for shopping, visiting museums, and punting (riding in a flat boat) on the river. And there’s plenty to do at night, too! So if you’re looking for nightlife options in Oxford, read on to see our top eight picks.
1. The Big Society
First on our list is a bar that’s a little different. At The Big Society, you can spend your night eating, drinking, and playing games. They offer ping pong, football, and pub quiz nights. They also have space for a Pop Up Shop every Saturday and wall space to hang artwork by local and emerging artists.
They’re known for serving American-style food. From burgers and fried chicken to hot dogs and onion rings, they’ve got all the American bar classics covered. Their drinks are served in 2/3 pints to encourage guests to try a wider ranges of beers. Reviewers say the food is amazing and the staff are friendly and attentive.
Open until 2am on the weekends, this is a relaxing, fun spot to hang out with friends and get a couple games of ping pong in.
The Big Society
Address: 95 Cowley Rd, Oxford OX4 1HR
Website: The Big Society
2. Late nights at The Ashmolean
Art lovers will want to check out Live Friday at the Ashmolean. On the last Friday of the month, the Ashmolean Museum keeps its doors open until 10:30pm. The nights typically include food and drink, talks, and music, and the exhibitions remain open during these hours. Previous Live Friday nights have included a 400th Birthday Party for the Museum’s founder, a spooky Fright Friday, and a portrait-themed night.
Live Friday provides a unique way to explore the Ashmolean’s collections. Whether it’s simply the novelty of exploring the galleries after dark, or getting the chance to speak to researchers and see performances, you can gain a deeper understanding of the objects—and have a lot of fun while doing so!
Late nights at The Ashmolean
Address: Beaumont St, Oxford OX1 2PH
Website: Late nights at The Ashmolean
3. Raoul's Bar
Owned by the same people as The Big Society, Raoul’s Bar is a different atmosphere with the same friendly service. It’s a cocktail bar in the Jericho neighborhood of Oxford, with a wide range of drinks to choose from.
With nearly 100 cocktails on the list, you’re bound to find something you’ll like. There are tiki drinks, classic vintage drinks like a Manhattan, drinks to share, and a wide selection of unique cocktails. They also have a good selection of alcohol-free options. They only use 100% fresh squeezed fruit, and they squeeze all their citrus on site daily. Many of their ingredients are homemade, including bitters and syrups.
They also offer a Cocktail Masterclass, giving you the opportunity to try your hand at being a mixologist. You can have an intimate class with just two people, but a larger group can be catered for as well. With a great atmosphere, friendly staff, and an enormous drink menu, this is a great spot to spend an evening.
Address: 32 Walton St, Oxford OX2 6AA
Website: Raoul’s Bar
4. Thirsty Meeples Board Game Cafe
If you like board games, you’ll want to check out Thirsty Meeples. They’re open morning to midnight, and with a library of over 2,500 games, there’s plenty to keep you going. They order newly released games, and can order in your favorite if they don’t already have it. They also host tournaments, talks from game designers, and game testing nights.
If you’ve never been to a board game cafe, here’s how it works: after you pay a cover charge, you can play as many games as you’d like from their library. There are Game Gurus on staff to help pick the right game for you, and will even help set up the game and explain the rules.
The cafe provides table service, so there’s no need to pause your game to order food and drinks. Thirsty Meeples sells coffee, soft drinks, and is now licensed, selling craft beers, ciders, cocktails, and wine. They offer sandwiches, cakes, and snacks to munch on. Get a group of friends together and aeons a few hours in the evening enjoying food, drink, and board games!
Thirsty Meeples Board Game Cafe
Address: 99 Gloucester St, Oxford OX1 2DF
Website: Thirsty Meeples Board Game Cafe
5. O2 Academy Oxford
Music lovers will want to keep track of the O2 Academy Oxford’s calendar. A wide range of musical acts stop at the O2 Academy, so whether you love indie or pop, a musical artist you like is bound to come through town.
The venue has bars, a cloakroom, and a counter for each band to sell their merchandise. Check the website for an updated calendar. At the time of writing, upcoming acts included New Found Glory, Nelly, and a wide range of tribute nights, including tributes to Pearl Jam and Prince.
O2 Academy Oxford
Address: 190 Cowley Rd, Oxford OX4 1UE
Website: O2 Academy Oxford
6. The Cellar
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
For those into more independent music, check out The Cellar, a basement nightclub. They put on live gigs, as well as a variety of club nights. There’s Freerange, a night for garage, bass, and grime. Intrusion features goth and industrial music. And House Party will have you dancing to hip hop and RnB.
They also have Cinema Under The Stairs; regular nights for showing a classic film. Entry is just 4 GBP (USD), and drinks and snacks are on offer. Reviewers love the friendly atmosphere and, of course, the cheap drinks!
Address: Frewin Court, Oxford OX1 3HZ
Website: The Cellar
7. The Glee Club
If you like to laugh, you’ll want to book at night at The Glee Club. The comedy club is now located on Cowley Road, having moved there in January 2017. They don’t serve food at the new venue, but they do have a deal with the nearby First Floor Restaurant, securing you a discount. The first choice on our list, The Big Society, is also just down the road, so you can knock out two stops in one night! There is a cocktail bar at the club.
The Glee Club has Stand Up Saturdays, where each Saturday night a lineup of four comics will get you laughing. Tickets are inexpensive: around 16 GBP (20 USD), and only 10 GBP (13 USD) for students with a valid student ID. The club is also host to touring comedy shows, so be sure to check out their calendar for up-to-date information on who will be coming through.
The Glee Club
Address: 162 Cowley Rd, Oxford OX4 1UE
Website: The Glee Club
8. The Varsity Club
Rounding out our list is The Varsity Club, a bar on Oxford High Street serving food and drinks. They’re open from noon until late, making this an excellent spot for spending the evening with friends, enjoying a few pints and a nice meal. They’ve got about 20 cocktails, including non-alcoholic versions and a handful which were created in house. There’s also plenty of wine and craft beers to choose from. They serve up artisan boards with cheeses and meats, as well as smaller snacking plates.
One of the best things about The Varsity Club is their rooftop bar. It’s a lovely spot to look out onto the city with a cocktail in hand. You can reserve a table on the roof, and it’s well worth doing so if you’re planning a night out and want a place to relax for a bit.
The Varsity Club
Address: 9 High St, Oxford OX1 4DB
Website: The Varsity Club
Bars, bands, and board games
There’s plenty to do in Oxford at night, whether you’re interested in a club night at The Cellar or if you’d prefer to spend your time playing board games at Thirsty Meeples. If you like live acts, be sure to watch the calendars of the O2 Academy and The Glee Club. And, of course, there are plenty of bars to pop into, whether you’re making a pit stop or spending the evening in one. Oxford offers plenty to do at night, so get your friends together and start planning now!
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