Home > Vanbrugh House Hotel Review
Updated: August 3, 2020
Vanbrugh House Hotel – An eclectic boutique B&B opposite the Oxford Union.
Before anything else, this boutique B&B’s biggest draw is its location right in the city center – just a few minutes’ walk from most of the main attractions, including the Ashmolean Museum, Bodleian Libraries, and Christ Church. But there is much more to recommend Vanbrugh House, not least the elegant architecture (the building was designed by its namesake, the 18th-century architect Sir John Vanbrugh who also designed Blenheim Palace), historical flourishes such as original Delft tiles and stone fireplaces, and the twenty-two comfortable rooms, each with its own quirks and named after Oxford-related personalities. The best draws are the two suites featuring private gardens – a rare feature in a city with such limited space.
Vanbrugh House Hotel – Location
- Address: 20-24 St Michael’s Street, Oxford.
- Area: The hotel is right in the city center, an area within which everything is under a 20-minute walk. Opposite the Oxford Union – the University’s debating hall – and just off the Cornmarket, it manages to be in the thick of things while being situated on a quiet street.
- How to Get There: The main bus station, Gloucester Green (frequent buses to London and Heathrow and Gatwick airports, as well as local services), is a 3-minute walk (0.2 mile) from the hotel, while the train station is a 10-minute walk (0.5 mile).
- Handy to: Ashmolean Museum, Castle, Bodleian Library.
Vanbrugh House Hotel – The Basics
- Ages: All ages are welcome, though most guests tend to be couples or solo travelers on a city break.
- Private Pools/Jacuzzis: No private pools or jacuzzis.
- Laundry: The hotel does not offer laundry services.
- Parking: The hotel does not have parking and driving through the center of Oxford is limited due to space and pedestrian streets. The most economical parking is at Seacourt Park and Ride, from where the #400 bus drops you at the Westgate Mall, a 6-minute walk (0.3 mile) from the hotel (there is also a car park at Westgate).
- Wi-Fi: Free Wi-Fi throughout the property.
- Extras: Complimentary umbrellas for guest use, knowledgeable concierge.
- When to Book: The hotel is busiest in summer and the beginning and end of university terms.
- How to Book: Booking.com will have the best rates.
- Phone: +44 1865 244 622
- Email: [email protected]
- Website: vanbrughhousehotel.co.uk
Vanbrugh House Hotel – Amenities
- Pool: No pool.
- Spa: No spa.
- Fitness Center: No fitness center.
- For Families: The hotel can provide cribs for babies. However, there are no rollaway beds or interconnecting rooms.
- For Disabled Guests: Guests with disabilities must contact the hotel in advance as the building itself is not fully accessible. One of the Standard Doubles has a wet room, complete with rails and alarm.
- Activities: The website has good recommendations for things to do in Oxford.
Vanbrugh House Hotel – Food and Drink
- Restaurant/Bar: No restaurant or bar.
- Breakfast: A good buffet continental breakfast is included in the price of a room. Served in the breakfast room 7:30-10 am (10:30 am on weekends and holidays).
- Room Service: No room service.
Vanbrugh House Hotel – Rooms
- Room Types: Standard Single ● Small Double ● Standard Double ● Superior Twin ● Superior Double/Twin ● Oxford Union Suite ● Nicholas Hawksmoor Suite ● Sir John Vanbrugh Suite ● Vicarage Suite
- Smoking Rooms: Smoking is only permitted in the patios or private gardens.
- Best Room: The Vicarage Suite has everything other rooms enjoy (walk-in rain shower, The White Company toiletries, safe, ironing facility, hairdryer, Dyson purifying fan/heater, tea-making facility with Teapigs tea, Nespresso coffee machine, slippers and robes, and media hub for connection to a phone, tablet, or laptop) as well as a four-poster bed, sofa, a larger TV (55″ Smart TV), private garden with seating, and gorgeous bathroom with two roll-top baths, a walk-in shower, and a TV.
- Family Rooms: No family rooms per se.
Vanbrugh House Hotel – Local Transport
- Walking: Everything in the city center, as well as the city’s most famous museums, is within a 20-minute walk of the hotel.
- Tram/Bus: The main bus station, Gloucester Green (frequent buses to London and Heathrow and Gatwick airports, as well as local services), is a 3-minute walk (0.2 mile) from the hotel. However, due to city-center congestion, it’s worth knowing that buses can often take longer than walking, especially for short distances.
- Taxis, Uber, Lyft: Uber is banned in Oxford. London-style black cabs can be hailed from the street, or can be found at taxi ranks dotted around town. There are also many local cab companies that will allow you to pre-book. 001 Taxis (+44 1865 240 000) is one of the most popular, has its own app, and operates 24/7.
Vanbrugh House Hotel – What’s Nearby?
Recommended Nearby Tours
- Uncomfortable Oxford – Aiming to combat the glossy version of Oxford that many tour companies espouse, these guys want to get behind the inequality, colonialism, and other unpleasant aspects of the city’s history. Essential stuff if you want to really understand modern Britain. Various starting points.
- Oxford Official Walking Tours – The Oxfordshire tourist board puts on excellent walking tours covering not only the city and university, but also Harry Potter, Inspector Morse, and Philip Pullman tours. The meeting point is at the main office and shop in Broad Street, a 3-minute walk (0.2 mile) from the hotel.
- River Cruises and Punting – Oxford River Cruises and Salters Steamers, across from each other at Folly Bridge (0.6 mile, 12-minute walk), offer various delightful experiences from punts and city tours to sundowner cruises in the summer months. Another popular place to hire punts, pedalos, and more is at Magdalen Bridge Boathouse (0.7 mile, 13-minute walk).
- Cycle Tours by Bainton Bikes – This bike shop in Jericho offers some of the best cycle tours of the city; it’s a great way to get out of the city center and see more of the gorgeous green spaces and waterways. 15-minute walk (0.8 mile).
Best Nearby Restaurants
Many of Oxford’s pubs serve excellent food, too.
- The Handle Bar – A good selection of freshly-made, healthy, and inventive meals served all day in a warehouse attic covered in old bicycles. $-$$. 1-minute walk (25m).
- No. 1 Ship Street – Excellent bar-restaurant that describes itself as a “modern British brasserie”. Good value lunch menu. $-$$. 2-minute walk (150m).
- Bbuona Pizza Bar – Excellent Roman pizzeria offering a choice of flours for your base and several toppings. As you’d expect from a good Italian restaurant, this place is open from 8 am daily and also does great coffee and spritz. $-$$. 3-minute walk (0.1 mile).
- Glut – Opulent burgers and loaded fries with great options for meat-eaters, vegans, and veggies alike. $. 3-minute walk (0.2 mile).
- The White Rabbit – Looks like a traditional pub from the outside, but is rebranded as a “pizza and beer” joint inside, offering a wide range of handmade pizzas (including excellent gluten-free options) and craft brews. $. 3-minute walk (0.2 mile).
- Chiang Mai Kitchen – High-quality Thai food in an amazingly characterful building dating back to 1637. $-$$. 4-minute walk (0.2 mile).
- Shezan – On the first floor of a building which dates back to 1679. This genuine Indian Balti restaurant is lauded by many as the best of its kind in town. $-$$. 4-minute walk (0.2 mile).
- The Ivy Oxford Brasserie – Brand new outpost of the famous London restaurant and long-time celebrity favorite. As well as modern takes on classic European dishes, there’s a full veggie/vegan menu and a good-value set menu. $$-$$$. 5-minute walk (0.3 mile).
- Quod – Sophisticated modern European brasserie on High Street with a dramatic and beautiful bar and an excellent value set lunch. $-$$$. 7-minute walk (0.4 mile).
- Edamamé – A tiny, casual, family-run Japanese restaurant that offers a different menu each day. Arrive early for the popular Sushi Thursdays as there are no reservations. Open Wednesday-Sunday. $-$$. 8-minute walk (0.4 mile).
- The Folly – This elegant riverside restaurant, open for brunch, lunch, and dinner every day in high season (check website for winter opening hours), claims to be the spot where Lewis Carroll first created Alice in Wonderland. It offers river cruises, and boats are available to hire right outside, too. $-$$$. 12-minute walk (0.6 mile).
Best Nearby Cafes
- G&D’s – An Oxford institution that is George & Danver in the city center, George & Delila on Cowley Road, and George & Davis in Jericho. Freshly made ice cream, waffles, bagels, and great hot chocolate. George & Danver’s is a 5-minute walk (0.3 mile).
- Vaults & Garden – A popular spot in the pretty courtyard of the University Church, right by the Radcliffe Camera, that does hearty organic, seasonal, and veggie breakfasts, lunches, and cream teas. 6-minute walk (0.3 mile).
- Jericho Coffee Traders – Hip flagship café of a local roastery, always full of serious coffee heads. 6-minute walk (0.3 mile).
Best Nearby Bars
- The Varsity Club – This swanky bar’s spectacular roof terrace makes it worth the climb up 4 flights of stairs. Luckily, there are good cocktails and small bites, as well as a full menu available in the summer months. 4-minute walk (0.2 mile).
- Sandy’s Piano & Wine Bar – Classy, old-fashioned piano bar with modern stylings. Reservations recommended on weekends. 6-minute walk (0.3 mile).
- The Chequers – 16th-century traditional pub down an alleyway off the High Street. Owned by Nicholson’s brewery, it serves standard pub fare, specializing in seafood. 4-minute walk (0.2 mile).
- The Bear – The oldest pub in Oxford, dating back to 1242, is renowned for its cramped rooms whose walls are plastered in an eye-boggling collection of neckties from Oxford clubs. 6-minute walk (0.3 mile).
- The King’s Arms – Pub by the Bodleian with great food selection: traditional British pies, classics like fish and chips, and modern favorites like burgers. 6-minute walk (0.3 mile).
Nearby Shopping & Cool Shops
- Cornmarket Street – Central pedestrianized shopping street that is of particular interest for its small arcades and markets running off it, like the Golden Cross arcade, Covered Market, Clarendon Shopping Centre, and Westgate mall. Make sure to check out Oxford’s oldest building, the Saxon-age tower of St Michael at the North Gate, built between 1000–1050; you can ascend it for good city views. 2-minute walk (0.1 mile).
- Boswells of Oxford – A family-run Oxford department store with a long history – it is rumored that Captain Cook used Francis Boswell’s handmade suitcases in the 18th century. 2-minute walk (0.1 mile).
- Fudge Kitchen – Watch fudge being made in great slabs and try British flavors like clotted cream or rum and raisin. 2-minute walk (0.1 mile).
- Sanders of Oxford – Cavernous print and map shop featuring new and old stock in a 16th-century building. 6-minute walk (0.3 mile).
- University of Oxford Shop – Right on High Street, in between some of the most famous colleges, feel like an alumnus and stock up on branded university gear. 6-minute walk (0.3 mile).
- Westgate – This new mall has injected life into this often-overlooked section of the city center, drawing big crowds to its sleek passageways filled with cult and international brands, as well as to its rooftop bars. 6-minute walk (0.3 mile).
- Alice’s Shop – Curious, tiny boutique dedicated to Oxford’s most famous literary character, Alice in Wonderland. 7-minute walk (0.4 mile).
- History of Science Museum – Next door to the Sheldonian is this remarkable museum which features many beautiful antiquities as well as more modern curios like a blackboard used by Einstein when he gave a lecture at the University, and the original penicillin culture specimen. 4-minute walk (0.2 mile).
- Ashmolean Museum – If you only visit one museum in Oxford, it should be the Ashmolean, just north of the city center. It carries the weight of being Britain’s first public museum with ease, thanks to its awesome collection of world treasures from Ancient Egypt, China, Japan, and the Middle East, as well as awe-inspiring art from Goya, Manet, Michelangelo, Raphael, Turner, and many more. Don’t miss its classy rooftop restaurant. 4-minute walk (0.2 mile).
- Museum of Oxford – Run by the local government, this is a great showcase of people’s history of the city and proves there’s much more to the town than just the University. 4-minute walk (0.2 mile).
- Oxford Castle Quarter – The main attraction of the so-called Castle Quarter is, unsurprisingly, the castle, as well as the next-door prison, which is now a plush hotel. The Oxford Castle & Prison museum/experience spans several significant historic sites: the Saxon-era St. George’s Tower, a 900-year-old crypt, an 18th-century prison, an 11th-century Motte-and-Bailey castle, and lots of folklore and gruesome local history along the way. 5-minute walk (0.3 mile).
- Bodleian Libraries – The Bodleian Libraries, comprised of the Old Bodleian Library and the modern Weston Library, are the second largest in Britain after the British Library. The Old Bodleian Library is made up of many smaller parts: most famously, the striking circular Radcliffe Camera, but also the intriguingly named Divinity School and the 15th-century Duke Humfrey’s Library, both of which featured in the Harry Potter films. You have to take a tour to see inside. Meanwhile, at the Weston Library on Broad Street, there’s an exhibition dedicated to the Bodleian’s most famous books and some of the scholars who have studied at the library. 6-minute walk (0.3 mile).
- Sheldonian Theatre – The University’s graduation ceremonies are held in this striking building wedged between the Old Bodleian Library and the Weston on Broad Street. The main attractions of touring the 17th-century building include Christopher Wren’s ingenious engineering, the enormous ceiling mural, and the panoramic city views from the Cupola. 6-minute walk (0.3 mile).
- University Church of St Mary the Virgin – The University’s main church, just opposite the hotel and next to the Radcliffe Camera, offers the highest view over Oxford from its spire. It has a great cafe, too. 7-minute walk (0.4 mile).
- Christ Church College – Of all the colleges, the crown jewel for tourists is Christ Church. It is the most open to the public and features an art gallery, a cathedral, a meadow, and the bit most people are here for (even if they don’t admit it), the Great Hall, otherwise known as Hogwarts’ dining room. If you’re into Renaissance painting, the Picture Gallery boasts works by Tintoretto and Michelangelo, among others. 7-minute walk (0.4 mile).
- Pitt Rivers Museum & Museum of Natural History – Two of the city’s best museums, great for kids and adults alike, are wrapped up in one cool building in the University’s Science Area. The Pitt Rivers Museum is undoubtedly one of the best museums, not only in the UK but also in the world. Established by a Victorian collector, it is a fascinating romp through human psychology via displays that group together objects from different time periods and cultures by use, such as drug paraphernalia, farming tools, warrior clothes, or body modification equipment. Next door, the Museum of Natural History boasts a ‘skeleton parade’ of mammals throughout the ages, as well as the world’s best surviving dodo remains, dinosaur bones found in Oxfordshire, fossils, stuffed animals, gemstones, and more. There’s also a café overlooking the awesome atrium. 11-minute walk (0.5 mile).
- University Parks & the River Cherwell – University Parks, northeast of the city center, is one of the city’s most pleasant green spaces. The University turned it into a landscaped park in the 19th century with the aim of creating a space for “town” as well as “gown” – locals and students alike. There are lots of different areas to explore, but one of the loveliest is the riverside walkway alongside the River Cherwell (pronounced “Charwell”), one of the largest tributaries to the River Thames. The river goes south through Magdalen College’s gorgeous grounds and Christ Church meadow. 13-minute walk (0.7 mile) to University Parks.
- High Street – The hotel is on the graceful curving High Street, packed with University colleges, including Brasenose, St Edmund Hall, All-Souls, Queen’s, and the confusingly named University College. The top pick for most will be the beautiful 15th-century Magdalen College (pronounced Maud-lin), whose gorgeous grounds, which include a deer park, should be taken advantage of in good weather. Opposite the college is the University’s lush Botanic Garden & Arboretum; it’s the oldest in the UK and features over 6,000 different plants across 130 acres. Don’t miss the cluster of fairytale cobbled streets just south of the High Street, with names like Magpie Lane and Logic Lane. They lead to Merton College, one of the original three colleges that made up the University (along with Balliol and University colleges) in the 13th century. Features to look out for include its quaint Mob Quad, the chapel, and the gargoyles adorning some of the buildings. It’s a 4-minute walk (0.2 mile) to the corner of St Aldate’s and High Street, and a further 9-minute walk (0.5 mile) east to Magdalen.
- Port Meadow – Wander among free-range horses, cows, and sheep on this 440-acre plain along the River Thames. A big draw is that you can start or end a walk at The Trout or The Perch: historic inns with heavenly riverside terraces. To get there, you can either walk to the start of the Oxford Canal on Hythe Bridge Street (0.3 mile, 5-minute walk) and walk north along the towpath, or wend your way northwest from the Ashmolean through Jericho until you hit it on Walton Well Road (1 mile, 20-minute walk).
Nearby Markets or Grocery Stores
- Gloucester Green – A modern square behind the bus station that hosts lively markets Wednesday-Saturday, each day offering something slightly different, from produce to street food and crafts. 3-minute walk (0.1 mile).
- Covered Market – Foodies should not under any circumstances miss the Souvlaki Brothers, The Oxford Cheese Co., the coffee at Colombia Coffee Roasters, or the gelateria at iScream. 4-minute walk (0.2 mile).
- Sainsbury’s Local – Mini supermarket selling the basics. Conveniently open daily 7 am-11 pm. 4-minute walk (0.2 mile).
Vanbrugh House Hotel – The Hotel
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