Oxford Covered Market
A Visit to The Oxford Covered Market, a Tradition That Thrives Today
Whether you live in Oxford or are just visiting there’s one place that any savvy local will tell you ranks above any other if you are looking for the bustle and noise of ‘old fashioned’ shopping and the best in fresh produce. They’ll tell you to visit Oxford Covered Market, a market that opened its gates to traders and buyers for the first time back in 1774.
Market Opening Times
The market is right in the heart of the ancient city of Oxford and is located just off the High Street, Market Street or by walking through the Golden Cross in Cornmarket Street. The market is housed in a building dating back to the 1770’s. The market is open from 8am to 5pm Monday to Saturday and on Sunday from 10am until 4pm but some stalls may not be open all the hours that the main market is open, particularly on Sundays.
stalls to visit, selling all sorts of goods from Rolex watches to fresh meat and local cheeses. The surroundings are, especially to overseas visitors, quintessentially English and many visitors say that the place seems rather Dickensian, certainly it is a very different sort of shopping experience to the modern out of town shopping malls that we are so used to these days and which seem almost identical wherever one is in the world.
Built in a large single building the market is laid across four avenues making finding your way around pretty easy but if you are visiting with friends or family then maybe it is a good idea to arrange to meet up, if separated, at Ben’s Cookies situated near the High Street entrance. ‘Why Ben’s Cookies’, you might ask; the answer is because, in my opinion, there’s not many nicer places to wait for your companions than in the company of a collection of delightful handmade cookies.
Favourite Fresh Food Stalls
While there’s many speciality stalls selling clothing, shoes, jewellery and the like my favourite stalls are the fresh foods and specialties that are so hard to find anywhere else. Let me take you on a short walk around my top picks at the market.
I always make a stop at David John Pies. They make their own pies and, well, I love pies; a great stop to fill the fridge with the piemaker’s goodness. A more recent addition in the pie line is Pieminister, they serve their own made pies with mash, mushy peas, and all sorts of goodies. A great stop for lunch on a cold day.
Tucked up at the far end of the market, near to Market Street is the Oxford Cheese Company. They have been selling high quality cheeses since 1983 and have the reputation of being one of Britain’s premier cheese specialists!
Coffee and tea lovers will take the few steps across to Cardew & Co, this is ground central for high quality coffee and tea in Oxford. The company has been at the Covered Market since 1948 and can now be found at the Market Street and of Avenue 4 of the market. Sadly, you can’t stop here for a refreshing brew but you should make sure that you take with you some of their specialty teas and coffees.
Very unusually these days you can even buy their teas loose, no tea bags and sealed boxes, you can buy the rarest of teas packed just for you.
If Cardew’s has whetted your taste for fine hot drinks, then the Oxford Café should be your next stop. A busy little spot but you can get good coffee and teas and, if you are into that sort of thing a pretty good English breakfast (they even do a veggie version!). The menu has all sorts of goodies including really nice cupcakes and cookies!
Fresh Veg and Fresh Meat Centrepiece of a Great Dinner
Back to the shopping and Bonners Fruit & Veg are a ‘must visit’. Wherever possible they sell locally grown produce, established in 1926 they supply fruit and vegetables to the local colleges, restaurants and the general public. If you need to buy more than you can carry they will even deliver locally. They are a ‘proper’ fruit and veg market stall with hand written prices and a little bit of rough round the edges. Their produce is ‘fresh from the ground’ and is definitely not the tasteless, joyless stuff that supermarkets pass off as ‘fresh food’.
Next, something that not everyone is used to these days, but real butchers, with real chickens and carcasses hanging in the window awaiting butchering and purchase. M. Feller, Son & Daughter, organic butchers have been trading at the Covered Market since 1979. They mainly sell organic meat and, in season, supply venison, wild boar, quail, pheasant, hare and many more. They will advise on the best cuts to buy for your needs and even make sausages, fresh, every day.
Lastly, after collecting cheese, fruit and veg, meat and coffee and having taken refreshment it is time to look for desserts! The Cake Shop on Avenue 4 is the place to be. Trading at the market for 25 years they create stunning custom designed cakes. If you tell them what you want then they will make it! Fortunately for visitors and shoppers you can watch their skilled cake decorators at their work creating colourful, edible, art from icing sugar and marzipan. Even if you don’t have a sweet tooth then a walk past The Cake Shop is still very worthwhile, if you are with kids they will love it.
This is just a small selection of some of my favourite stalls at the Oxford Covered Market and that’s not mentioning any of the wonderful non-food shops. When you visit, you will certainly find your own particular favourites and create your own memories of sights, sounds and smells. Enjoy your first visit, almost certainly it won’t be your last!