Oxford's Covered Market has been standing, tucked between Market Street and the High Steet, for over two hundred years. Throughout the year it's filled with the sights and smells of flowers, butchers, fish-mongers, bakers, leather shoes, and Cotswold Lavender. Whenever I'm out shopping, even though I might not need anything from any of the shops, I walk through just for the wonderful smells.
As I walk in off Market Street, Cardew's on the left greets me with a heady mixture of Earl Grey, Darjeeling, and delicate coffee smells. Then Brown's Cafe on the right mixes in it's all day breakfast, followed by the Oxford Cake Shop's vanilla and marzipan.
It's a magical spot all through the year but it's at Christmas that the market really shines and comes alive. As the season of Advent begins, the halls of the market start filling with lights, Christmas trees, and red-bowed wreaths. With each week the bustle increases and the racks that hang from the ceiling over the butcher shops start to fill with fat geese and turkeys that would make Bob Cratchet's children clap with joy. As Christmas draws closer even wild boar, that will grace a college high table, will appear at a butcher's door, as well as venison. By the time Christmas arrives, the market feels like stepping back into the world of Dickens, and you almost expect to see Tiny Tim and Bob coming around a corner.
|The Christmas Lunch Cake|
One of the most popular shops is the cake shop at the north-east corner of the market, where they craft very special, one-of-a kind cakes for weddings and celebrations. Their artistry has grown in the past 25 years since they opened, and the windows are often lined with tourists taking pictures and marvelling at their skill, crafting cakes that look too beautiful to cut into.
An entire afternoon can easily be spent wandering through the halls, from tasting luxury chocolate to getting a haircut, and from trying on a pair of riding boots to buying Oxford Blue Cheese. Savour the smells of loose-leaf tea at Cardew's and try on a hat at The Hat Box. At the end of the day treat yourself to one of Ben's marvellously hot and fresh cookies or sit down for a cup of afternoon tea at Brown's Cafe.
The Market is located between the High Street & Market Street, and Turl & Cornmarket Street. Opening hours are Monday-Saturday 9am-5:30pm, and Sundays 10am-4pm.