Oxford's Covered Market has been standing, tucked in between Market Street and the High Steet, for over two hundred years. It's filled with the sights and smells of flowers, butchers, fish-mongers, bakers, fresh fruit and vegetables, leather shoes, woolen sweaters, and Cotswold lavender. Whenever I'm out shopping, even though I might not need anything from the shops in the market, I walk through just for the wonderful smells.
Walking in off Market Street, Cardew's tea shop on the left greets you 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. And that's just the first corner hallway. Most of an 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.
The Covered Market is a magical spot
throughout 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, red-bowed wreaths, and boughs of mistletoe. Each week the bustle increases and the racks that hang from the ceiling over the butcher shops start to fill with the kind of fat geese and turkeys that would make Bob Cratchet's children clap with joy. 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.
As Christmas draws closer, along with venison, even a wild boar appears at a butcher's door. It will grace the Queen's College high table during their Boar's Head feast.
One of the most popular shops in the Covered Market 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 25 years since they opened and their windows are often lined with tourists taking pictures and marvelling at their skill, as they craft cakes that look too beautiful to cut into.
There are nearly 60 shops and restaurants, ranging from bespoke hats to Oxford souvenirs, sandwich shops and chocolatiers, to a pet shop, children's clothing, and jewelers.
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.