Day Trippin’: Going beyond the bright lights of London
Beautiful and eclectic with a storied history, it is little wonder as to why London is positioned as the second most visited city in the world. Home to the iconic Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and some of the world's best museums and art galleries, there is plenty to see and do in London (read Editor-in-Chief Cai Mei's one-day guide to London here). But its central location is also an ideal stepping stone to exploring a number of heritage sites and cities such as Stonehenge, Bath and Oxford.
There is also the relatively lesser-known town of Bicester, a market town located at the heart of rural Oxfordshire, which has been steadily gaining momentum as a popular destination for tourists, not least for the shopping. Don't get us wrong, London is amazing, but sometimes a short getaway can be a refreshing breather from the big bustling city. Having opened its dedicated train station a year ago, Bicester Village—the shopping destination listed in the little black book of every fashion lover in London—is now just a 46-minute train ride from London Marylebone; and for city explorers, Oxford is only a short drive away, too.
Making your way to London this holiday season? Here's how to incorporate a day trip to Bicester Village as well as Oxford into your travel itinerary:
8am: All aboard. Get an early start and catch the 8.08am train from Marylebone station—you will arrive at Bicester Village just in time for breakfast.
9am: Breakfast at farmshop restaurant & cafe. Kick-start your day the right way with a hearty meal at farmshop restaurant and cafe. A gastronomic destination created especially for Bicester Village by Soho House & Co, it serves a great all-day menu of British food using locally sourced ingredients. The big, airy space is decked out in a barn-turned-restaurant feel, complete with vintage chairs for a quaint finishing touch.
10.30am: Time to shop! Yes, get an early start on what you really came to Bicester Village for: with more than 130 boutiques of leading brands in one place, you will need (and want) the time. High-quality pieces at reduced prices? Say no more. Home to brands such as Anya Hindmarch, Coach, Marni, Mulberry and many more, whether you are looking to snag luxe new arrivals for your wardrobe or an amazing gift without breaking the bank (Christmas is just around the corner), you can't help but feel spoilt for choice here. You don't need to worry about carrying your shopping bags either—the Village's Hands-free Shopping service will have your purchases ready for collection at the end of the day, so you can shop unhindered.
1pm: Go organic for lunch. For lunch, go lighter on the palate with a meal at Le Pain Quotidien Restaurant. With Christmas drawing near, festive food and drink is available on the menu. Order a couple of organic mince pies or maybe a Buche de Noel for dessert to share. Weather getting a little too chilly outside? Indulge in a cup of Belgian hot chocolate or warm spiced apple.
3pm: Continue shopping... or take a short ride out. If fashion was your focus in the morning, the recently launched L'Atelier should be your go-to for luxury timepieces and fine jewellery in the afternoon, where you can browse brands including Baume & Mercier and Chopard.
Shopping isn't the only attraction around the area—if you'd like to venture outside of Bicester Village after lunch, there are a few points of interest you can easily get to. Travelling by car? Waddesdon Manor, a beautiful stately home set amongst the British countryside is just a short drive away. View Waddesdon's extensive art collection and take a leisurely stroll on its vast grounds, or if you're travelling by train, explore the charming city of Oxford nearby. Perhaps a visit to the Great Hall as depicted in the Harry Potter films is in order—otherwise known as the dining hall of Christ Church, one of the many colleges that make up Oxford University.
6pm: Dinner at Gee's Restaurant & Bar in Oxford. It has been a long day, time to rest your weary legs and refuel. Tuck into seasonal British food with a Mediterranean flair at the long-standing Oxford favourite of Gee's Restaurant & Bar. Housed in a picturesque Victorian-style conservatory, it is a beautiful place to dine in during the day with sunrays pouring in, but it is equally as lovely to enjoy a meal in the evening light.
8pm: Drinks at Kazbar. Wrap up your day out with a cocktail or two at Kazbar, a Spanish/Moroccan bar on Cowley Road. The atmosphere here is friendly and easygoing, with fantastic tapas and drinks to boot. Cosily lit and decked in exotic Moorish decor, the souk-inspired space will draw you in with its relaxed vibes and have you feel like you're in the heart of Morocco—even if it is winter outside.