OXFORD STREET ULTIMATE GUIDE
With over 200 million visitors each year, Oxford Street is the busiest shopping street in Europe, and the most popular shopping destination for tourists and free walking tours in London. And although many of its stores are packed full of high-end, boutique items, you don’t necessarily need to be made out of money to enjoy all that Oxford Street has to offer.
Oxford Street has been one of the main arteries pulsing through the heart of the London’s West End for centuries, and its origins can be dated all the way back to Roman times. The 1.5-mile-long street (stretching from Tottenham Court Road station to the east and Marble Arch station to the west) used to be called Tyburn Road during the Middle Ages, and was the main road leading from London to Oxford, (hence the name).
During its earlier years, the street was lined with independent traders selling wares, but today has expanded to include over 300 retailers ranging from flagship stores, retail chains and designer outlets.
The most famous of Oxford Street’s many stores is none other than the world-renowned Selfridges, which was founded by the American businessman Henry Gordon Selfridge in 1909. With over 10 acres of shopping space which occupy an entire block of Oxford Street, Selfridges is the second largest store in London after Harrods, and has been coined as “an extraordinary temple of the retail business” thanks to its neoclassical columns and jaw-dropping main entrance.
Oxford Street Highlights
No matter what time of the year you visit, Oxford Street is bound to be packed full of locals and tourists rushing through the streets with an armful of shopping bags, but it’s during the Christmas season when the street truly comes to life, as it’s lined with all sorts of Christmas decorations that are lit up at night, which makes for a truly dazzling sight.
Walking from one end of the street to the other, visitors will see stores like Marks & Spencer, Debenhams, House of Fraser and John Lewis, as well as flagship Nike, Adidas, H&M and Topshop stores (which attracts more than 200,000 shoppers every week). And of course, no visit to Oxford Street would be complete without browsing around Selfridges (at 400 Oxford Street), which boasts six floors, 11 places to eat, and over 11,000 pairs of jeans
The bigger department stores tend to be located more between Marble Arch and Oxford Circus, while the smaller department stores or shops selling consumer electronics can be found more towards Tottenham Court Road.
From Oxford Circus to Tottenham Court Road you can find stores like Topshop, American Apparel and Next, and if you walk along the area between Oxford Circus and Bond Street, you will also find some other big-named stores like H&M, Debenhams, Gap, the House of Fraser, and Zara.
From Marble Arch to Bond Street, you’ll see a Marks & Spencer, New Look, Primark, River Island, and Selfridges. Charing Cross Road and Denmark Street to the south-east is home to many stores selling books and musical instruments, while Edgware Road (to the north-west) has more of a focus on electronics.
If you feel like doing some sightseeing during your visit to Oxford Street, Marble Arch (to the west) is a famous London landmark in its own right, and was once a place of public execution from 1388 until 1793. Hyde Park is less than a two-minute walk away from Marble Arch, and you can easily walk to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, Speakers’ Corner and the Serpentine Lido before your visit to Oxford Street as well.
But Madame Tussauds in London isn’t just a celebrity wax figure museum. The attraction also offers taxi rides through London’s historic tales (called “The Spirit of London”), a Marvel Super Heroes 4D mini-movie experience for children, and even a full bar for adults to enjoy!
If you want to park your car near Oxford Street, you can get a discount on parking costs at the Q-Park Oxford Street by pre-booking a spot online beforehand.
If you happen to be visiting during the slower months, many of the larger 4-star hotels near Marble Arch offer discounts.
When walking up and down Oxford Street, don’t forget to take a quick stroll down some of the smaller side lanes as you’re bound to come across some sort of gem or architectural delight. Joining a free tour around Oxford Street with an expert guide is also worth it.
Some stores will not allow you to enter if you’re carrying a suitcase of rucksack, so try to avoid bringing them during your visit.
Address: Oxford St, London W1B 3AG, United Kingdom.
By Tube: There are five different underground stations within walking distance to Oxford Street: Bond Street (via the Central and Jubilee lines), Oxford Circus, (via the Bakerloo, Central and Victoria lines), Piccadilly Circus (via the Bakerloo and Piccadilly lines), Tottenham Court Road (via the Central and Northern lines), or Marble Arch (via the Central line).
By Train: The nearest station to Oxford Street is Paddington, which is a 33-minute walk away.
By Bus: You can reach Oxford Street via routes 3, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 23, 25, 53, 73, 88, 94, 98, 113, 137, 139 and 159.
Visiting Oxford Street
Be aware that the area is prone to pick-pockets, so always keep an eye on your belongings, especially during the busier periods.
Don’t worry about running out of cash during your visit, as there are a ton of different ATMs and banks scattered all along Oxford Street. You can normally find them in some newsagents and corner shops (although they normally charge for transactions), but there are some near Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road and of course, directly on Oxford Street.
Please note that many shops in the area don’t have toilet facilities, but you will be able to use the toilets at major department stores like at both Marks & Spencer stores (at Marble Arch and Oxford Circus), and on the bottom floor of Topshop.
There’s also many takeaways and cafes along Oxford Street, and a pub called The Tottenham (at 6 Oxford Street); and obviously many different fast food chains like McDonalds and Burger King.
If you’re carrying a large bag with you during your visit to Selfridges, be aware that security personnel may search any of your items before entering. You can leave your shopping bags and coats at the Customer Services Lounge on 4 (which costs £3 per item, unless it’s a Selfridges shopping bag), but you will not be allowed to leave any suitcases, backpacks and holdalls.
Hotels in Oxford Street
Hotels around Oxford Street tend to be quite expensive (as are many of the hotels located in London’s West End), so if you’re on a budget, you may want to choose something further out of the city center, and take public transportation to get to and from Oxford Street.
However, if you’re looking for accommodation in London’s West End so you’re within walking distance to Oxford Street as well as the many theatres, attractions and landmarks in the area, the majority of the hotels near Oxford Street are located around Marble Arch, where you can find many four-star chains and the odd budget hotel. The more expensive hotels tend to be around Mayfair (to the south of Oxford Street) and are some of the most expensive in the city. There’s also a ton of chain boutique hotels scattered all around Oxford Street like the Hyatt Regency, the London Marriott Hotel (Park Lane) and the Sanderson.
If you’re looking to splurge during your hotel to London, the Hotel 41, The Beaumont and the Taj 51 Buckingham Gate Suites and Residences are some of the highly-rated hotels near Oxford Street, but if you want a hotel closer to all the hustle and bustle, No.5 Maddox Street, the quirky Courthouse Hotel and the Langham Hotel are much closer.
If you’re looking for something a little on the quirky side, the fashionable Langham boasts chandeliers, velvet furniture and marble bathtubs, and the oh-so-retro Chiltern Firehouse (its Nuno Mendes restaurant is frequently visited by some London celebrities as well).
You’ll be happy to know that Oxford Street tends to stay open much later than anywhere else in London. Shops along Oxford Street are generally open from:
- Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Sundays, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
However, because each shop has different opening and closing times, you may want to check their official website before you visit if you have a specific place in mind.
Selfridges is open from:
- Mondays to Saturdays, 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
If you just want to go into Selfridges and look around, be aware that you’ll only be allowed to browse between 11:30 a.m. and 12 p.m.
If you want to avoid visiting Oxford Street during the busier periods, then try to go just after the shops open at 9 a.m., and avoid visiting during lunch time (between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.) or between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Saturday tends to be the busiest day of the week, while Sunday is the quietest.
If you plan to visit Oxford Street, you might want to check out the free tours in London that run daily.