Keep off the Grass: Clubbing in Oxford

Oxford's independent fresher's guide takes you round the city's best clubs

Clubbing is seen by many as an integral part of student life, and this is no exception in Oxford, as we love to club as much as anyone else! There is a wide variety of clubs situated in different areas of the city, with different vibes, sizes and musical genres; regardless of what you might have heard of Oxford’s nightlife, they all have the potential to be the location of a great night out with your friends. Each place appeals to different people, so if clubbing is your thing, do try and experience as many of the clubs as possible to get the real experience of Oxford’s clubbing scene.

Lola Lo’s

Lola’s night is Tuesday. This Hawaiian-themed club appeals to people by having a different themed night each week, and serving extremely cheap drinks. Beyond that, the Hawaiian décor doesn’t really add to the experience and the club has a lot of inconveniently-located steps which you can easily trip down if you’re not paying careful attention. Lola’s is well worth checking out if the theme of the night is something that you’d be up for, but otherwise don’t expect too much from the crowded dance floor and gloomy lighting. It seems that many keen first years visit in freshers week, and are hesitant to return once they’ve seen what else is on offer.

Park End

It may be called “Atik” on the outside, but Oxford’s biggest club will always be known as “Park End”, after the street it is on. Located near the station along with the other major Oxford clubs, Bridge and Wahoo, Park End is the one which caters to as many tastes as possible. Downstairs is the Cheese Room, and upstairs, there are two rooms; a large main room playing electronic music and a smaller, underrated, RnB room playing predominantly hip-hop and urban tunes. With a further VIP area and a small bar and lounge, most people find somewhere in Park End which they can enjoy.

The club’s main night is Wednesday. It is the first big clubbing night of the week and also Oxford’s sports night so expect to see the university sports teams, especially the blues, turn up together, often dressed in their blazers unaware of how ridiculous they look to everyone else. As with most of the clubs in Oxford, the drinks are cheap and most people there end up with a couple of VKs in each hand as they enjoy Oxford’s least-grotty club. Avoid if you hate being crushed by people as, especially on the Cheese Floor – it can get very packed very quickly. Although much the same can be said about any of Oxford’s clubs.

Bridge

Thursday night’s main event is Bridge, a club which polarizes opinion: for some people it’s an
institution which they seldom ever miss out on, while others refuse to set foot in the place after they’ve been just the once. It consists of two main floors: the downstairs floor features amusingly bad music transitions and a regular crush of people as groups try to get from one end of the floor to the other; while the main dancefloor upstairs feature loads of flashing lights, electronic music and a struggle to find your friends.

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Bridge is different to Oxford clubs in that it has clear strengths and weaknesses. For instance, the cheese floor is more of a wide corridor than a floor; the toilets can make you feel sick at even the thought of them; and the music often has no coherent genre or style as they sometimes attempt to accommodate everyone’s different tastes. On the other hand, their guest DJs can be fantastic, and there is plenty of room outside to enjoy a hot dog, introduce yourself to people who catch your eye or just chat with your friends whilst taking some time out from the busyness of a club.

Wahoo

Friday night is Wahoo night in Oxford, the most popular night of the week in some colleges but one that doesn’t even get considered as a real night in others. Wahoo is a club next door to Bridge, both just out of town over towards the station, and in the daytime and on other nights often masquerades as a sports bar or an American grill. But on Friday nights the two floors are open for clubbing, with both floors playing remixed chart music. Downstairs is slightly larger, with a bar and, bizarrely, a small platform for people to go up if they prefer dancing once they’ve gone up a few steps. Wahoo’s upstairs room has no real distinguishing features except for a bar, a rather low ceiling and a few flashing lights and artificial smoke. As a club, Wahoo neither stands out nor disappoints but has the potential to serve up a great time if you have a good group of your friends going out with you. Unfortunately, 2016’s fresher cohort only have until the end of Michaelmas to enjoy Wahoo – make the most of it!

Plush

The Plush Lounge, located beyond Bridge and Wahoo near the train station, is Oxford’s biggest dedicated LGBT+ club and hosts LGBT+ nights every Saturday and Tuesday that are among the most popular nights in Oxford for all students. Plush has the reputation of being one of the best clubs in Oxford, and given that it’s got a podium and a pole, plays non-stop “camp club classics” and has some of the cheapest drinks in Oxford, are you surprised?

Emporium

Emporium is Saturday night’s club, located down St Ebbe’s Street just to the south of the town centre, right across the road from Pembroke.The host of the official afterparty for all of the Oxford events that take place on a Saturday throughout a year (normally Varsity or rowing-related), on those nights the club gets packed and can be host to a great night! However, on a normal Saturday night, Emporium often can be a little empty as most students prefer to go clubbing throughout the week and, by Saturday, have exhausted their clubbing stamina. Despite that, with a couple of floors and a unique circular layout, Emporium can still be a great place to take some friends from home who’ve come to visit for the weekend and want to sample something of Oxford’s nightlife!

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Cellar

The clue is in the name: this independent venue is little more than an underground room, fitted with the bare minimum to make it a club, a bar and a small dance floor. Cellar has no specific night each week, but hosts different special events throughout the year: rarely does a week go past without an event at Cellar. Each event has a different style and approach to it, but Cellar has built up a reputation as being a place for the many fans of Garage and UK Grime. Cellar itself, despite being the sweatiest and most cramped place in Oxford, as well as discriminating against anyone over 6’ 4” due to the height of the ceiling, is one of Oxford’s most popular clubbing spots and is the source of many a great night! It’s located just off Cornmarket, Oxford’s busiest shopping street, and so if you’re out and about Oxford’s city centre at 1am, chances are you’ll see the people spilling out of Cellar out onto Cornmarket.

Other venues

Down Cowley Road is the O2 Academy, a dedicated music venue for concerts and gigs by recognised artists; chances are that during your time at Oxford there’ll be concerts there which you’ll want to check out and enjoy! Just down the road from the O2 Academy is the Bullingdon, a club which hosts different events throughout the term and is especially popular among students who live outside their college. Purple Turtle is a dingy underground club next to Cellar that is owned by the Oxford Union; its only main draw is the fact that it has a different shot for each Oxford college. JT’s Cocktail Bar, formally known as Rappongi’s, is a small underground room that is popular due to just how ridiculous it actually is to go there; Thirst is a small bar with a dance floor right opposite Park End, where people go if they get turned away from Park End; Babylove is an LGBT+ club that changed location a year ago and has not been anywhere near as popular since. Maxwells’ is an American diner that becomes a club at night and is popular among postgrad students.