Ah, the Oxford clubbing scene. A veritable assortment of packed floors, questionable music transitions, and suspiciously cheap drinks. Despite what you may have heard about clubbing here, there really is something for everyone. Trial and error, as with so many things, is probably your best bet. So, with Freshers’ Week looming, allow me to run you through the selection on offer.
Officially called Atik, everyone refers to Oxford’s biggest club as Park End (after its street). Located near the station along with several other clubs, Park End attempts to be the all-you-can-eat buffet of the clubbing world. The upper floor is split into a main room – featuring what might at a stretch be classed as electronic music – and a smaller room which showcases more urban and hip-hop numbers. Then there’s the bar, with a seating area resembling an airport lounge. Meanwhile, downstairs proceedings are dominated by the (in)famous Cheese Room.
Park End’s main night is Wednesday. As this is the first major clubbing night of the Oxford week for many, the club tends to fill up ludicrously quickly (yes, your pres might have to finish at 9:30). The results speak for themselves, with the Pokemon theme tune often having involvement. The downsides of Park End manifest themselves in its relatively grotty outdoors area, and its inherent ability to be packed. However, the same can be said for many an Oxford club.
This space is multifunctional: you can catch-up with friends, introduce yourself to someone who’s caught your eye, or – most importantly – engage in an extensive bout of networking.
Another stalwart of Oxford’s nightlife, this club is as illustrious as it is divisive. For some colleges, ‘Bridge Thursdays’ is an immovable fixture in the week’s passing, whilst other colleges barely set foot in it after Freshers’. Once again, it consists of two floors. The upper floor restricts itself to stereotypical flashing lights, electronic music, and a much-adored pole, for those wishing to explore a new career after a particularly soul-crushing tute. You are almost guaranteed to lose your friends in this room.
Meanwhile, the lower floor alternates haphazardly between chart music and slices of thick, creamy cheese. The dance room itself is more of a glorified corridor than a club, as people attempt to battle their way through the gyrating crush of people in a futile attempt to reach the bar. Bridge’s main saving grace happens to be the cavernous outdoor area. This space is multifunctional: you can catch-up with friends, introduce yourself to someone who’s caught your eye, or – most importantly – engage in an extensive bout of networking. This area links the club to Anuba, another bar area that is defined by a surprisingly enticing rock-and-reggae soundtrack. Anuba is also a great place to stock up on drinks, before the main event of Bridge.
This central club’s unique circular layout can be blessing or a curse, depending on how many people decide to show up. Its regular night, ‘Bubblegum’ on Fridays, is a prime example of this. Emporium also holds the status of the host of official after-parties for most Oxford events that take place on Saturdays (usually Varsity/sport-related), and can deliver a great — if rower-heavy — night. Emporium is also home to Disco Stu’s, a popular but occasional Wednesday night devoted to all things sequined and 70s.
Most of what you need to know about this club is contained in its forthright name. It is an underground cavern, filled with the absolute bare minimum to qualify as a club – cloakroom, bar, dancefloor. Underground in all senses of the word, Cellar has a significant following amongst fans of grime, garage, and techno. Unlike most other Oxford clubs, Cellar is an independent venue which has no specific night but instead hosts varied events throughout the week, often run by students themselves. The recent announcement of its threatened closure could be a huge blow to Oxford nightlife, although nothing has been decided for sure just yet.
Located near the train station like Bridge and Park End, the Plush Lounge is Oxford’s biggest LGBTQ+ club, hosting dedicated nights every Tuesday and Saturday evening. Equipped with cheap drinks, camp club classics, podium, and pole, Plush has developed a deserved reputation amongst the wider Oxford community as one of the best clubs the city has to offer.
The Purple Turtle (known as PT) is another underground cellar, this time operated by the Oxford Union. Its selling points come in the form of a unique shot for every Oxford college, and free entry for Union members. However, the lack of anything resembling a ventilation system means that the club often feels like the product of a marriage between an edgy disco and a sauna.
Venture down the Cowley Road and you’ll come across the O2 Academy, a proper music venue, mostly reserved for live acts and recognised artists. Close by is the Bullingdon Club (not to be confused with the infamous drinking society), which plays host to everything from reggae nights to heavyweight house DJs. The ‘Bully’ is especially popular with people living out of college/in the Cowley area.
Moving further off the beaten track of Oxford nightlife, JT’s Cocktail Bar can be bizarrely full on Thursday evenings, acting as a pres bar before Bridge, but empty for the rest of the week. Meanwhile, Fever (formerly Lola-Lo’s) is the newest addition to the Oxford scene, notable largely for its light-up dancefloor and diamante-studded walls. Enjoy.