We all know this is why you’re really coming to university… don’t lie.
The stereotype: that Oxford is full of boring squares who think that a trip to a library that isn’t your college one is exciting. Well, dear Fresher, you are wrong. VERSA has complied the authoritative guide to clubbing in the city of dreaming spires.
Nights: The standard for Thursday night.
Features: A lot of posh people/twats in black tie.
Prices: Extortionate. Pre-drink heavily and if you can, piggyback off free booze from hacks you barely know in the VIP area.
Vibes: Knowingly cheesy. It is acceptable to go here in your black tie after a fancy dinner or society event.
Verdict: Because of its large and comfortable smoking area, Bridge is basically a networking occasion with a club attached (now with a hot dog stand to take things up a notch. Classy.) If you’re there with your friends, it’s guaranteed fun because it’s the same every week. Just don’t go too often, because you soon realise that it really is the same every week – the playlists, the people, the dance moves, the place on the sofas where you drop your jacket, the path from Bridge to Anuba and back again… Two weeks in three is a good frequency to keep things fresh.
No-one ever plans to go to PT (as the syllable-conscious cognoscenti call it), but everyone ends up there on a whim.
Nights: Any day of the week, really.
Features: PT is more a bar than a club. Extensive range of ‘college themed shots’.
Prices: Cheap, we think. We don’t really remember after the first 5 shots.
Vibes: Lack thereof. Drink there, dancing is best done elsewhere.
Verdict: Wanna get battered without the effort of dancing? You’re home. The eternal last resort. “May as well go to PT” is the answer to any suggestion that’s either too much of a trek or too expensive.
Nights: Tuesdays with the occasional ‘Rumble Again’ on a Thursday. (Unless of course you fancy the townie nights in which case Fridays and Saturdays are the ones for you.)
Prices: Cheap, maybe not Wahoo cheap, but Lola’s tends to end up a reasonable night out – especially if you make the most of their Jägerbomb and shot deals (as I usually do, hence my fuzzy recollection of exactly how much their drinks cost).
Features: This is full on tiki with bartenders in Hawaiian shirts and big cocktails in totem pole cups. (VERSA is sure there’s something problematic in all of this…) The smoking area is literally the bus stop outside Jimbob’s sandwich shop, so maybe not the best spot for anyone who likes to spend their night in the smoking area. Tiny toilets, big queue. One small bar, big queue. Tiny dance floor, big mass of sweaty bodies squished up against you (but still not as bad as Cellar).
Vibes: Surprisingly the whole tiki thing gets lost in a drunken tequila haze (for me at least), so Lola’s is just your average, fairly cheesy Oxford night out. They tend to have a fairly solid DJ, so you can expect to be merrily bopping away on the (tiny) dance floor. Recently there’s been a massive Lola’s hype so you now have to queue to get in and everything, as opposed to the good old days when you could be one of 20 people in there. This is the Tuesday night for those not edgy enough to want to sweat like a pig in Cellar.
Verdict: It might be slightly tragic, underground, and overzealous in its tiki theme, but I fucking love Lola’s. It’s fun, great for unexpected nights out and doesn’t take itself too seriously. I just wish they’d bring back Thursday night Lola’s because it was a great alternative to feeling like herded cattle in Bridge.
Features: Just the one floor, and it’s mostly sofas. Good for falling asleep on, I guess? The smoking area is a fenced-off bit of pavement
Prices: Every Thursday they advertise cheap Jägerbombs (£2) before 10:00. It doesn’t take much experience to learn that this early evening time is much better spent getting hammered over a game of Ring of Fire than in this club.
Vibes: What vibes?
Verdict: Going once in Freshers’ Week and then never again is a good shout.
Oxford’s LGBTQ+ club with super-cheap Friday nights.
Features: A huge pole on the dance floor, a quality smoking area and shots brought around on trays. Shuts 2 hours later than everywhere else.
Prices: On Fridays, ridiculously cheap with 7 drinks priced at £1.50, or £1 Jägerbombs from the topless man with a tray. Other nights average but seem eye-wateringly expensive by comparison.
Vibes: Unashamedly camp. Lots of cheese, pop and strange remixes of Defying Gravity.
Verdict: Great alternative to Wahoo. Or go the whole hog and do WahPlush. Cheap drinks and good fun.
Nights: Depends what’s on. A popular haven for magazine club nights.
Features: The name “Cellar” gives the game away a bit. It’s just a cellar, with the low ceilings and cramped spaces that the word implies. The smoking area is equally simple – it’s just a bit of Cornmarket Street.
Prices: Expensive. VERSA tip: thirsty? Go buy drinks next door in Purple Turtle (usually free entry/always free for Union members) and return to Cellar when done, will save you a small fortune.
Vibes: Very vibesy. The only place in Oxford that’ll play G-Funk, P-Funk and PC Music. How much you enjoy that depends on your tolerance for heat and need for personal space. When full of bodies, the walls become wet with condensation and the collection of wavey shirts and Palace Ts drip with sweat.
Verdict: For the kids who are 2 kool 5 skool. You’ll probably go here if you have any kind of level of edginess/are a thesp/do an Arts subject.
(It’s had “Lava Ignite” above the door since 2007, but we all know it’s really called Park End. Will be ‘Atik’ by Michaelmas. Edgy.)
Features: It’s a maze. Losing your friends in here is like wandering into Narnia solo, you’re pretty much gone for good. Oh and the cheese floor, playing a heady mix of Busted, power ballads and the Macarana, with the special treat of the Pokémon song at midnight.
Prices: Unnecessarily expensive for some things, strangely cheap for others (read: VKs)
Vibes: It doesn’t really have vibes, unless drunk and sweaty counts…
Verdict: It’s not known as Shark End for nothing. Sweaty, sticky and full of sportspeople, if you know it’s shit, it’s fun. VERSA Tip: keep one a friend on a lead at all times, this will save you getting lost and you can pull one another away from the eponymous sharks if necessary.
The one that no one ever goes to but everyone has heard of (college dependent.)
Nights: Sunday night is free entry, otherwise don’t bother.
Features: Can boast that it is hotter, stickier and smaller than Cellar. The only ‘dance floor’ (read: multi coloured lighted tiles at the back) is about the size of your average college bedroom. Apparently it has a VIP area. Seemingly unknown to most students (which is good if you want to try out some new moves without the whole of Oxford seeing you.)
Prices: Unknown, but you probably wouldn’t buy alcohol here anyway. Or anything.
Vibes: Good if you like being perved on by random older men in suits whilst be surrounded by what looks like a ten year old’s birthday party, complete with cartoon characters on the toilet tiles. Anime theme is slightly disturbing.
Verdict: Sort of like the Room of Requirement in that it gets the job done. Cheesy anime hell. Only redeeming feature is that entry is free on a Sunday. Must be done only in the direst of circumstances.
There are some people who swear by Wahoo…
Features: Two floors – one downstairs, which is broken up into multiple platforms and the least important-looking VIP area ever seen, and a large floor upstairs which is perfect for losing your mind to the tunes and losing your shorter friends in the mass of heads.
Prices: Decent, average, etc. etc.
Vibes: Pretty standard mainstream club, nothing edgy, not too awful.
Verdict: Typical club, good fun with friends, though expect a large queue. Good after a boozy Friday formal.
Yes, the one above Paperchase, you Philistine.
Nights: Friday/Saturday. Also daytime, if you want a burger.
Features: An actual restaurant (fuck off ‘Wahoo Bar and Grill’) that’s inexplicably popular with postgrads.
Prices: Free entry, but you’ll make up for it with the first round. Pre-drink heavily, or try to pull a post-doc with a decent fellowship (VERSA Tip: choose your priorities – scientists have worse chat but more money).
Vibes: Lots of people enthusiastically dancing to average music in a sweaty corridor. So Bridge, essentially.
Verdict: If we admit it’s great young people will come and ruin it. Try again in four years, silly undergrads.
Finally, we ask readers to observe a moment’s silence for the passing of Camera
It was busy three nights a year after rowing regattas, but that’s it. One VERSA writer went there with 7 friends last Hilary and doubled the number of people in there. Oh dear.
Camera was fucking expensive, with three vodka Red Bulls setting you back north of £12. It was also only ever busy when the rowers turned up, which is not a good selling point. Oh Camera, you tried to be Oxford’s classy club, you didn’t realise all we want is cheap booze and shit music; if we wanted class, we’d go to a cocktail bar.