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Established in 1770, the Covered Market in Oxford is a hidden gem and a must-visit when in Oxford. Nestled among new buildings and accessible only via small alley ways and back streets, you will have to look hard to find it. One of the oldest market in the country, the Oxford Covered Market has been in continual use for almost 250 years.
The main entrance on Market Street is now used for loading and unloading. There are four small alleys that lead to the Market on the High Street. They are show below, click on the images below for a closer look.
These four entrances are marked on the map below, see dotted green lines from High Street leading to the Covered Market. The dotted lines are easily lost as you zoom in or out of the location on Google Map so we have taken a screenshot here. You can find a live map in the location section below.
The Covered Market, Oxford
The covered market first opened as a market for meat, fish, vegetable and herbs on the 1st of November 1774. The original idea was to free up the busy Fish Street, now known as St Aldate’s and Buthers Row, now known as Queen Street. Those days, the market stalls were in the open on those streets. Moving them into the market meant they are covered and indoors. You can still find some stalls selling items sold in the old times but many stalls are now much more diverse and include cafes, small restaurants, fashions, antiques, hardware, flowers, jewellery, hair stylist, barbers, crafts and general goods.
John Gwynn, the architect of Magdalen Bridge designed the original covered market. It housed an open area for fisherman, gardeners and other goods to the north. There are two covered areas with rows of timber-framed shops with one housing some 40 buther’s stalls. While the roof frames were made of wood, these two sections had stone foundations, stone colonnades and Stonesfield slate roofs.
This was later enlarged and rebuilt several times by local architects, carpenters and foundries during the 19th century. It wasn’t until the 1900 that market occupies the full footprint that it sits on today. The completed covered markets four avenues and the entire complex is roofed over. You can still see self-contained stalls with its original iron roof supports. These were cast by Newer Foundry in London in 1839 and can be found in the north-west of the market. Also look for 1830s market fronts, complete with moulded cornice and pilasters in the southwest of the central square.
Cafes and Food Stalls
Cafes and food stalls in the market have certainly kept up with modern times. Many stalls now cater to a wide range of tastes from modern fusion cuisine to delis to South American coffee roasts. Below is a sample of the popular cafes and food stalls for good value eats while in the covered market.
Donburi Inn offers freshly prepared Japanese and Chinese rice and noodle dishes.
Sofi de France Cafe offers breakfast, baked potatoes, panini and grilled ciabatta, baguette, salad, pastries.
Taylors is a deli offering gourmet sandwiches.
Columbia Coffee Roasters is a cafe offering handcrafted artisan coffees, cakes, bagels and pastries. They use 100% arabica beans from Colombia, roasted in house.
Address: Market St, Oxford OX1 3DZ
Normal opening hours to the public are from 8 am to 5.30 pm Monday to Saturday and 10 am to 4 pm on Sundays.
Stalls opening times may vary.