Sample the award-winning local ales in historic settings on a relaxing evening, or go to town with some exotic cocktails as you dance the night away. There’s a fantastic array of pubs – the traditional lifeblood of any British town or village – plus an eclectic mix of bars, that often feature live music and events.

Traditional Pubs

For centuries, the British ‘pub’ (short for public house) was the focal point of a particular community; a place where people can come together in a relaxed and shared environment to sup warm ale or scrumpy cider. Writing in the 17th-century, the famous diarist Samuel Pepys – relative of St. Mary’s Church Banbury architect Samuel Pepys Cockerell – described pubs as “the heart of England”, with America’s Founding Father Benjamin Franklin – who’s family came from Banburyshire – observing that “In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is Freedom, in water there is bacteria”. This was true back in the days before modern sanitary and hygiene standards, when beer was often consumed as readily as water due to the alcohol destroying any harmful bacteria.

These days many traditional pubs are going through a transitional period from dark, smoke-filled and ramshackle places to a more welcoming and inclusive place, where friends and families can get together over a tasty meal prepared by a qualified chef.

In the spring and summer, beer gardens are a great place to spend a while; be it in a town centre patio oasis away from the hustle and bustle, or on a beautiful riverside lawn out in the countryside. As all public spaces are smoke-free, so if you do smoke you’ll often find somewhere set aside for this.

Drinks usually on offer are non-alcoholic fruit juices, sparkling and still soft drinks, tea and fresh coffee, lager, craft ales, cider, spirits and wines. Traditional pub snacks are crisps, peanuts and the British delicacy pork scratchings (crispy pig skin anyone?), yet there is often a lunchtime or all-day food menu if you need something more substantial.

Bars

The lines between a pub, a bar and a nightclub are more blurred than ever, with some establishments offering a comfy place to unwind in the afternoon, but with live music or DJs in the evening and into the night. A bar will often have background music, TV screens, pool tables, a dance floor and possibly a selection of light meals.

Live broadcasts of sporting events, especially football, can be found across the area, with live matches being shown by either Sky Sports or BT Sport. For Premier League matches these will usually be on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and/or Monday evenings.

Many bars will have a good selection of cocktails and spirits to choose from, in addition to lagers, craft beers, ciders and wines.

You can find a good choice of bars in Banbury and Bicester town centres.

Helpful Information

  • Under 18s are not allowed to be served alcohol by law, but if you’re 16 or 17, you can drink (but not buy) beer, wine or cider with a meal, if accompanied by an adult and it is ordered by an adult.
  • Not all pubs and bars are child friendly so do check first if you have concerns.
  • Closing times vary depending on the pubs’ license so check before you arrive, or with the bar staff if necessary.
  • Some premises allow for dogs and some don’t, so again check before arriving.
  • Don’t drink and drive!