When you’ve got a child, shopping for leisure takes on a whole new meaning. i.e. it doesn’t really happen unless you have the time while the child is in school. I was invited to visit the newly opened Westgate Oxford shopping centre and was finally able to get there when N was out on a shoot day with his dad. Bliss, a day to shop with vouchers, and enjoy a relaxing time to myself.
I lived in Oxford for over 3 years so know the city really well, and was interested to see how the new shopping centre would compare to the old one. It’s been a long time coming and it was good to see how it compares with the other shopping areas in Oxford. I decided against driving in and parking at the centre, and did the park and ride like normal. There’s also bike parking spaces for those who cycle into the city (not so good for a big shopping trip though).
What I liked about the new Westgate is how light and open it felt. While it’s undercover, it’s still open to the elements, so doesn’t get stuffy and there’s plenty of routes outside. The shopping and restaurants are on 3 levels, with a roof terrace to enable you to see some of the views over the city. It was drizzly on the day I visited, so the terrace was empty, but in better weather it would be lovely to have a meal up there and enjoy the views. The restaurant choices aren’t your usual chains either, there’s more world food and more upmarket dining for something a bit different to other restaurants in the city. Certainly good for a special night out.
For other entertainment there’s the 5 screen Curzon cinema and a fun (in the dark) indoor golf course which looked pretty cool. And of course more eateries in the social open plan area, which is all about eating together, eating social and based on street food style. There’s burritos from Benito’s Hat where I ate, to burgers, from indian to thai.
Of course the main thing is the shops. The Westgate has a real mix of shops, from higher end shops like Hugo Boss and Gant, to Joules, Sea Salt and White Stuff, to Primark and of course the big draw John Lewis. With everything inbetween, covering cosmetics, bookshops, accessories, stationery and more. There’s something for everyone. It’s nice to see shops like Oliver Bonas, Smashbox, Smiggle, Superdry and Mint Velvet – where there aren’t any the same in nearby towns. Shops like John Lewis and Primark aren’t as big as stores elsewhere (John Lewis Milton Keynes is huge in comparison – the Oxford store had very little in the way of boyswear, and my town’s out of town Primark certainly beat this shopping centre version), but provide a lot more choice for those shopping in the city.
If you get tired there are plenty of seating areas to relax and watch the world go by. Or treat yourself to some of the informal takeaway food stalls scattered through the north or south arcades. I was certainly lusting over some of the patisserie treats I spotted!
I’d been sent a Westgate card to use on my visit. These are like payment cards rather than giftcards. The card can be used in most stores – those that don’t participate are on the Westgate website. I had a problem in Smiggle – the lady on the Westgate information hub was very helpful in trying to solve the problem and reassured me that Smiggle were involved in the scheme, and that it was a linking issue with the card not having added them to the system, however, they’re now on the website as not taking part. So if you have a card to use make sure you check before piling your basket high. It’s a great idea for a gift for a shopaholic.
I was really impressed with the Westgate. It’s a light airy place to shop, with plenty of choice for shopping and leisure. I can see myself visiting for a girly day out with friends rather than dragging N along with a final walk through the older shopping area on the way back to the bus stop.
Have you been to the new Westgate Centre? What do you think of it?
Disclosure: I was give a Westgate card for the purpose of a review. All words and opinions are my own.
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