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Oxford's No Frills Shopping Centre
Westgate Shopping Centre (Oxford)
Member Name: Vixstar
Westgate Shopping Centre (Oxford)
Advantages: Range of High Street shops that aren't anywhere else in Oxford city centre;
Disadvantages: Toilets; Only one cafe
I go to Oxford on shopping or sightseeing expeditions quite regularly as it isn't too far from me and it's always nicer shopping in a nice environment. Last week I decided to stop in Oxford on my way home as I wanted to visit a couple of the shops in the Westgate Shopping Centre (and it beat sitting in the Friday afternoon traffic on the A34). I never drive into Oxford as parking in the city is awkward and expensive, I much prefer to stop at one of the Park and Ride car parks and get the bus in (parking is free and a return on the bus costs £2.20 or £4 for two people, there is probably a discount for children but I don't have any so I don't know about that). This week I parked in the Redbridge P&R, the bus drops you off near the Oxford Castle and from there the Westgate Centre is about a 200m walk back towards the town centre. It is located on Queen Street on the west side of the city.
Unfortunately the Westgate Centre is not one of Oxford's beautiful buildings, it is a 60s/70s concrete monstrosity but as it is just opposite the uglier Central Library it doesn't stand out too much. The shopping centre has a multi storey car park attached to it but I have never used this so can't comment.
The shopping centre is described as "Oxford's Premier Shopping Centre" on www.oxfordcity.co.uk but I'm not sure what it has done to deserve that accolade, and not sure that it means all that much either when there is on one other conventional shopping centre in Oxford city centre. I'm not saying that the Westgate Centre is not worth a visit because it is. It has many high street favourites both inside the centre and around the outside (the outside shops cannot be accessed from within the centre) such as Primark, Whittards, Claires, Oasis, New Look, Sports Direct, Game and Thorntons. All good shops but nothing that could be considered in the premier league except perhaps the Sony Store and the Moben show room. None of the shops are particularly spacious or grand either, just exactly what you'd find on many other high streets in the UK. There is a Sainsburys towards the back of the centre which is bigger than the Sainsburys Local on St Giles. The Shoppping Centre itself isn't much to write home about either and there isn't much that would enduce you to spend time in there except the shops. The only place where you can sit and have a break from the scrum in Primark is in the Thornton's cafe or one one of the benches dotted throughout the centre whilst enjoying your purchase from Sainsbury's or Millies. And I really wouldn't recommend the nearby toilet facilities which are under the shopping centre and can be found by smell alone. Having said that the centre is clean, well lit and warm which will ensure that you can happily spend time in there browsing the shops. The shopping centre is single level, although Primark and Sports Direct have an upper floor, and it is fully accessible to wheelchair users - the car park even provides a shopmobility service. There are also sometimes little independent stalls in the space between the shops - this week there was an eyebrow threading salon and a pick and mix sweet seller.
Basically the Westgate Centre is a fairly average shopping centre with a selection of popular shops within and without it but without any additional bells and whistles that you would find in a more modern shopping mall (such as a food court). It definitely couldn't be considered one of Oxford's must see tourist attractions.
The Centre is open 7 days a week, with traditional opening times although Sainsburys does stay open a little later so you can nip in after your shopping expedition to stock up on essentials.
Summary: It's a centre full of shops.