A city of "dreaming spires" that is some 65 miles northwest of the very center of London, Oxford is still responsible for educating half of the country's political, administrative, and cultural elite. Dating from the 12th century, the University of Oxford has a Who's Who list of 26 students who went on to become Prime Minister, from both the Conservative and Labour parties–David Cameron, Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher, Harold Wilson, Clement Attlee, William Gladstone, the list goes on. It goes without saying that many Oxford event venues are associated with the town's most illustrious industry.
The city has only a tiny airport, which international travellers are very unlikely to use. That said, London Heathrow (LHR), is on the Oxford side of London, only 45 miles away via the M25 and M40 motorways. London Heathrow is one of the busiest airports in the world, with almost constant service from North America.
The main meeting spot in Oxford–at least for those not sipping Pimm's or champagne on hallowed college lawns–is The King's Centre, which has 30,000 square feet of space and six meeting rooms, including the Thames Hall, which can seat 1,000 persons and the Cotswold Hall for exhibitions.
Hotel venues in Oxford include the 151-room Macdonald Randolph Hotel, which is opposite the world-famous Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology and has six function rooms, including a ballroom for 400 persons; the stylish, 95-room Malmaison Oxford, which has six meeting rooms, the largest able to host up to 100 persons; the 49-room Cotswold Lodge Hotel, which has the Norham Suite and adjoining meeting rooms for 160 persons; and the architecturally important, 42-room Old Bank Hotel on the city's main street, High Street, with three meeting rooms, including the grand Red Room. Just three miles outside of Oxford is the country manor home-style, 15th-century, 62-room Oxford Thames Four Pillars Hotel, which has beautiful gardens, 30 acres sloping down to England's most famous river, and function rooms including the Oxford Suite for 200 persons, a tent for 500, and a conference barn for 100.
Private venues in Oxford tend to be very cool. The history is palpable in such places as Balliol College, one of the University of Oxford's oldest schools, founded in 1263, and which has 11 meeting rooms and dining space for up to 200 persons. Other choices include the oldest women's college in the city, Lady Margaret Hall, founded in 1878, and which has conference space for up to 120 persons in its Talbot Hall and 136 in its lecture hall; Somerville College, the first denominational college in the city, the one that educated Margaret Thatcher, and which has conference space for 60 persons and dining space for 192; and world-famous Trinity College, founded in 1535, which has four meeting rooms and dining in the 17th-century Dining Hall for 150 persons, and where the list of notable former diners is long and impressive. A non-college venue is the King's Arms public house, which has been a pub since 1607 and has private meeting and dining space for 30 persons.
Excellent Oxford eateries for groups include Cherwell Boathouse Restaurant, which has 80 punts to take out on the River Cherwell, a tributary of the Thames, has the ability to seat groups of up to 75 in the main dining room, and also has a marquee for the warmer months for up to 125; The Folly, which is on the River Thames beside Christ Church Meadow and has private dining space for 75 persons, reception space for 100, and two private boat launches for 12 and 50 persons, respectively; The Living Room, which is part of the Oxford Castle complex, which still contains sections of a partly ruined medieval castle and has a main dining room that can be secured for 180 guests, a study for 86, and a terrace for dinners of up to 20 persons and receptions for 100; and for a really ancient time, The Bear Inn, which dates to 1242, is the oldest pub in Oxford, is in the city center, and has wall displays of hundreds of school ties and function space for up to 28 diners and 60 attending receptions. Lastly, five miles southwest of Oxford in the village of Cumnor is gastro pub The Bear & Ragged Staff, which opened the last five of nine guest rooms in 2012 and has private function space for up to 80 persons.