Oxford is renowned for its stunning and prestigious 12th century University of Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world, but Oxford is so much more than a university town. It’s the buildings, which showcase examples of every English architectural period since the late Saxon period; the historic cobbled streets and the famous people who have walked the same streets, halls and stairways as you have, which turn Oxford into such a popular international destination.
It’s location is simply beautiful, there is so much to do and see no matter how many times you visit. The city’s rich history and breathtaking architecture continue to be a source of constant inspiration. This shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are over 500 Oxford-based novels while it’s first mentioned in fiction dates back as early as 1400 when Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales referred to it.
The 38 colleges which the University of Oxford consists of, and the city that surrounding it, is filled with structures dreamt up by some of the foremost names in the history of British architecture. Another aspect which makes the city so alluring is the rich history, splendid collections of well known art and specimens from all around the world. The golden-stone buildings, rivers and ancient meadows will make you want to return here again.
Oxford contains examples of every major architectural style in England since the Saxons arrived in AD 900 to the present day.
As you walked through Oxford, don’t only look for the well known sites or the main roads listed in the travel guides but try to explore smaller alleyways and hidden cobbled streets waiting for you around every corner of the city. Walking through the layers of history will allow you unearth hidden gems.
Immerse yourself into 600 years of architectural history by talking a walk from Oxford’s High Street, down Queen’s Lane, through New College Lane, arriving under the Edwardian Bridge of Sighs, where in front of you will find the neoclassical building, the Sheldonian Theatre. This short yet picturesque walk will expose you to a variety of different styles dominating the city: you will walk pass neoclassical, medieval, Edwardian architecture.
If you’re seeking respite from the hustle and bustle of the city The University Church of St Mary the Virgin located in the middle of the main shopping street, The University of Oxford Botanic Garden or The Oxford University Parks, are your destinations. During a cloudy day delve into a unique voyage of discovery for dinosaurs or mythical creatures at The Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Pitt Rivers or The Ashmolean Museum.
Oscar Wilde once described Oxford as the most beautiful thing in England: “Oxford still remains the most beautiful thing in England, and nowhere else are life and art so exquisitely blended, so perfectly made one”.
On a sunny day why not explore Oxford by boat? There’s nothing nicer than being on the river and gliding past the Oxford Botanic Garden while getting to know better nature in the heart of the city. Punting is an Oxford tradition which dates back to 1880, done on the River Cherwell, which flows through Oxford’s fields and woods before it joins the Thames just south-east of Christ Church Meadow. Another picturesque area for punting is on the Isis alongside Port Meadow to the west of the town; this stretch of river has attractive scenery and is well supplied with pubs such as The Trout Inn and Wolvercote (where some of the Inspector Morse dramas were filmed).
The main punting docks are opened from March till October and are located on Magdalen Bridge Boathouse and Cherwell Boathouse. You can hire a punt for £14-£18/hour on weekdays and £16-£20/hour on weekends.
Another simple way to explore Oxford is on the top of one of the tourist buses which can take you through all the main attractions and fill you with some interesting facts about the buildings and sights you pass. If you get peckish make sure to take a trip to Oxford’s Covered Market, full of shops and cafes. This historic market which opened in 1774, has become home to traders and it’s full of unique and vibrant shops and stalls.
Want to see more? Visit the full gallery and get to know Oxford better.
It might be a surprise but Oxford is quite a small city, so make sure to book accommodation in advance.
Depending of the time of the year the weather in Oxford is extremely varied, from sunny and hot days to fog and rain. Before your arrival check the weather forecast and pack appropriately.
Check online for festivals, art and music events or carnivals taking place during your visit; these are often an extremely great way of getting to know the city better.
Avoid driving in Oxford. If you have to drive it’s better to leave your car at a “park and ride” on the outskirts of the city, and take the shuttle bus from there.