City of gleaming spires, Oxford is home to one Britain’s most important universities.
Where to go:
One of the oldest libraries in Europe, The Bodleian is second in size only to London’s British Library. Even if can’t get inside Radcliffe Camera reading room, as it’s just for students, it’s well worth a look from outside. Many of the colleges however, allow visitors in at certain times. Balliol, University and Merton Colleges all claim to be the ‘oldest’, founded in the 13th century. Exeter College‘s Victorian neo-gothic chapel is modelled on the Sainte Chapelle in Paris and houses ‘The Adoration of the Magi’, the famous pre-Raphaelite tapestry by William Morris. Don’t miss Hertford Bridge (Bridge of Sighs), the cute little pedestrian bridge for the students of Hertford College.
Of Oxford’s museums, the most famous is the Ashmolean and the oldest in Britain (1683). It has fine displays of Egyptian, Near Eastern, Greek and Roman, Western and Eastern art. The Museum of the History of Science in the Old Ashmolean building displays early scientific instruments and Oxford University Museum of Natural History has three hundred years of scientific collections. For art fans Modern Art Oxford has art and photography exhibitions, while Christ Church Picture Gallery holds a renowned collection of Old Master paintings and drawings.
Some of the best views of Oxford can be seen from the Church of St Mary- the Virgin’s tower dates back to 1280. The Vaults and Garden coffee shop specialises in organic food and fair trade tea and coffee.
Things to do:
Throughout term-time, you can watch amateur drama productions at the Burton Taylor, Old Fire Station and New Theatres as well as the Oxford Playhouse. For classical music, go to the Sheldonian Theatre for professional and amateur concerts.
Mostly lectures are only accessible to members of the university, but look out for public talks and lectures that occur throughout the year. Experience life as an Oxford student and get a feel of college life by enrolling on a course offered by the Oxford Royale Academy.
Two hour long walking tours are an excellent way of visiting some of the more famous colleges, or take a ghost tours around the city. Punting is a favourite pastime: do-it-yourself or hire someone to do the hard work for you.
Oxford’s finest restaurants, jewellers , fashion outlets, antique dealers and Oxford University shop are all on the High Street. Little Trendy Street or Little Clarendon Street is the bohemian area for shopping, and for interesting shopping, go to the Covered Market in the High Street where you’ll find shops selling chocolate, cakes, meat, hats, flowers and glassware. Souvenir shops in the city centre sell Oxford University T-shirts, sweaters and all sorts of paraphernalia, though University of Oxford Shop is the official place to go.
Oxford has many bookshops selling antiquarian, specialist and new books. Blackwell’s Books is almost a tourist attraction in its own right, with what’s claimed to be the largest space for book sales in Europe.
Alpha Bar inside the Covered Market is where you can go for healthy organic, fair-trade food. Reasonably priced sandwiches have interesting fillings like baked tofu, seaweed and roasted vegetables. Salads are sold by the weight, so fill your recyclable container with healthy nosh.
Fishers Restaurant at St Clements is like a little corner of Cornwall, complete with lanterns, portholes and crisp red and white tablecloths. Fish is delivered fresh to the kitchen for the daily changing menu that includes mussels, lobster, seabass, Cornish sole, scallops, oysters, tuna and much more.
Where to stay:
Oxford Thames Four Pillars is a luxury four star hotel away from the bustle, set in 30 acres of parkland on the River Thames. Close to Christ Church College and St. Mary’s Church, it’s within easy access of the city centre.
The Old Bank Hotel is a Georgian boutique hotel that comes very highly recommended. Really central, it’s close to All Souls College, St. Mary’s Church and Radcliffe Camera.