I visited the English city of Oxford for a weekend break a couple of years ago. The city is a famous University town, home to one of the most prestigious universities in the country, if not the world. The city is teeming with old buildings and interesting architecture, and is well worth a visit if this is something you enjoy.
We booked a tour of the Bodleian Library (“The Bod”), which is one of the oldest in Europe, and well worth doing as I found it very interesting. The library expanded in the late nineteenth century and part went into a striking round building known as the Radcliffe Camera. This can also be visited but not every time, so worth checking if you come here. For best photos of it go to the University Church of St Mary the Virgin on the other side of it. The church was founded in the 11th century and has strong ties to the university, and in fact housed the first library before it was transferred to the Bod. In the 16th century it was where the trials of the Oxford Martyrs were held during the reign of Queen Mary I (Bloody Mary). The church is free to visit, but you can climb the spire for a small fee for excellent views of the city.
Other places to visit include the castle, Carfax tower (also for good views of the city), various museums and gardens. You can tour various colleges during certain hours, and the city itself is very pleasant to wander around.
There are lots of interesting restaurants, bars and pubs for downtime too. If you feel like it why not have a go at punting on the river or a boat trip.
I have lived in Oxford all my life, and so it is easy for me to not see a lot of problems others might see (such as parking or directions as it's something i'm completely used to)
Oxford is a beautiful city surrounded by history and it's countless number of colleges ( i can only name 5 and there are at least 30). Obviously if you are heading into town to go shopping you dont stop and look at the architecture of the buildings your wondering how busy it is in topshop! But if you take a second to stop and look at the carvings etc... its fascinating.
Theres so many hidden places to walk around, i'm still discovering them! The City is full of cafe's and pubs and there are some lovely places by the river such as Head of the River or the Victoria Arms in Old Marston.
Shopping wise Oxford is very poor, I'd choose reading over oxford any day. There is nothing in Oxford, it's very boring! Reading has the great Oracle shopping centre, John Lewis, H&M, House of Fraser etc... Although hopefully Oxford will get these in the future! Oxford High street looks the same as all other high streets. The only unique thing oxford has to offer is the Covered Market.
There are other shopping areas in Oxford such as Cowley, which has all the discount stores, Matalan, Tk Maxx, Asda Homestore etc...
One of the best improvements to Oxford has been the development of the Castle Complex, it's very modern and a very popular place to visit. The Malmaison Oxford is at the heart of the Castle Complex, but surrounding it are a variety of restaurants such as Prezzo, Pizza Express La Tasca, Carluccios and The Living room and another popular shop is Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Not far away from the castle complex is George Street which has the New Theatre and more restaurants on such as Jamie's Italian, Ask and Bella Italia.
There are 2 odeon Cinemas in Oxford (1 in gloucester Green and the other in Magdalen Street) However, even after being updated they lose out everytime to Vue which is found near the Oxford United football stadium, and there you will also find Bowlplex and Frankie and Benny's. Around the corner from town is the Oxford Ice rink, very popular during the summer with students and tourists.
Getting into the Centre of Oxford is very easy, there are buses coming from all directions every few mins, ok they are not cheap, but if you plan to spend the day in town its cheaper than paying to park! The westgate carpark is the main one, and rouhgly £2.90 an hour. The price goes up on a saturday!
I've loved living in oxford, but can't see myself staying here. There are better places out there!
I've lived close to Oxford most of my life.
As a youngster it was extremely rare I came, as the awkward road layouts, fume-filled city centre and expensive parking discouraged my parents from driving in - so we went to other towns, Reading or Swindon, instead. As I became a teenager, though, I would venture into Oxford on the bus. It's fair to say, I really didn't like Oxford that much at all. It was busy, noisy, stinky..all people barging into each other..I just didn't like it as a place to be.
Returning from university in Swansea, however, I found myself filled with a new appreciation for Oxford and I learnt a simple trick...Look up. If you wander round staring at your feet, Oxford could be anywhere...the same people visiting the same shops, doing the same thing...But when you get your head up and look around you, you notice the buildings, the architecture, the trees...
I don't think there's any doubt that Oxford is a beautiful city - a mass of stonework from a myriad of architectural periods, all wedged in on top of each other. There are also beautiful places to take a wander really close to the city centre - Christchurch gardens being a notable example.
In terms of shopping, new visitors may be a little disappointed - there's very little different or unique about Oxford. There's a medium-sized Debenhams, medium-sized HMV and the usual array of WHSmiths, Next, Primark and so on. High rental costs ensure that small independent retailers have trouble settling in the centre - but areas like Cowley tend to have a little more variety if you can face the walk or a bus ride.
Eating wise, Oxford has improved over the last couple of years, the new Castle complex in the old prison (and castle before that...) has brought a variety of chains to the city - hosting The Living Room, Prezzo, Carluccios, La Tasca, Wetherspoons, Pizza Express and a Krispy Kreme donut shop. There's also a Jamie Oliver's Italian in the centre, along with Bella Italia, Maxwells (american) and Ask.
A short walk away from the shopping centres, there are numerous other eateries worth a visit - Loch Fyne, Gee's, Brown's, Cafe Rouge, Strada and The Big Bang (sausages!) to name a few. There are also some places much further out from the city that warrant a dinner - the Trout at Godstow being a particular favourite of mine.
For entertainment, Oxford has 2 Odeon cinemas in the town centre and two independent picture houses a short walk away. There's also an (ageing) ice rink, Lazer Quest and a fair amount of touristy stuff, guided walks, bus tours and that sort of thing. There are two theatres in the city centre, as well as a couple of "studios" and occasional plays at the Castle and so on. Further out from the centre, there's a larger Vue cinema adjacent to the Kassam Stadium in South Oxford. This is accompanied by a bowling alley, Frankie and Bennies, all you can eat Chinese and large gym. There's a Karting track to the south of the city, although opening hours are sporadic at best.
Sports wise, Oxford is a little underwhelming - there are no leisure facilities in the town centre itself, with a few leisure centres scattered elsewhere throughout the city. There are a number of gyms, all of which are fairly expensive to join. There are a number of facilities (tennis courts, climbing wall) attached to Oxford Brookes university - but public access to these isn't always straightforward. Oxford has reasonable provisions for runners and cyclists with wide pavements and cycle lanes on major routes - although buses and traffic rarely respect either, so near-death experiences are plentiful. It's also disappointing how many people seem to think they're too busy or important to smile or say hello to runners or cyclists in the city - most people preferring to avoid eye-contact where possible. Not exactly a friendly vibe.
Transport to the city is hard work - buses from even the closest of villages will cost upwards from £3 and services are sporadic and stop comparatively early in the night. Parking is laughably expensive, particularly on Saturdays when a three hour stay will see you parting with around a tenner. There is some free parking on St Giles and Walton Street after 6:30 in the evening - but this is predictably hard to come by. There's no kind of secure parking for bikes - and most of the bikes you see around seem to have at least flat tyres, if not "pringled" wheels or stolen parts.
By contrast, transport *from* the city is a lot better - with buses and trains going to London directly pretty frequently and throughout the night (although the bus is better for late nights) - there are also bus services to Bicester Village, Cambridge and other cities further afield.
Pubbing is where Oxford really comes into it's own...there's a variety of pubs and bars to keep anyone happy. There are old-skool Oxford pubs like the Eagle and Child and Turf Tavern which are small, old and pokey - sadly however, dare I say it, these seem to have lost a little of their character following the smoking ban - without there haze of smoke they're not nearly so charming. Thankfully these places still serve a decent range of beers...at a cost. Without doing any maths, I'd suggest that £3 is around the average price for a pint in the town centre. This is continued throughout the other kinds of pubs - larger scale bars like Copa and more classy establishments like All Bar One. Only the wetherspoons really bucks the pricing trend, with a pint from £1.90, a refreshing change.
After the pub, you're somewhat short of options in Oxford - there are a couple of places to go, Old Fire Station being the most popular, but there's nowhere "good" - all the Oxford "clubs" offer little more than cheesy music and under-age girls. A formula that gets old pretty fast.
Overall, then, Oxford is somewhat a mixed bag - it's a beautiful city and great for tourists to visit, although they'd see all the sights in two or three days. Shopping wise, it's far from the ideal destination. Lack of variety and high cost of travel mean I continue to go elsewhere. For food and a couple of beers, Oxford is generally very well equipped. The high cost of *anything* in the city means staying further out from the centre is normally recommended.
I'll give Oxford three stars. I love the place, it's my home, but the council's continued campaign to stop me driving to the centre is starting to convince me to go elsewhere - and the lack of a modern shopping centre is hurting the town - maybe I'll change this review once they've redeveloped the Westgate centre - coming with more parking, John Lewis and some other large stores, this might help to put Oxford on the shopping map.
Oxford is a beautiful city and was once described by poet Mathew Arnold as the city of dreaming spires. The architecture is beautiful with many old buildings ranging from university owned buildings and colleges to museums, churches and cathedrals. The city sits beautifully on the Thames and has a very cultural and cosmopolitan atmosphere.
Oxford is a wonderful city whether you are here as a student, a tourist or a resident, there is something for everyone as I will be reviewing.
The city of Oxford dates back as far as the 9th century and Oxford University which is the oldest university in the English speaking world was founded in 1167. It was actually here in oxford that the first coffee shop in England was opened all the way back in 1651. The English coffee shop was soon to become a place for middle class and upper class men to visit, drink coffee and read newspapers.
Oxford has also been a market town for centuries. The now indoor market was originally stared off as an outdoor market which spanned the streets until it was ordered to be neatened up and the now indoor market was commissioned.
Oxford has been for many years a city for academics and also the manufacturing industry. One of the largest products to leave Oxford during the present day is the Mini as BMW have their Mini manufacturing plant here in Oxford.
There is a wide range of architectural design spanning across Oxford and if not visiting for anything else, the design of this beautiful city is worth a visit alone.
Such sights to behold are the architectural designs of Magdalen Bridge which spans across the river Cherwell. A beautiful bridge next to some great architectural designs of Oxford. I can spend hours standing here watching the punts go down the river and watching the world go by, a very beautiful sight in the spring and summer months. Carfax tower stands in the centre of the city centre with its height and charm over shadowing the modern buildings of the shopping street. Fantastic views can be seen from the summit of this building which spans over Oxford and it s dreaming spires to the surrounding countryside. Just along St Aldates, the cathedral is situated within Christchurch college grounds and is said to be the smallest cathedral in England.
The Radcliffe camera is probably the most famous building in Oxford. It has stood proudly in the centre of Radcliffe square since the 17th century and was originally designed as a medical library but now actually forms part of the Bodleian library.
Next to the Radcliffe camera stands St Mary's the virgin church where the best views of Oxford can be obtained. The church has stood in this position since the thirteenth century and was one of the original teaching areas of Oxford University. The church is very beautifully and well maintained. There is also a small coffee room adjoined to the church which is a very pleasant resting place during a tourist visit of the city.
There are so many more buildings that can be commented on but we would be here all night so I will end this section with the Bridge of Sighs. This is really a magnificent piece of architecture which adjoins two college buildings and has a unique aura of beauty and is indeed one of the most photographed places in Oxford.
There are a number of different museums in Oxford which are either based inside or out such as the Bate collection of musical instruments to The Botanical gardens. We have visited most of them and they are a great educational day out with the children and as a plus point some of them are completely free of charge.
The best museums that I have found to visit with the children are the Natural history museum where the children love to look at the exhibits and then wander into Pitt's river museum where there are collections from all over the world and there is no charge for either of these two museums.
Oxford also has a science museum, The Ashmolean museum which houses beautiful pieces of artwork and stands in a dominating and elegant building and more.
*University colleges *
There are many different buildings and colleges associated with Oxford University which does indeed span across most of Oxford. Some examples of the colleges here are Christchurch College, Brasenose College, All Souls College, Balliol College and Corpus Christie College.
Merton College is one of the eldest colleges attached to Oxford University but maybe one of the best known areas of Oxford University is the Bodleian library. It is said that the Bodleian library's contents takes up over 100 miles of shelving space and parts run underneath the streets of Oxford.
Many of the colleges are partially open to the public with an entrance charge, I cannot review the tours as I have not been on one, we have just entered the free parts to the university and find them to be very beautiful and well worth the visit.
As far as mainstream shopping goes, Oxford is not the best place to head. It has a smaller version of most high street shops but if you are heading to Oxford for a super shopping trip then I really wouldn't bother.
On the other hand if you are looking for small independent shops, quirky boutiques and book shops galore then this could be the place for you.
Blackwell's has its flag ship shop here on Broad Street along with its own music shop and poster shop. The book shops are highly recommended, particularly for academic needs.
*Night life & cultural Oxford&
There is so much to do in Oxford from simply visiting the cinema or watching a live band in an old pub to a good choice of theatres, old fashioned picture houses and musical recitals. In the summer, there are outdoor theatre productions, and outside opera which are located just outside of the city. You will most definitely find something to your liking whether it is classical or modern for a night out in this City.
*Bars and restaurants*
Oxford has a wide range of cafes, bars and restaurants. These can range from hotel restaurants to brasseries to pub food and restaurant chains. Jamie Oliver has just opened up a restaurant in the city centre but there are also a lot of other independent restaurants to choose from.
It is also worth remembering that if you are happy to travel just outside of the city then Raymond Bland has his Michelin awarded restaurant, Le Manoir De Quait Saisons.
There is definitely something to eat and drink for every taste, age and culture in Oxford.
To summarise, Oxford is a beautiful city with a great deal to see and do and well worth visiting. Like any tourist City, there are walking city tours, city bus tours, Oxford history museums and Ghost walks around the city at night, therefore, more than enough opportunities to explore the city. I would recommend that if you choose to visit Oxford then take a weekend break, there are many hotels to choose from but the visit to this magnificent city is well and truly worth it.
Oxford is a really special place to be. There are so many different places and sites to see. One of the most amazing spectacles would have to be the Bodleign library. It is simply put breath taking. Every book ever published in England is in this library there are 26 miles worth of book shelves all stacked to the brim of books. The architecture and the surroundings are amazing. There have been lots of films based in Oxford and it is no wonder. If you travel outside of the centre of Oxford to a town called woodstock you will also be in for a surprise as blenheim palace is situated insode this historic village. There are some less attractive parts of Oxford however for instrance Cowley road and other places nearer the ring road. However the city centre is well worth travelling to. Simply put this is one of my favourite towns in England if you enjoy stunning scenery and amazing architecture then Oxford is a must.
Every time I watch an episode of Morse I turn to my husband and say "We must go to Oxford" On Monday we did just that. We had decided to celebrate our wedding anniversary by taking a three-day break in the city that had been on our ""must visit" list for as far back as I can remember. Before planning our trip and accommodation I visited two websites www.visitoxford.org and www.oxfordcity.co.uk. I found both excellent and user friendly and chose a guest house that I thought would suit us as well as checking out by using the links, the numerous restaurants.
We arrived in Oxford just after lunch. The day was fresh and sunny and so we decided to take the open top bus tour run by The Oxford Bus Company. The price of this was £9.00 per adult and £4.00 per child. The tour lasts an hour and stops at 20 places of interest. You can get on and off the bus as many times as you like on the day of purchase. The guide you are given contains several money off vouchers to various Oxford attractions. We used most of these bringing the cost of the bus down to £5.00. I always find that taking a bus like this is the best way to see the sights and to get to know the geography of a place especially if it's a first visit. The Oxford bus did just that. There was a travel guide on board and headphones were provided. Foreign visitors could tune in to their native language. I always find it best to stay on the bus for the full duration initially. I then note down places that interest me and get off at the stops next time around.
There are hundreds of places to see and visit in Oxford, dominated by ancient colleges, magnificent buildings, winding alleys with fantastic shops, amazing book shops and then there is the river, the punts and the many restaurants and cafes. It's difficult to know where to start. Our three-day stay only allowed us a whistle stop tour and I've picked the attractions that I enjoyed the most.
Said to be the grandest of all the Oxford colleges and it's chapel the only one in the world to serve as a cathedral. Cardinal Wolsey founded it but in 1529 when he fell out with Henry VIII, the monarch took over. In the grounds is Christopher Wren's "Tom's Tower" which houses the great bell. The bell is tolled 101 times every night at 21.10 on the dot. The great Tudor dining room has seen Charles I hold his parliament here, Elizabeth I watch a play Charlie Chaplin take dinner and, Lewis Carroll is said to have eaten 800 meals. All the tables still remain. This is a great place to take children as the dining room and grand staircase were used by Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter Films. It was also used in the filming of Brideshead Revisited. The entry for Christ Church was £5.00. Prices are reduced at lunch time during term time when the dining room is closed as the students are taking their mid day meals. Not advisable if you have Harry Potter fans with you.
THE OXFORD STORY
This is another good one if you have children with you. Take your seat on an indoor ride that will take you through 900 years of Oxford's past. The vehicles in which you sit are an adaptation of students' desks from way back in 16th century. The ride lasts around 25 minutes. Here you learn that Lewis Carroll first told his stories of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and that Edmund Halley first spotted his famous comet in the skies above Oxford. Once out of the carriage you can visit the interactive exhibition using touch screen technology and learn about the groundbreaking research undertaken at Oxford University. Price £1.50.
CARFAX TOWER/ST MICHAEL's TOWER
Carfax Tower is also known as St Martin's Tower and is the remains of a church dating back to 1032. Oxford's oldest tower is that of St Michael. The Oxford Martyrs, Thomas Cranmer and, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley were incarcerated here and the door to their cell can be seen in the tower. Both towers offer superb views over the city, that is if you can manage the 99 steps contained in a narrow spiral staircase to get there.
Other places well worth seeing are the Ashmolean Museum, the Sheldonian Theatre and Magdelen College. The rest we didn't get to see.
There are cafes and bars to suit all tastes and the city has it's fair share of very good restaurants. We dined at an excellent Indian/French restaurant called Saffrons in the Summertown area and Loch Fynes in Jerico. We celebrated our anniversary at Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir, all of which are worthy of separate reviews. We lunched at a place called Freud, which is situated in an old church and took coffee in The Grand Coffee-house that is thought to be the oldest coffee house in Europe. There are also some fine pubs, many of them recognisable from the Morse series.
Again plenty and to suit all purses. We opted for a guesthouse on the London Road that was a 10 minute bus ride into Oxford. We decided on this because although we had travelled from the north-west by car, we knew that parking was a problem and expensive in the city centre. The local authority is quite hostile towards cars as can be expected they don't want cars polluting their city and spoiling those fine old buildings. The buses ran every 5/10 minutes and we were more than happy with that and it did mean that we could enjoy a drink in the evening. The fare £1.40 each.
As well as visiting the websites mentioned earlier, I also contacted Oxford Tourist Information and they sent me some really useful material plus I bought an excellent book printed by Jarrold entitled "Oxford more than a Guide" price £6.99 from Waterstones which I carried around with me.
Three days obviously wasn't long enough and we left with plenty more to see. I can now tick Oxford off my "must visit list" but because we both enjoyed our stay so much and have only had a taster, I will now add it to our "must revisit" list.
That, I think, is the only true purpose of a city like Oxford. I have lived here for eighteen months and am very ready to leave (although I can't until 2005!) The only thing I'm getting out of my time here is a professional qualification, and it's costing me dearly. On the plus side, Oxford is a beautiful place. The towns where I went to school and college were, shall we say, "architecturally challenged", except in places where the local council have built some kind of arts centre. The buildings in the city centre are magnificent and the fact that there is so much history steeped within them really makes visiting Oxford a worthwhile trip. In the summer, it's a very green place and it can be enjoyed on foot or by boat. What all this beauty and history translates to is a booming tourist industry which I have to say I saw no sign of being affected by the September 11th Attacks, but last summer was my first here. The streets become crowded to the point of being unbearable, which I feel is all a bit much when I'm only trying to get to work! Thankfully, I haven't been asked "Can you tell me where Oxford University is?" because I don't think I could keep a straight face. Oxford is an expensive place to live. It is a desirable place to live, I would agree as there are nice houses and good schools, but this makes student life here a bit of a struggle. While Oxford is close to London (some 54 miles according to the signs on the M40) it falls outside of the area surrounding London where cost of living bonuses are available. A student in London will recieve extra loan for living in London while a student living in Oxford wont. Hospitals like the John Radcliffe have experienced recruitment problems because nurses can't afford to live here: the location 'bonus' simply isn't enough. I would love to stay here post-qualifying, but I can't afford to. Another factor raising the cost of livin
g is tourists: they bring money to spend and prices are raised accordingly - but what about the rest of us?! The nightlife isn't up to much unless, again, you're a tourist. There are lots of restaurants, however, to cater for all tastes and budgets and that's just in the city centre. Tea at the Randolph or an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet? In terms of food, Oxford has a lot to offer. Shopping is also mainly tourist orientated - in the summer you can't walk staight for tripping over postcard stands. There are the standard high street shops but the choice isn't vast: River Island, Next and New Look just about cover womenswear. There are some top of the range shops, however, like Whistles and Agnes B. What surprised me was the number of shops selling skate wear or off the wall clothing, DNA and Cult Clothing to name two. My advice: Reading is cheaper to get to than London (although both are possibilities) and the choice is much better. My final dislike for Oxford is the vast majority of the people that I meet here: the rudeness, arroagance and sheer contempt for fellow human beings is mind blowing! So many people that I know who moved into the area have noticed it. I don't feel any real pride in it as a place and could never call it home because of these attitudes - they're not representative of me and I don't wish to be associated with these people that behave so appallingly. Oxford, you're only good for selling postcards to gullible tourists who couldn't find Oxford University. And that's nothing to get sniffy about.
My perspective on Oxford is not quite the same as on Colchester. I haven’t lived there all my life, but I have been studying in Oxford for the last two years. That only amounts to about a year in the city, but means I’ve tried quite a few of the attractions and know a fair bit about the University, one of the main tourist attractions, and the one I’ll begin with, after dealing with: Location/Transport Oxford’s in the midlands, in the county of Oxfordshire. It’s about an hour from London to the train, from Paddington Station. Better still, catch the regular Oxford Tube coaches, which run 24 hours a day, and at six minute intervals in peak times – they take about an hour and a half to two hours but cost a reasonable £6 (one way). The main road links are the A40 and A34, and you're likely to come in along Botley Road (from the west), Woodstock or Banbury Road (north), London/Headington Road (north-east), Cowley Road (south-east) or Abingdon Road (south). Oxford University This isn’t an academic-y overview of the University, for that you might like to see my opinion on Oxford University (which contains some details on all the colleges, unions, applications, etc). The fact remains, however, that the University is central to city life. Oxford University has a better international reputation than Cambridge and, as well as students, attracts tourists from all over the world. Postcards of the colleges and university clothing are available from shops all over the city – try Broad Street or the High Street for starters. Guided tours of colleges and university buildings are regularly available in summer (try catching a tour from Broad Street or Radcliffe Square). I’ve always meant to go on one (prices about £5 for a one-two hour walking tour) or one of the open top bus tours (allegedly free if wearing the ‘sub-fusc’ academic dress – suit, cap, gown). It has t
o be said I’ve overheard guides making up some pretty hilarious stuff (all this time I thought our bar was below the library, not in the kitchen, but what would I know eh?). Some sites that might be worth seeing include (you’ll need a map to find these – most have colleges marked on, so I’ll just guide you to which colleges are worth seeing): Jesus College – this is the only Elizabethan college and one of three on Turl Street – it’s the one on the right if you come from Broad Street. Nothing special visually, unless you can get in the ‘great’ (read ‘dining’) hall and see the portrait of Elizabeth I (painted from life and reputedly near priceless) over high table. Main points of interest – well, it’s where I go really, but that’s only for another year. Christ Church College – Probably the largest, richest and most famous. Some of Harry Potter was filmed here, and it was also the home of Alice (in Wonderland). You won’t be allowed in by the custodians on the gate, but just try walking round from the front gate on St Aldates to the back in Oriel Square – it’s massive, no wonder I was once able to find my tutor’s room on a map! There’s a tourist information board on St Aldates, next to an entrance to Christ Church meadow – not many cities can boast such an expanse of greenery so near the centre, and you can walk down to the river (Cherwell, which runs into the Thames) where in the summer you’ll see Pimms and boating. Oh, and there’s a cathedral in Christ Church too! Keble – A little way up north, Keble is easily left off tours of the city centre colleges, but its red brick design stands out for visitors. Has the largest hall of any college – deliberately made about a foot larger than Christ Church’s ;) Magdalen – Head down the High Street towards Cowley, a slightly r
ough student area, home of many bars and takeaways, and you’ll cross Magdalen bridge – and can hardly fail to spot the college and its tower. Normally no more special than many other colleg es you could see, on Mayday a choir gathers at the top of the tower to sing in dawn. Joining the crowd of drunken revellers at 6am is particularly recommended. Hanging around for lectures afterwards isn’t – even if the nearby exam schools are very impressive. Radcliffe Camera – Shaped like a huge breast (in response no doubt to the many phallic towers surrounding it) this economically combines tourist attraction and history library... Ok, I’ve walked past so many times I probably take it for granted, but I do recommend a trip to Radcliffe Square, where you can see both the Camera and side of All Souls College and the University Church. Bodleian Library – Not much to see really, but again world famous. A British catalogue library, it holds every books printed in the country – although many are actually stored in the nearby village of Nuneham or in underground stacks and only available on order. Books that are available are not for lending or for the public anyway. The best bits to see, if you’re still really interested, are at the east end of Broad Street – the old building on your right and new on the left if you’ve just come down Broad Street. Not a bad spot to sit outside in summer. Ashmolean Museum – Just on the corner of Beaumont Street I can hardly say the university museum is the most interesting collection I’ve ever seen. It houses paintings and numerous old relics from various periods/places so given that it’s free (donations gratefully accepted) it may be worth a look to kill a few hours. At least you can always go in just to use the gift shop ;) Obviously I’ve left off loads of colleges off, the union and goodness knows how much else. If you
really are keen on the university, take one of the tours. I’m moving on to the other stuff… Shopping The main shopping street is undoubtedly Cornmarket Street – home to Burger King (recently re-fitted with an opening front window, to allow a Parisian street café feel in summer!), McDonalds, Virgin, HMV, Waterstones (on the corner of Broad Street), W H Smiths, Miss Selfridge, occasional street traders and more. Opposite Market Street is the Clarendon shopping centre, which houses plenty of clothes shops, including Gap. To the north end there’s Broad Street – home of several colleges, some small newsagents and most notably Blackwells (bookshop). George Street, running to the west, has many cafes and pubs – including Yeats, Wig & Pen, Pizza Hut, Bella Pasta and more – and it heads off towards the rail station, Park End nightclub and more in that direction. Further north brings you to the Ashmolean museum, Borders bookshop and a Sainsburys local (open 7-11 weekdays but overpriced). The south end of Cornmarket Street is marked by Carfax Tower, the traditional marker of the city centre. The High Street runs to the east all the way as far as Cowley Road, but it isn’t as exciting as Cornmarket. In the opposite direction Queen Street has BHS, Marks and Spencer and (just about) Argos – as well as running down to the Westgate shopping centre (containing another city centre Sainsburys, larger than the local, and a several of the few cheap shops in Oxford, such as the Works). The one other notable feature of the city centre is the covered market – housed between Cornmarket Street, Market Street, Turl Street and the High Street (conveniently next to Jesus College). Here you can buy fresh fruit and veg, or even meat (beware the carcasses hanging outside the butcher’s). There are key cutters, flower shops, clothing shops, a stereotypical second hand book shop and several c
afes. Generally I think the shopping is about par for a large town/small city. Nothing compared to, say, London or Birmingham but perfectly adequate for most purposes. Unlike my home town of Colchester, there aren’t so many cheap shops, which is a shame for the students. There are three branches of the Works though – in the Westgate Centre, on Cornmarket Street and on the High Street. Eating There are plenty of cafes in the centre, but perhaps not so many proper restaurants. If you don’t fancy fast food, you can eat in most of the pubs – such as Wig & Pen (George Street) or Beefeater in the Mitre (corner of High Street and Turl Street). There are lots of restaurants down George Street too – I particularly recommend a little Italian pizza place I can’t remember the name of right now. Or heading north up St Giles the Chinese restaurant ‘Wok 23’ (formerly Wok 22, formerly Friends) is also popular. My favourite recommendation though is the Radcliffe Arms. A little out of the way, it’s in the suburb of Jericho, off to the west of Woodstock Road (down Observatory Strret). Nothing fancy, but decent pub food for around £3 a meal – although the drinks are a little pricey. After about 6 until the early hours, numerous kebab vans will appear. I’d only risk chips, or perhaps baked potato. I recommend Hassans (on Broad Street) or the Roving Gourmet (normally on St Giles) for its extra large chips (an extra 20p for quite a few more). And on the subject of pubs (and clubs)… Going Out It may surprise you I don’t have much to offer here – because for the most part I stick to the College/Union bar etc… Any of the various chain pubs will be about normal, and offer more of a towny feel (rather than being full of students). The Turl (on Turl Street) isn’t particularly recommended, but the Turf (hidden down a back alley …) is
, especially for real ale and roasting marshmallows outside in the summer. If you’re not drinking, the Royal Oak at the bottom of Woodstock Road does half a lemonade for just 40p. Popular student clubs are Park End (down Park End street) or The Studio (formerly ‘Fifth Avenue’, still colloquially ‘Filth’). Slightly better is Po Na Na on St Giles. There’s also the Cellar, just off Cornmarket Street, which hosts everything from drum & bass and hip-hop to goth. The best venue’s almost definitely the Zodiac – a bit of a trek down Cowley Road, but it brings an impressive roster of bands, plus a variety of club nights – dance, indie, rock and the infamous student nights. Living in Oxford There’s a distinct town/gown split in Oxford. Perhaps this is so in many university towns, but with the pompous mostly upper class students up to all sorts, no wonder the other denizens sometimes find them (us) quite a lot to put up with. Back in the Middle Ages, this sometimes erupted in violence – such as the Turl Street Riots. The University’s no longer quite as important to the city (read: we no longer run it) and relations are, in my experience, generally good as long as you don’t ask for trouble. The city centre’s dominated by the colleges, which still own a large part of the land. These restrict shops and residence – 90% of the central ward are students. Central roads are mostly closed to traffic – except buses, cycles and taxis; visitors are strongly recommended to use the park and ride system to avoid the nightmare of one way streets and traffic calming humps (constantly put in and removed). Oxford strikes me as a nice place to live. It has all the facilities of a city, but also plenty of greenery – Christ Church meadow to the south and University Parks to the north. The attractions will probably appeal most to those who prefer a quiet,
academic lifestyle – excellent libraries and museums such as the Ashmolean and Pitt Rivers. Because college bars aren’t open to the public, the nightlife leaves some to be desired, particularly if you r tastes aren’t for cheesy pop. Still amusements can be found – such as the two Odeon cinemas, or the Phoenix arthouse cinema, plenty of attractive cafes and markets. It’s a rather pricey place to live unfortunately, especially if you want a large or fairly central house – hence many students are forced to the outskirts (Woodstock Road, Botley Road and, of course, the Cowley area).
Oxford...City of students...clever ones too! Cyclists all around amidst the 39 different colleges which make up Oxford University, one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Many famous people have attended Oxford University including: Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea Stephen Hawkins Harold wilson Gandhi Iris Murdoch Margaret Thatcher Philip Pullman Rowan Atkinson Angus Deayton Tony Blair Rowan Atkinson Hugh Grant Nigella Lawson Do you want me to go on? The university buildings are centuries old and you can go up St. Mary's tower (High St.) or Carfax Tower in the very centre of the city, for very reasonable rates. the universities are sometimes closed for public viewing but there are always a few which are open to the public at any one time. But there is so much more to Oxford than the University. The beautiful surroundings, the lazy river Thames, the rolling countryside. Port Meadow was the location of an iron age settlement but now it is a peaceful riverside meadow perfect for walking and countryside pubbing. Take a punt or a peddlo down a tributary of the River Cherwell for £10 an hour from the boathouse on St.Clements street. Take the "Oxford Story" tour on Broad St. to find out more about the city's history. There is the modern art gallery near Christ Church college. Visit the lab where Penicillin was first discovered and used. Visit the home where Alice in Wonderland was written. So many things to do in so little time. You can go on a nightly ghost tour of the city. Take a guided tour on a double decker bus with a live host, this you can catch from the Railway station. The shopping isn't great but the centuries old buildings are there to provide inspiration! You can visit Blenheim Palace near Woodstock. There is an excellent outdoor swimming pool in South Oxford which is well worth a visit. Paintballing and
Go-karting are never far away for the more adventurous of us and in fact there is an excellent indoor rock climbing gym in East Oxford, in the Headington area, which I visit regularly. Don't think Oxford is a boring place, it is truly well worth a visit, whether young or old, lazy or adventurous. There is something for everybody.
Today, I went to Oxford for the day. It wasn’t an ordinary visit though. It was a Dooyoo day out! The fifteen of us there includes some familiar Dooyoo names – I went along with my other half and two of our kids, then there were Linda (Linda01865) and Noel, Louise (Wulise) and Shane, Louise (Squiggles), Angus (angusreid) and Sherry, Karen (Wiggglypufff) and Paul, Kathryn (KathrynPenguin), and Ophelia (offy). We were due to meet at 10am, but most of us were a bit later than that. We had our first problem trying to park. The car park near the Westgate Shopping Centre didn’t seem to be open, so we had to drive round looking for an alternative. Thankfully, there are several car parks in this area, convenient for the main part of the city. We finally ended up in Worcester Street car park, only to find that parking for 6+ hours costs £12 (!!) most of the time, but being Sunday, it was “only” £7!! So I had to go on a little trek to find an open shop for change. There’s a nice delicatessen up the little street opposite the cinema, where I bought a baguette for £1.90 and went back to the car park, clutching pound coins. We had arranged to meet at The Disney Store in Queen Street, which was easily found, thanks to Linda’s emailed map. It was only a few minutes away from the car park and on the way, we walked past an internet café and some lovely eating places. Unfortunately, we never did get into the Haagen-Dazs café. (Next time, eh, Kathryn??) The Disney Store is situated in one of the main shopping areas of the city. After meeting up, we went into the shopping arcade next to it and had cups of tea in the restaurant in Allders. The shop seemed much the same as any department store, with three floors with sections for menswear, ladieswear, childrenswear, household items, bedding, cosmetics, jewellery, accessories and so on – with access via lifts, stairs or escalators. The restaurant was nice enough, spacious with pine tables. It cost £4.30 for a tea, a hot chocolate, a glass of milk and a coke. After this, we walked all along the main shopping streets, heading for one of the few child-friendly pubs in Oxford. The shopping centre has such things as WHSmith, Carphone Warehouse, Clinton Cards, HSBC bank, Boots, Thorntons, etc. It is pretty much the same as any city shopping centre in this aspect, but one thing we found surprising was the amount of beggars we encountered – and often aggressive ones. We had men approaching us with long spiels about needing money, one in the car park asking for parking tickets which had some time left on them, plus umpteen beggars in doorways and walking round. It was very unsettling and I found them quite intimidating. This is not to suggest that Oxford is awful, far from it. It is very pretty, with lots of old buildings and lovely architecture. The streets were generally clean and it seemed to have everything you could want in a city (although we failed to find a beanie shop!). It was quite a long walk to the pub, but not unpleasant. The pub itself (Head of the River) was perfect with long benches outside (although we needed two between us!) in a large garden area. It was next to the river, which provided a lovely view, although there were no railings on part of it, so you would have to keep an eye on young children. You could also hire a small boat, £5 each for half an hour, for up to six people – but only a couple of us fancied it, so we didn’t get to try it out. The pub inside was quite dark and there were no seats on the toilets, but it was perfect sitting outside. In fact, it was hard shifting some of us (!) but others were desperate for food, so we eventually made the long journey back through the shopping centre and into George Street. We ate at Pizza Hut and despite the initial raised eyebrows at wanting
seats for FIFTEEN PEOPLE, we had a lovely meal there, staying for around two hours. (Separate opinion to follow!) A meal for us four cost just over £32. Some had to retrieve their cars at 4pm, but the rest of us walked to Debenhams afterwards. This is similar to Allders, but has a glass lift (which is a bit scary and very fast!) and has posh orangey cups in the restaurant!! The assistants in the perfume and cosmetics department seemed rather snobby, but perhaps it was because a few of us were discussing Wigggly’s condom ops at the time! The restaurant there was again large and nicely furnished, with round tables on two levels. This time, we had a hot chocolate (“chocolate supreme” for £1.30) and a tea (92p) to go with the great company and interesting conversation. By then it was past 5pm and we all started to go. A quick look round showed that most of the shops had closed or were about to, but then again, it was a Sunday. Overall, Oxford is a nice place and I wouldn’t mind going again, although the beggars might put me off a bit. My best memories of the day though are of the lovely people I met, who I hope to see again as soon as possible. *Dedicated to Angus, Karen M, Kathryn, Linda, Louise, Louise R, Noel, Ophelia, Paul, Shane and Sherry. Thanks for a wonderful day :-) *
The average pre-conception of Oxford for most tourists seems to be: 'it's got an old university' and that's about it. Yep the University has been around for a while but describing it just in those terms hardly does the university or the city justice. I came to Oxford just over 18 months ago to do PPE at Balliol and frankly have fallen in love with the place: both the city and the university. Oxford has its weak points but is still a wonderful place. For those of you who don't know (including all the American Tourists who keep asking the way to 'The University') Oxford is a collegiate University: there is no central building (though their is a clock tower which is traditionally considered the 'centre of the university' for some reason). There are instead 39 colleges who each have their own buildings and a large degree of control over their own running and teaching. Some of these Colleges are truly beautiful such as Christ Church (famous for its bowler hatted porters), All Souls (where every few years the Fellow practice a strange tradition involving chasing a wooden duck carried on the end of a pole) and Balliol, my own college, known for its stripy chapel, for being one of the oldest colleges and for having produced 3 Prime Ministers (Asquith, Macmillan and Heath). Unfortunately the colleges also help to illustrate one of few gripes about Oxford that insufficient respect is shown for the architectural environment: some of the more recent colleges are just plain ugly monstrosities totally not in keeping: St Peter's for one will know who I'm talking about here. And some of the bits of the beautiful colleges are modern edifices of concrete and glass too: the Quad of Balliol is somewhat spoilt by a REALLY ugly lecture theatre building. Outside of the University the pedestrianised Cornmarket street is very ugly and not much as it pains me to make the comparison not something you would probably find in Cam
bridge where they seem to have more respect for history. Still despite the occasional lapses Oxford is still a beautiful place, The Famous Sheldonian Theatre and The Radcliffe Camera are two other beautiful buildings though both slightly demonstrate the tendency of Oxford architects to design phallic buildings. And the fairly recent move towards a car-free town centre has, I think, made things a lot better. Park and ride services ensure that it's not difficult for motorists to get into Oxford and open top buses help tourists to get around. Outside of the beauty of the place Oxford's got plenty of other stuff going for it too especially if you're a student: The eating out opportunities are not too bad with Kebab Vans and Decent Restaurants depending on taste and budget (personally I go for the cheap option except when the parents are visiting and paying!) and a decent selection of pubs. The sports facilities are even better than you'd expect with most colleges having their own fields, squash courts, tennis courts etc and unsurprisingly with over 40 different libraries it's a bit easier to get hold of the books that you need than at other Uni's. Finally there is the World Famous Oxford Union, which regularly holds debates and speaker meetings with the great and the good from around the world including recently Michael Jackson, Rolf Harris, John Hume and David Trimble (not all at once apart from the last two!) And even if you're not a student can't use a lot of these facilities there's still a lot to see and do. Not everyone loves Oxford I admit but I do and it's definitely worth at least one visit during your lifetime.
We came to Oxford in September 1999. It was a big step for us, as we were moving in together, my girlfriend was starting Uni. I was starting a new job. We had visited Oxford on several occasions for day trips and fact-finding expeditions, but you really need to live there to get the true view of the place. Oxford is really a town within a city. The town centre with its spires and domes sits in the middle of a collection of communities with their own facilities and people. It really is an unusual place to live. However, it is not all that bad, and it has got some good points as well as a few niggling ones. Appearance - The town centre can look spectacular in the sunshine of a spring day. The limestone of the colleges really stands out well on a bright morning. The layout of the city is quite uncaring of motorists, and this adds something to its charm, with cyclists and pedestrians (mainly tourists in the warmer months) milling about on the mostly flag stoned streets. The town is steeped in history, and there is plenty to draw the eye. If you visit in term time you will often catch the rowing teams on the river Thames. This was quite an amusing sight to us on our first walk down the riverbank. The teams are quite competitive and get serious barracking from their coaches on the bank. I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of some of the comments! Further north, coming out of the centre you will find the famous Magdalene Bridge, crossing the Cherwell. This offers a beautiful view out across the botanical gardens and the countryside. As you come into Oxford, along wither the Cowley or Abingdon roads, or through Botley you will pass through the student occupied part of the town. This is where Oxford starts to look a bit down at heel, and on a rainy day it can be quite depressing. Attractions - Oxford's main draw is the colleges. These are mostly all open to visitors during the day (we still
haven’t visited any of the traditional colleges - my girlfriend studies at Oxford Brookes) The look quite impressive, and do get busy in the tourist season. The shopping area is a bit sparse and does lack a great variety of shops. For shopping we travel home to Milton Keynes! The rivers offer good facilities for boating during the summer, and there are large Punt hiring businesses near on the Folley Bridge (Thames) & Magdalene Bridge (Cherwell). There are some great pubs to quench your thirst in - Try the Turf Tavern (Which allows you to walk the back streets of the town) of the Head of The River if you want to watch the boats go by. Keep your eye out if you visit at exam time. The students are required to wear academic dress to all formal exams, and the make quite a sight in their gowns and mortarboards (I was glad to send my back after graduation - so I do feel sorry for them) If you are thinking of moving here and are looking for more everyday attractions there is still quite a bit to do. Oxford has several good leisure facilities, with swimming pools (outdoor and indoor) an Ice rink and various leisure centers. There is a huge amount of parkland to wander around and the links to surrounding towns are excellent. We still haven’t explored the whole area yet, but a walk to Summertown and Jerico is well worth it. A visit to the Ashmolean Museum is free, and quite interesting. You will be able to find a fair bit to do if you look hard enough! Accommodation - Oxford has a huge number of bed and breakfast hotels. The Abingdon Road is dotted with them from the ring road to the Folley Bridge. There are also a few more formal hotels such as the Four Pillars (also on the Abingdon Road) Should you be looking for a more permanent base you should expect to pay around £250 per month for a room in a shared house, and anything from £500 per month for a house or flat. Oxford has a lot of student accomm
odation, understandably. You might find family or professional style properties a bit thin on the ground. Travel - As I said, Oxford hates cars! The centre is a no go area from 7.30am to 6.30pm every day. Use the excellent Park and Ride facilities if you want to get into the town centre. The last time I used one of these parking cost 50p for the whole day and a return ticket into town was £1. Oxford really know how to run a bus service, with the average fair cost 55p and a bus - on time - every 15 minutes or so during the day. The railway station is close to the town centre, at the top of Park End Street, and runs GW, Virgin and Thames link services. A return to London is around £16. Trains seem a bit rare, so if you are heading into the capital try the Oxford tube. You can catch this from Gloucester Green bus station. A return ticket will set you back about £6. Nightlife - Here is where Oxford lets itself down. There are a few screens in the local Odeon's (Oxford has 2 of them) and the Phoenix Picture hose is great for the more unusual movies. There are some great places to eat - The Opium Den is well worth a look - and some really character rich pubs. But that’s where it all seems to tail off. There are a couple of nightclubs, but these are not really up to much. The Coven attracts some good DJ's so is worth trying. You might get to catch a few good bands at the Zodiac, and it’s quite a friendly place. Park End is not my thing at all really. It is your typical townie type of haunt, and I just don’t bother with it anymore. My favourite nightspot is PoNaNa's, but it attracts quite a queue on Saturday night. Oxfords real problem is that it closes down at 11 O'clock. The shops all shut at 6pm and then the bars kick out and the town goes to sleep. There are a few places where you can stay till 1 or 2am at the weekend (Yate's Wine Lodge, Que Pasa, Chicago's, PoN
aNa's DTM's & of course Park End) but Oxford is a big town, with lots of young people and they fill up to the rafters quite fast. Coming from Milton Kenynes I find this all a bit disappointing, but as I said, Oxford really is in a world of its own. Give it a go - So the end of this rather rambling op. Oxford makes a nice day trip destination. It is a bit of an odd place to live, but it does grow on you. If you are coming here to study or work try to root out the good bits. There is plenty to enjoy here; you just have to look really hard for it!
The City of Spires Where shall I begin, Oxford is a truly magnificent city and it is where I lived for 18 years before moving to Essex. I therefore feel qualified to give an opinion and guide to England’s primary seat of learning. Oxford is a beautiful city of cloistered college grounds, pinnacled towers, walks, parks, rivers and provides the visitor with an historic and educational feast. The city is built around the river Thames, know locally as the river Isis. To the East of the city is the river Cherwell which flows by Magdalen College and the Botanical Gardens. The river provides some excellent punting. It was the Saxon’s who first settled here at the site of a ford on the Isis, these cattle drovers probably drove oxen to the area, liked what they saw and settled. The university is probably what Oxford is best known for and was founded in the 13th Centaury with the building of three colleges, University College, Balliol and Merton. Today there are 35 colleges which make up the university. Exploring these colleges can be a time consuming event and you will certainly want to spread your visit over a few days if you want to take it all in. It would take too long to write about each college and so I have chosen just a handful to give you an insight into the university. Christ Church College is a favourite of mine. It was founded in the 16th Century by Cardinal Wolsey and later re-founded by that most infamous of kings, Henry VIII. The college boasts the largest quadrangle of all the colleges. This quadrangle is known as Tom Quad which in turn takes its name from Tom Tower, the gateway to the college. Within the quadrangle is a large pond wherein stands a statue of the god Mercury. Christ Church adjoins Oxford Cathedral part of which dates back to the 8th century; the spire of this magnificent building was the first to be erected in England. My next college of note is University College. I
t was here that the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley was a student and a sculpture in his memory is on display. Shelley brought a lot of controversy to the college by the publication of a leaflet about atheism and later a poem which attacked the royalty. University college was founded by William of Durham in 1249 but it is also mentioned that some 400 years earlier Alfred the Great founded a community on the site. Magdalen College is my third choice, it is built by the banks of the river Cherwell and was founded in 1458 by William of Wayneflete who was the bishop of Winchester. Punting on the river is a wondrous experience and a pass time of many undergraduates. If you can’t punt then you can always hire someone to gently take you down stream to see the sites. Another tradition of those attending the college occurs each year on May Day when students gather on Magdalen Bridge and leap into the waters of the river. Leaving the magnificent colleges behind there are plenty of other sites to see. Carfax Tower in the heart of the city centre at St Aldates and its junction with the High Street is worthy of a visit. It is all that is left of an original 14th century church which stood on the site. The tower is open to the public and affords excellent views across the city once you have made the climb to the top. Another popular attraction of the Carfax Tower is the clock comprising of the ‘Quarterboys’ (2 male figures) who strike the chimes every 15 minutes. The original quarterboys are now in the Museum of Oxford in St Aldates. This brings me very nicely to Oxford’s other museums. Perhaps the best known of these is the Ashmolean museum which opened in 1683 and was named after Elias Ashmolean an antiquary. It houses some excellent exhibits including a golden jewel said to be connected to Alfred the Great. The Oxford University museum is also worthy of your time and it also houses the Pitt Rivers museum where you can view over 14,0
00 ethnological exhibits. The main museum is mainly dedicated to zoology, entomology and geology and is a wonderful place to explore. Oxford boasts another first, the botanic gardens. These picturesque gardens in the high street were founded in 1621 by Henry Danvers the Earl of Danby. Here you can explore the flower beds, rockeries and soothing pools. There are several greenhouses too, containing a range of exotic plants and rare species. It is a particularly popular attraction which is open all year round and as far as I know entry is still free. Another well known Oxford landmark is the Sheldonian Theatre and it too is another first for the city. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren it is the first full-scale building that he designed and was based on the Marcellus theatre in Rome. It is used for University ceremonies and concerts on a regular basis and is a breathtaking building. For those not keen on sight-seeing or those who just want a break from it then Oxford provides excellent shopping. I don’t intend to go into great depths here; all I need to say is that there is a huge range of shops to chose from and itself provides an energetic experience. Oxford is notoriously bad for parking but the transport system there is excellent. My advice is to park on the outskirts and use a bus to get to the cities heart. There are several good Park & Ride schemes running to transport you and which provide adequate parking and good value for money. I myself miss living there as the place exudes character and charm, it really is a beautiful and historic city.
Where shall I begin, Oxford is a truly magnificent city and it is where I lived for 18 years before moving to Essex. I therefore feel qualified to give an opinion and guide to England’s primary seat of learning. Oxford is a beautiful city of cloistered college grounds, pinnacled towers, walks, parks, rivers and provides the visitor with an historic and educational feast. The city is built around the river Thames, know locally as the river Isis. To the East of the city is the river Cherwell which flows by Magdalen College and the Botanical Gardens. The river provides some excellent punting. It was the Saxon’s who first settled here at the site of a ford on the Isis, these cattle drovers drove their oxen to the area, liked what they saw and settled. This is where Oxford derives it's name. The university is probably what Oxford is best known for and was founded in the 13th Centaury with the building of three colleges, University College, Balliol and Merton. Today there are 35 colleges which make up the university. Exploring these colleges can be a time consuming event and you will certainly want to spread your visit over a few days if you want to take it all in. It would take too long to write about each college and so I have chosen just a handful to give you an insight into the university. Christ Church College is a favourite of mine. It was founded in the 16th Century by Cardinal Wolsey and later re-founded by that most infamous of kings, Henry VIII. The college boasts the largest quadrangle of all the colleges. This quadrangle is known as Tom Quad which in turn takes its name from Tom Tower, the gateway to the college. Within the quadrangle is a large pond wherein stands a statue of the god Mercury. Christ Church adjoins Oxford Cathedral part of which dates back to the 8th century; the spire of this magnificent building was the first to be erected in England. My next college of note is Unive
rsity College. It was here that the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley was a student and a sculpture in his memory is on display. Shelley brought a lot of controversy to the college by the publication of a leaflet about atheism and later a poem which attacked the royalty. University college was founded by William of Durham in 1249 but it is also mentioned that some 400 years earlier Alfred the Great founded a community on the site. Magdalen College is my third choice, it is built by the banks of the river Cherwell and was founded in 1458 by William of Wayneflete who was the bishop of Winchester. Punting on the river is a wondrous experience and a pass time of many undergraduates. If you can’t punt then you can always hire someone to gently take you down stream to see the sites. Another tradition of those attending the college occurs each year on May Day when students gather on Magdalen Bridge and leap into the waters of the river. Leaving the magnificent colleges behind there are plenty of other sites to see. Carfax Tower in the heart of the city centre at St Aldates and its junction with the High Street is worthy of a visit. It is all that is left of an original 14th century church which stood on the site. The tower is open to the public and affords excellent views across the city once you have made the climb to the top. Another popular attraction of the Carfax Tower is the clock comprising of the ‘Quarterboys’ (2 male figures) who strike the chimes every 15 minutes. The original quarterboys are now in the Museum of Oxford in St Aldates. This brings me very nicely to Oxford’s other museums. Perhaps the best known of these is the Ashmolean museum which opened in 1683 and was named after Elias Ashmolean an antiquary. It houses some excellent exhibits including a golden jewel said to be connected to Alfred the Great. The Oxford University museum is also worthy of your time and it also houses the Pitt Rivers museum where you
can view over 14,000 ethnological exhibits. The main museum is mainly dedicated to zoology, entomology and geology and is a wonderful place to explore. Oxford boasts another first, the botanic gardens. These picturesque gardens in the high street were founded in 1621 by Henry Danvers the Earl of Danby. Here you can explore the flower beds, rockeries and soothing pools. There are several greenhouses too, containing a range of exotic plants and rare species. It is a particularly popular attraction which is open all year round and as far as I know entry is still free. Another well known Oxford landmark is the Sheldonian Theatre and it too is another first for the city. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren it is the first full-scale building that he designed and was based on the Marcellus theatre in Rome. It is used for University ceremonies and concerts on a regular basis and is a breathtaking building. For those not keen on sight-seeing or those who just want a break from it then Oxford provides excellent shopping. I don’t intend to go into great depths here; all I need to say is that there is a huge range of shops to chose from and itself provides an energetic experience. Oxford is notoriously bad for parking but the transport system there is excellent. My advice is to park on the outskirts and use a bus to get to the cities heart. There are several good Park & Ride schemes running to transport you and which provide adequate parking and good value for money. I myself miss living there as the place exudes character and charm, it really is a beautiful and historic city.
I have visited Oxford pretty regularly - not least for University interviews over the past year. As such I have seen it in most weathers and seasons. I have to say that in the summertime it is a very pretty city, the buildings seem to radiate tradition and heritage. The open areas are very pretty and on the most part well-kept. The pubs are friendly, if a little dear, but the clubs are chaeper in both targetting and price! Oxford has some great restaurants, which are quite dear as they are aimed (I would guess) at American tourists. These are one of the only disadvantages of the city in the summer, they invade completely. They are helped, as all visitors to the city are, by the proximity to London and the cheap train and coach fares. It would be a complete thumbs-up to Oxford were it not for how grey and unwelcoming the place looks in the winter. It's bleak and deserted. The students are absent, the streets are grey and cold and the buildings turn spooky.