Oxford is Britain’s oldest seat of learning. A city where dreams have been made and lessons learnt for over eight hundred years.
It is a major county town, commercial centre and the home of Oxford University Press, but it is the awe-inspiring beauty of the university buildings that attracts visitors from all corners of the globe.
Oxford is a collegiate university with no central campus. Independent colleges are scattered all over the town with their own peaceful cloisters, picturesque gardens and ornate libraries. Budding philosophers and future politicians have wandered across the quiet quads, searching for inspiration or sweating over exams.
There are 36 colleges but it is not necessary to exhaust yourself exploring them all. The oldest is University College (1249) followed by Balliol (1264) and then Merton (1282).
All have their own charms and attractions. Explore Magdalene’s deer park and famous 15th century Bell Tower. Climb New College’s ancient mound, or marvel at the grandeur of Christchurch’s huge quad, superb picture gallery and exquisite chapel.
Christchurch was founded in 1532 and is the grandest of the colleges. It was home to young mathematics don Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carrol, whose friendship with the Dean’s young daughter, Alice Liddell, provided the inspiration for his children’s classic, Alice in Wonderland.
Wind your way through the cobbled, medieval streets to Radcliffe Square dominated by the gothic spires of All Souls and the domed magnificence of the Radcliffe Camera, part of the world famous New Bodleian Library. It was built in 1748 after a bequest by Dr John Radcliffe. Unfortunately the Camera is not open to the public so you will just have to admire it from outside.
North of the square stands the imposing façade of the Bodleian Library. The library takes its name from former student, Thomas Bodley and is one of the most important libraries in the world.
As a copyright library it receives an edition of every book published in Britain and has over 80 miles of book shelves. It is also distinct in that it is only a reading library. No books can be removed from the Bodleian, famously even King Charles 1 was refused permission! Visit the Duke of Humfreys Library, which houses an exceptional collection of 15th century rare books and manuscripts.
The Sheldonian Theatre is one of Oxford’s most famous buildings and was built between 1664 and 1669. It was the first building to be designed by celebrated architect, Sir Christopher Wren, during his time as Professor of Astronomy. It is the venue for the traditional Latin based matriculation and graduation ceremonies, and provides a stunning backdrop for regular classical concerts. Climb up to the roof for some of the best views over the city.
Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum is brimming with treasures from Europe and the Orient and is internationally renowned for its rich art galleries that house works by Michelangelo and Raphael. The Museum of Modern Art is also a highlight featuring temporary exhibitions from the world’s leading contemporary artists.
Enjoy Oxford in the open air with a stroll through the lush Botanic Gardens. The oldest of its kind in Britain, it provides a quiet oasis of unusual flowers and shrubs. Make the most of a summer afternoon with a relaxing punting trip down the River Cherwell. Tour past the university boathouses and keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of the famous rowing team.
Soak up the scholarly atmosphere of the university buildings.
Do some research in The Bodleian Library
Enjoy the open air at the Botanic Gardens
Sample a proper English pub lunch at Tolkein’s old haunt, the Eagle and Child.
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