Now that we live in London for a couple months and have visited a few neighborhoods, it’s also nice to visit places outside the city. Especially now that we have a car, it’s a lot easier to make short trips along the countryside. Just like last weekend when we spent a visit to the beautiful historic Oxford, which is about a good hour’s drive from West London.
Oxford is an old university city and district in Oxfordshire in the United Kingdom and was created in the time of the Anglo-Saxons. The city is known for its special historical buildings and has a rich history and culture. Something that immediately became visible when we parked the car on the outskirts of the city: wide streets, stately homes and many parks. Incidentally, a tip: find out in advance where you can park for free, even though that’s a bit outside the city center, the walk to your destination is often also very beautiful.
Just like this time when we were two streets away from our parking lot to the Lady Margaret Hall, one of the Oxford University buildings. This University made it possible for woman to study from 1879 in Oxford. After we had explored the grounds with adjoining gardens we approached the entrance of the nearby Oxford University Parks. A large park with open plains, gardens and sports fields where you can often find groups of students doing sportactivities.
Although England has several university cities, Oxford is the oldest and is known together with Cambridge as one of the best places in the world to study. Colleges have been given here since the 12th century and only the very best students are allowed to study at Oxford University. For years, future ministers, senior officials and diplomats have been studying here, as well as world-famous actors and writers such as David Cameron, Rowan Atkinson and Hugh Grant. When their first work has been preserved you can usually only view it here in one of the museums.
When you expect that ‘Oxford University‘ is one building, you can search for a long time. There is no building with this name. All university buildings are called ‘University of Oxford‘ together. It consists of, among others, The Bodleian Library, Christ Church University and Green Templeton College. Keep in mind, that visitors can’t simply visit all universities. Partly because the students of the university must be disturbed as little as possible. If you want to see more of the universities than you are dependent on one of the private guided walking tours with guides. Or you can buy a ticket for Christ Church University one of the largest, richest and most impressive universities in Oxford.
Despite the many offered tours, we decided to go on discovery by ourselves in this beautiful city that is also often used as a source of inspiration in books and films. For example the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling (who applied once to the university but was not admitted) and Colin Dexter who used the ‘murder city’ Oxford as a background for his thirteen Morse detectives. It’s therefore not surprising that you’ll see many tourists and fans on the street while walking through the ‘decor of Oxford‘.
In addition to libraries and lecture halls, there are also many museums in Oxford, such as the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archeology, Museum of the History of Science, The Story Museum and the Oxford University Museum of Natural History which we visited.
This beautiful natural history museum is housed in an old building on Parks Road and shows age-old life-size skeletons, rocks and minerals. On the backside of the museum you also get access to the Pitt Rivers Museum, where archaeological and anthropological collections from the University of Oxford are exhibited.
While wandering through the small streets, we passed one historic building after another. Wonderful to see how everything has remained intact and is being used as they did centuries ago. Just like the round building in the center of Oxford that was built on behalf of John Radcliffe. This young successful student attended lectures at the age of 13 and built up a successful medicine career. Two years before he died, he thought that Oxford could still use an extensive and independent library. Even before construction began, Radcliffe died, but he described in his testament what Radcliffe Camera meant and how the library should be run.
Unfortunately, as a visitor you can’t go inside, but when you look through the windows you see students sitting at long tables. It gives you an idea how it is to study in Oxford. Back in the days and today.
In addition to historic buildings and other sights, Oxford also has many shops and eateries around the High Street, Market Street and Queen Street. Here you can also find The Covered Market Oxford where you can get local crafts, food and drinks.
Unfortunately it was Sunday so not everything was open. (see opening hours here) In the end we decided to go for a traditional (award winning) British pie at the Pieminister. This small conceptual eatery is an ideal spot for a quick lunch against a good price.
Time to continue our journey towards Oxford Castle, located behind the hypermodern shopping mall Westgate. This ruin of the Norman castle stands on the hill on the edge of the city center. The high hill on which the castle was built made it a lot easier for the defenders of Oxford to keep the attackers out of town. There is not much left of the once powerful castle, but the defense tower can still be visited.
Oxford is not very big, you can easily take a day for a nice walk along different sights. You can organize this yourself, but as mentioned earlier, you can also use one of the many tours that are organized. With almost all tours, you will walk around the city and learn more about the city in a fun informative way. The tours takes between one and two hours. Not all tours are given every day so check this in advance if you want to do a specific tour.
Would you like to have more information about the city, the university, museums and other sights? Please, take a look at the website of Oxford.