Home to the oldest and most revered university in the UK (and one of the most famous in the entire world!), the city of Oxford is overflowing with heritage and history on every street. Visitors will love the medieval churches, the gothic university buildings, and the surrounding beautiful countryside. The university was founded in the 12th century and is still one of the most respected (and hardest to get into) universities in the world. The River Thames runs through the city and rowing is an important part of student life, as well as partying, and studying of course. Annual events include Oxford May Music, which is held over a week in May but also includes science and arts as well as music. Oxford Pride is held in June, St. Giles Fair is in September, and the Christmas Light Festival is in November.
Things to do and see
Bodleian Library – Visit the main research library of the university and gawp at just how many books there are available. The only bigger library in the UK is in London, but this one wins for being the oldest at least.
University Church of St Mary the Virgin – Catch your breath with some organic tea and a cake in the church gardens after conquering the mighty church tower that dates back to 1280 and affords spectacular city views.
Queen’s College – Founded in 1341 but since rebuilt, visitors are not allowed inside unfortunately but can still marvel from outside at the stunning 18th century classical architecture.
Worcester College – Check out the medieval cottages dotted about this college building, as well as the magnificent grounds, complete with lake.
Christ Church – Tourists are allowed in this university building to get a true feeling of the structure from inside out, though you might recognise some parts as it was used for the filming of the first Harry Potter movie. Entry: around US$11
The Ashmolean Museum – Founded in 1683, this is the oldest museum in the UK. Here you can admire ancient art from Egypt, Greece, and Italy. Entry: Free
The Museum of Oxford – Take a wander around this pleasant museum to discover the city’s past and growth to what it has become today. Entry: Free
The River Thames – You can’t visit Oxford without a stroll down the Thames and once you’re there, why not hire a boat and punt down the river. Oxford Punting hires boats for US$30 an hour which fit up to five people. If not sure about punting, rowing boats and pedalos are also available for the same price.
Backpackers – Funky Hostels Oxford is located just minutes away from the train station and offers dorms with continental breakfast and a whole host of other services from around US$20 a night.
Bed & Breakfast – a fresh modern family-run hotel in North Oxford, the Remont Oxford has beautifully clean rooms starting from around US$200 a night.
Luxury – For something unique, as well as decadent, try the Malmaison Oxford, situated in a medieval castle which used to be a prison. With prices from around US$500 a night it’s not cheap, but definitely worth splashing out on. There is also a cocktail bar and brasserie onsite.
Oxford is only 50 miles away from London so it’s really easy to take a train or bus between the two cities. Oxford Bus Company offers flexible return tickets for about US$40 and trains can cost between US$30 and US$60 depending on whether you book online in advance. Once in Oxford, there’s really only two best ways to get around and they are walking and cycling. As soon as you arrive you will realise how important bicycles are here and what better way to feel more like a local than whizzing around town on two wheels:
Cycling – There are many places in town to hire a bike but to give an idea of price: Bike Zone offers daily rates from around US$27 and weekly rates from US$45.
Bus – There is a bus service in Oxford but it’s rather expensive and seeing as the city is so compact, it’s far better to walk and take in the sights.
Taxis – Hail a black cab on the street or call for a private service. A pricey but convenient way of getting around the city.
Ice cream – There are now three G&D’s in Oxford and they are wildly popular for their delicious ice cream in interesting flavours such as Oxford blue, Turkish Delight, and Crunchie bar. Price guide: Budget
French – This small and cosy French brasserie run by Raymond Blanc serves up beautiful dishes in a romantic setting. Price guide: Mid-range to expensive
Fish and Chips – Carfax Chippy is the best place around for fish and chips fried fresh for each customer. Price guide: Budget
Luxury – The Randolph Hotel serves up fine British cuisine in a beautiful stately dining room. It’s also a great place to enjoy traditional English afternoon tea. Price guide: Expensive
Pub – There are hundreds of great pubs in Oxford but for an ancient pub with a cosy pub garden and fires where you can roast marshmallows, head to the Turf Tavern.
Cocktails – Delicious and varied cocktails are mixed at fashionable and swanky Raoul’s.
Tiki Bar – Head to Lo La Lo’s for a fun Hawaiian-themed night complete with mai-tais served in novelty goblets.
Club – Dance the night away at Baby Love which is spread over two floors and hosts a gay night every Tuesday.
Shopping and Markets
Souvenirs – There are plenty of shops in the centre of Oxford where you will find tasteful as well as not-so items.
Market – Oxford’s covered market is the oldest in Britain and is a wonderful place to spend the day browsing the stalls and marvelling at some of the more unusual items. There is a lovely little café when you need a break for a cup of tea and a piece of cake too.