Oxford

High Street - All Souls College and University Church of St Mary the Virgin

With it's illustrious 1,100 year history and famous university Oxford has long been an attraction for visitors. Nowadays the city is extraordinarily busy no matter when you chose to visit so a bit of planning ahead is a good idea.

What to See

Colleges

Of course, most people visit Oxford to see the colleges and old buildings of the university but it is worth taking a tour to find your way around as finding them can often be a bit tricky in the rabbit warren streets. Most colleges charge a small fee for visitors to enter but many may prohibit visitors altogether or during certain hours. Be sure to read the notices at the entrance and be a polite visitor – Remember that these are primarily places of study and not museums.

All Souls College

Carfax Tower

Carfax Tower offers great views of the centre of the city. It is located just off the busy shopping street Cornmarket. A small entrance fee is charged.

Carfax Tower

Bodleian Library

One of the most famous buildings in the city, the Bodleian Library, established in 1602, is the second largest library in the UK (after the British Library in London). Just looking around the amazing buildings that make up the library is worth a visit.

Bodleian Library - Main Entrance

Entrance to the library is free but there are tours also available for a small fee (available from a small kiosk near the main entrance off of Catte Street).

Radcliff Camera

The Radcliff Camera is a spectacular library building in a square with the main Bodleian buildings to the north, All Souls College to the east, and University Church of St Mary the Virgin to the south.

University Church of St Mary the Virgin

The Weston Library on the north side of Broad Street is part of the Bodleian and is worth visiting for it's free series of exhibitions though it does not look like much from the outside with it's modern exterior standing out like a sore thumb (no, the picture above is NOT of the Weston Library!).

The Sheldonian Theatre

Located beside the Bodleian Library, The Sheldonian Theatre is the traditional location of university ceremonies and is actually quite small. There is a small entrance fee for visitors.

The Sheldonian Theatre

Next door is the small History of Science Museum which houses some unique artefacts including a blackboard used by Albert Einstein on his visit to the city. It is well worth a visit (an entrance fee is charged).

Bridge of Sighs

One of only three famous bridges of the same name (one in Venice and one in Cambridge) and the only one over a street rather than water, the Bridge of Sighs is not accessible to the public, connecting two university buildings across New College Lane (across the road from the Bodleian Library). A firm favourite with the tourists there are always groups having their photos here…

Bridge of Sighs

Christ Church

Christ Church may be overlooked as it is a walk to the south of the city centre but it is well worth a visit not only for the college itself but for it's magnificent gardens and grounds that are free to the public.

Christ Church

What to Do

Being a University town there are always plenty of things to do in Oxford, particularly during term time. Plays, recitals, musicals, and interactive experiences are frequently held so pick up a local paper or see the tourism sites to see what is on. Walking around the city it is often papered with posters for hundreds of events…

Where to Shop

Unsurprisingly there are some very good bookstores in Oxford, particularly Blackwell's Bookshop on Broad Street across from the Bodleian Library which is deception - From the outside it looks small but inside it stretches quite a distance back, up and even down. Indeed, the basement is something of a tourist attraction itself as it is the largest enclosed single room of it's kind with miles of shelves holding all manner of books.

Blackwell's

What might be easy to forget is that Oxford is a town where people actually live. It is not just students. The Covered Market Oxford on the High Street is a wonderful slice of nostalgia that has only been slightly encroached upon by the tourist shops so you can still buy your meat, vegetables and other household items in many independently owned shops. The fantastic interior with it's amazing high wood ceiling and windows is wonderful to see still in use.

Interior

Interior

We particularly enjoyed visiting a wonderful butcher shop “David John” which sells amazing meat and old-style pies.

David John Butchers

It is most definitely worth seeking out whether you are shopping for groceries or if it is just for a quick bite to eat.

Entrance

Getting Around

Public transport in and out of Oxford is generally by train at mainline station “Oxford” located a short distance west from the centre of the city. It is possible to drive into the city but parking is scarce and many streets are closed to traffic. Visitors are better served by using one of the “park and ride” services on the ring road of the city which offer frequent (and cheap) bus services into the city.

Alley

For tourists there are many options including hop on-hop off tour buses operating throughout the city centre but really it is easily walkable and there are numerous tours operating in the city including the free one I have tried which was very good, Footprints Tours, which can be booked online but you can also just show up at the meeting point on the day.

Walking Tour

Of course, locals and students alike use bicycles to get around so it is always a good idea to pay attention when crossing the road or even walking down alleys. Often they will ring their bells but other times they will be trying to pass you before you know it.

Bicycles

Bicycle rentals including “pay as you go” are available throughout the city.

Where to Eat

I have not found the dining in Oxford all that great due to the overcrowding of large restaurant chains offering nothing new. It is worth while seeking out some of the surviving old pubs in the city such as tiny “The Bear” with it's collection of cut-off ties (evidently from a pub owner who took offence at the wearing of these items so cut them off when you leaned over the bar…).

The Bear

Further Information