Oxford is the UK’s oldest university city, even older than its arch rival Cambridge, and in the words of Miss Jean Brodie, home to the crème de la crème. The city is rampant with ‘Dreaming Spires’, medieval churches and golden sandstone college buildings, but as well as being a bastion of the establishment and all things traditional, Oxford is a hub of light industry and technology. The student population is big but doesn’t totally dominate the city, which is always busy with office workers and tourists.
The University of Oxford was founded in the 12th Century and boasts 40 colleges and buildings, including the famous Bodleian Library, which is just a tad smaller than the British Library, and world class museums including the Ashmmolean, the UK’s oldest public museum. You almost feel as if you know the place when you arrive, Oxford’s magnificent Gothic facades having been a feature in many films – Christ Church, in particular has featured in Brideshead Revisited and the Harry Potter films. Christ’s’ college chapel is Oxford Cathedral, the smallest cathedral in the UK.
Oxford’s Top 10
10. The Oxford Playhouse is where high brow productions are staged.
5. Oxford Castle Unlocked Visit a medieval motte and bailey, and listen to grisly tales from an 11th Century crypt.
9. The New Theatre is rife with ageing rock stars and blockbuster theatrical productions.
4. Balliol College Founded in 1263 and thought to be the oldest in Oxford.
8. OK they may seem a bit naff but the City Sightseeing Hop-on Hop-Off buses are a great way to take in all the sights in Oxford.
3. The Old Library Where JRR Tolkien spent hours writing Lord of the Rings. TS Eliot also hung out in this 13th Century building.
7. Have a Drink to Chief Inspector Morse at the tiny White Horse public house. It was the TV detective’s favourite haunt.
2. Magdalen College Pronounced ‘Maud-lin’ to those in the know. Now you know too.
6. Carry on up the Isis on a cruise along the Oxford part of the Thames, passing college boathouses and riverside pubs on the way.
1. The University Museum of Natural History – includes a dodo skeleton, and shrunken heads from the Caribbean! Unmissable.
Eights Week features four days of racing on the Isis (as the Thames is known in Oxford). Head down to cheer on the rowers during June.
Oxford Castle Flower & Gardening Festival is free and full to the brim with workshops, demos, and floral surprises in June.
Summer Music in the Ampitheatre is a concert of classical music and chance for a picnic in the ornamental gardens at Waterperry, Oxford, in late June.
July sees the famous London to Oxford Bike Ride, a 60 mile race which takes place at the beginning of July.
Oxford Bike Week brings cycling enthusiasts galore to the city for Bikers’ breakfasts, Bike Doctor sessions and lots more, at the end of June, with various meeting places.
The Oxford Moonlight Stroll starts at St Edward’s School before heading into Oxford’s centre, taking in all the landmark attractions on the way. Takes place in July for charity.
The Cowley Road Carnival is a summer highlight in Oxford, and one of the biggest community events in the SE of England. There will be music, stalls, processions and family activities at South Park during July.
The Out to Graze Festival is a weekend of music featuring reggae, funk, D’n’B, House, Hip Hop – basically there’s something for everyone, at this Oxford July event.
Truck Festival takes place in late July at Hill Farm just outside Oxford. This is one of the best independent small festivals in the UK (now in its 134th year!). Think Woodstock meets village fete.
Oxford Castle Food & Wine Festival Celebrate what keeps us alive (well the food bit anyway) in September.
When To Go
Oxford has a mild, maritime climate throughout the year, with no real highs and lows.
Temperatures in summer range from around 10-22 °C, but there is the occasional long hot summer. In winter expect to see temperatures of 1°C with temps during a really cold spell dropping below zero.
Oxford experiences the same amount of rainfall in general, as the rest of the UK with showers a possibility any day of the year. Pack plenty of waterproofs just in case.
London Heathrow and Gatwick are linked to Oxford by The Airline Coach Company, a service which runs 24/7. The fares are very reasonable, at just £19 for a return ticket from Heathrow.
Trains run from London Paddington every half hour at a cost of £20 one way, and journey time of an hour. Cheaper tickets can be obtained if you book well in advance.
Oxford is close to the M40 and M25 (or highway to hell if you prefer), but if you’re driving be aware that parking in Oxford is a nightmare and very expensive.
The home of the venerable University of Oxford, one of the most important academic institutions in the world, is a terrific town, with many wonderful points of interest to discover. The town of 150,000 people in South East England is less than 100 km from London but feels resolutely distinct from the vast metropolis that is the capital city. Most points of interest in Oxford center of course, on the historic university. With roots that extend back to the 10th century, the campus is peerless when it comes to vital museums, collections and pristine period architecture. Worthwhile landmarks in association with the university include the Radcliffe Camera, Ashmolean Museum, Pitt Rivers Museum and Museum of the History of Science. The heart of Oxford is the wonderful, if not diminutive, City Centre. A perfect location for pedestrians, a trip to the top of Carfax Tower for superb views of the city is a must.
Oxford has a maritime temperate climate, with mild conditions throughout the year.
- Winter (December to February) 1-7°C
- Spring (March to May) 3-17°C
- Summer (June to September) 10-22°C
- Fall (October to November) 4-14°C
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