The Best of Oxford | Recommended Places to Stay & Visit

Oxford, famously known as the “City of Dreaming Spires,” is steeped in a rich tapestry of history, education, and architecture, making it an essential destination for those visiting the UK. Known worldwide for its prestigious University of Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world, the city offers a blend of medieval charm interwoven with the dynamism of a bustling modern city.

Exploring the University of Oxford

The University of Oxford is not just a single campus but a collection of 38 colleges and numerous halls spread throughout the city, each with its own unique history and character. A visit to Oxford would be incomplete without exploring some of these colleges. Christ Church is perhaps the most famous, not only for its impressive architecture and historical significance but also because it has been a filming location for movies like "Harry Potter". The college’s dining hall was the inspiration for Hogwarts’ Great Hall, and its elegant staircases and cloisters attract visitors from around the globe.

Magdalen College is another must-see, with its beautiful cloistered courtyards, a deer park, and a tower that dominates the Oxford skyline. Every May Morning, locals and visitors alike gather at the base of Magdalen Tower to hear the college choir sing traditional May Day hymns—a tradition not to be missed if you're in town at the time.

Beyond the Colleges

While the colleges are a highlight, Oxford's charm extends well beyond them. The Bodleian Library, one of the oldest libraries in Europe, is home to over 12 million items and is a marvel for book lovers and architecture enthusiasts. Tours are available, offering an insight into the library’s historical significance and its role in education and research over the centuries.

The Oxford University Museum of Natural History and the adjoining Pitt Rivers Museum are also worth visiting. The former is renowned for its neo-Gothic architecture and extensive collections of geological and zoological specimens, including the famous Oxford Dodo. The Pitt Rivers, meanwhile, offers a quirky, almost overwhelming collection of anthropological artifacts, arranged in a Victorian-style display that's both educational and slightly eccentric.

Practical Tips for Visitors

Navigating Oxford is relatively easy; the city center is compact and can be explored comfortably on foot. For those looking to venture further, bicycles are widely used by locals and tourists alike and are available for rent at numerous locations around the city. Public buses also provide good coverage, including routes to nearby attractions such as Blenheim Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site just a short ride away.

Dining in Oxford caters to a wide range of tastes, with cosy pubs, international cuisine, and fine dining restaurants all on offer. Don’t miss trying some local ales and visiting historic pubs like The Eagle and Child, famous as a meeting spot for writers C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Unique to Oxford

A truly unique Oxford experience involves punting along the Cherwell River, particularly in the warmer months. Renting a punt and gliding along the waterways offers a tranquil perspective of the city, floating past lush meadows and under ancient bridges, providing a quintessential Oxford experience.

With its stunning architecture, deep academic traditions, and vibrant cultural scene, Oxford offers a blend of intellectual stimulation and picturesque beauty, making it a captivating destination for any traveler.