Oxford is a city steeped in the ancient and proud heritage of its world famous university. Made up of 38 beautifully designed colleges, this ancient seat of learning is just as famous as a sightseeing destination. Unsurprisingly, in a place dedicated to academic study, there is also an interesting selection of museums. Also, as a modern city it offers plenty of opportunities to eat, drink, shop and relax in green spaces. Its compact size makes Oxford an easy city to explore on foot, either independently or as part of a walking tour. Alternatively, the hop-on-hop-off bus service is a brilliant way to get your bearings and gives you the opportunity to visit attractions along the route as the mood takes you.
There are so many great places to visit in Oxford, and most of them are free!
Ranging in age from about 50 to 750 years, the University of Oxford’s colleges are dotted around all over the city centre and are impossible to miss when you visit Oxford. Some, like Christ Church College, Magdalen College and New College are magnificent landmarks, while others such as Harris Manchester College are smaller and more tucked away. Many of the colleges are open to the public, but it’s worth checking opening times if you have a particular college in mind. Traditionally separated into male and female colleges, St Benet’s Hall, the last college to admit women, changed its policy as recently as 2015. Opt for a guided tour or enjoy discovering the colleges at random as you explore.
Founded in 1683, the grand Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology is proud to be the oldest public museum in the world. Free to enter and part of the University of Oxford, it attracts huge numbers of visitors every year. Research and temporary exhibitions are an important part of the Ashmolean’s ethos. Also, the Raphael drawings in its art collection and the brilliantly preserved Egyptian mummies are two permanent highlights that are always popular. The Pitt Rivers Museum is a fascinating place to see the university’s anthropology and archaeology collection, including the famously creepy shrunken heads from the Amazon that enthral and scare in equal measure. Finally the University Museum of Natural History is a popular destination, particularly for children who delight in its dinosaur collection.
Green and Pleasant Places
University Parks is centrally located near Merton College and provide an urban oasis for students, locals and visitors alike. There’s plenty of space here to enjoy a picnic as you watch a student game of cricket or football in progress. The University of Oxford Botanic Garden is the oldest of its kind in the world, tracing its history as a physic garden back to 1621 and still delighting lovers of flora and fauna to this day. The Oxford Canal is perfect for trying out that most Oxbridge of pursuits, punting. Situated to the north-west of the city, Port Meadow is a beautiful open pasture area on the banks of the Thames and provides a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Sights of the City
Named for its similarity to its more famous Venetian sister, the Bridge of Sighs Skyway that connects two parts of Hertford College over New College Lane is one of the city’s most striking landmarks. For a shopping trip with a difference, don’t miss the centrally-located Oxford Covered Market where you can browse artisan gifts, local produce, crafts and jewellery. The Bodleian Library is another iconic university building, particularly for Harry Potter fans who will recognise it as the Hogwart’s library. Oxford Castle Unlocked is a fantastic guided tour that gives visitors the chance to climb the tower and descend into a 900-year-old crypt. Finally, every visitor to the dome-shaped Radcliffe Camera that houses the university’s science library leaves knowing that camera means room in Latin.