History and heritage, exquisite architecture, and an ancient University
xford is dominated by its world-famous University, with elegant spires pricking the skyline and impressive colleges at every turn. Having nurtured hundreds of great minds, England’s oldest university and its museums are inspirational. But there’s more to the city than intellectual pursuits: with a lively music scene and nightlife, there’s plenty of opportunities to let your hair down as well as massage those grey cells.
History and Heritage
With teaching starting in Oxford as far back as the 11th century, it’s no wonder that England’s oldest university has such a rarefied atmosphere and more than its fair share of history – soak it all up in any of the 38 colleges. If you’re feeling particularly brave descend into the 900 year old underground crypt at Oxford Castle which has been detaining criminals since 1071.
Arts and Culture
Check out where it all began at the Ashmolean Museum , the world's first public museum, which has works by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Picasso. Although home to the world’s best-preserved Dodo remains, The University Museum is alive and kicking with plenty of fascinating exhibits. For contemporary visual art visit Modern Art Oxford whereas theatre buffs should head to Oxford Playhouse.
Must See Attractions
Look out for Tolkien’s favourite tree at Oxford Botanic Gardens or visit the Bodleian Library for even more bibliophilic bliss. Spend the day at Winston Churchill’s birthplace, Blenheim Palace , and imagine yourself among the landed nobility of Queen Anne. Or retrace the footsteps of a Victorian prisoner and squeeze into a strait jacket at Oxford Castle Unlocked .
Food and Drink
Take a trip to the Big Bang restaurant in the trendy Jericho area of Oxford for a killer Full English or to experience the unusual combo of world-beating bangers and live jazz. For authentic Japanese home-cooking take those taste-buds to Edamame or head for the Victorian Covered Market for the excellent Pieminster café and Fasta Pasta deli.
Be-bop your way along to the Oxford Jazz festival which swings into town each April or make your summer with a weekend at Truck Festival which brings oodles of local charm and the best indie acts to Steventon. And for the chance to sup champagne and enjoy the boat races travel to Henley-on-Thames for the Royal Regatta - just don’t forget to don those blazers.
Music and Nightlife
Having spawned the formidable talent of Radiohead as well as the like Foals and Stornoway, Oxford has an impressive musical heritage. Head to Cowley Road to check out the latest acts at the Regal and O2 Academy or chat with local musos in the bustling bars.
The kids will go Potty with a tour around the city’s Harry Potter filming locations. Various sections of Hogwarts have been recreated in Oxford’s mighty colleges including the great hall at Christ Church . If wizards aren’t your thing then throw on some wellies and get down to Millets Farm for some animal magic or get your skates on and head to the Oxford Ice Rink .
The University has attracted movers and shakers for centuries, playing host to prime ministers, authors and scientists. Famous Oxonians include Margaret Thatcher, David Cameron, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Johnson, John Donne, Richard Dawkins, Albert Einstein and T. S. Eliot.
Psst... Handy Hints
The majority of the Oxford’s 38 colleges are free to visit in the afternoons.
If it’s raining then head for the Norrington Room of Blackwell Bookshop which claims to be the largest single room devoted to book sales in the whole of Europe.
Oxford Castle Unlocked
Tales of murder, romance, betrayal, escape and execution.Oxford Castle Unlocked
Sign up to our eNewsletter for the latest travel news, top events and great ideas for holidays and breaks in England.