The Radcliffe Camera, a reading room annexe of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, Oxfordshire county. Photo by Laemq
The focus of Oxford tourism is, of course, on the grand university area in the centre, the oldest English-speaking educational establishment in the world.
magnificent, tranquil colleges are, in a similar way to Cambridge
but more so, surrounded by the unfortunate trappings of modern
life - traffic, hideous concrete office structures, monotonous
suburban housing and light industry.
Still, once you battle through the encircling modern mess the
ancient university core - 'the city of dreaming spires' - is delightful, easily walkable and rewarding
with magnificent variety of ancient architecture and open green spaces offered by Christ Church Meadow, adjacent
to Christ Church and Merton colleges and providing very pleasant
walks along the Cherwell or Thames (known as the Isis in Oxford)
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Oxford High Street and Queens College. Photo by Doc Searls.
• Carfax crossroads and its tower on the High Street is a common
starting point for a walking tour.
• Merton college, separated from Christ Church Meadow by the
hardly tragic Dead Man's Walk, is one of the University's most
• up Rose Lane to Magdalene College and punt rental is available
on the River Cherwell.
• north of High Street is Oxford's best known sight, the circular
Radcliffe Camera building.
• another Christopher Wren contribution, the Sheldonian Theatre.
• the magnificent Ashmolean Museum, home to sensational ethnic antiquities of Egyptian,
Chinese and Islamic origins, as well as fine European paintings.
• the renowned Bodleian Library (guide tours only).
The Bodleian Library entrance, appropriately inscrutable and academic. Photo by Arnaud Malon.
Christ Church Cathedral, the chapel of Christ Church college as well as serving the diocese of Oxford. Photo by Decan.
• just south of High Street, Christ Church college is the university's biggest college, built in 16th century
and partly designed by Christopher Wren (architect of London's St Paul's Cathedral), with several spectacular buildings
including a Norman cathedral.
Christ Church college dining hall. Photo by chensiyuan.
A little history
It's not known exactly when Oxford University was founded but it was definitely a centre for teaching and learning around 1100 AD and expanded considerably in 1167 when many English scholars were expelled from the University of Paris.
Much of the land around Oxford is owned by varied colleges, including the free-to-enter University Parks in the north of the city, the huge Harcourt Arboretum in the south and the Botanic Garden in the centre, the third oldest scientific garden in the world. Christ Church Meadow is a public space that is popular for walks and canoodling.
Oxford's best seasons
Like much of central England the most sunshine and warmth is to be expected from May - August, with average highs of about 20C (68F) and lows of about 10C (50F). However, this is not statistically the driest time which is February - April, so if you want to avoid high season tourist crowds and don't mind some cloudy skies and lowish temperatures then this would be a decent time to visit the city. Highs of 7C - 12C (45F-54F) and lows of 1C-4C (32F-39F) can be expected at this time.
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