My first trip overseas was a visit to London, England over twenty years ago. London has much to offer, but the highlight of the week for me was a daytrip to Oxford University, founded in the 12th century, which lies approximately 52 miles northwest of London. We took the Orient Express out of London and arrived in Oxford an hour later. Having spent my adult years in the field of education, it was a privilege to spend some time in the oldest university in the English-speaking world.
Colleges at Oxford
The University of Oxford is located on the River Thames which in Oxford is known as The Isis. Oxford does not have a campus as such but is home to forty colleges, many of which welcome tourists into their buildings. Christ Church is one of the largest of these colleges, and was founded in 1525 by Cardinal Wolsey. It is noted today for its use in all the Harry Potter films to date as well as the backdrop for the movies Brideshead Revisited, Young Sherlock Holmes and Tomorrow Never Dies.
Magdalen College, pronounced maudlin, is one of the most beautiful colleges and also welcomes visitors. Famous Magdalen alumni include C. S. Lewis and Oscar Wilde. We walked the beautiful grounds in front of Magdalen and watched students playing some sort of Frisbee game. From there, we walked through some narrow streets which housed boutiques and restaurants. I had my first taste of Shepherd’s Pie in the restaurant we discovered at the end of a long alley.
Other Oxford colleges include Balliol, University, and Merton Colleges, each of which claim to be the oldest college in the University, founded in the 13th century. These three structures demonstrate the typical Gothic architecture for which Oxford is renowned. Queens College is one of the few buildings which does not invite tourists. One of the best online resources for planning a visit to Oxford is the Virtual Tour of Oxford which you can access by clicking here.
Bodleian Library is the main research library at the University of Oxford and one of the oldest libraries (1602) in Europe. It is second in size only to London’s British Library.
Radcliffe Camera in Radcliffe Square functions as a reading room for Oxford students. It is not generally accessible to visitors but its grand exterior is well worth viewing.
Hertford Bridge is a quaint pedestrian bridge used by the students of Hertford College which has become known as the Bridge of Sighs of Oxford.
The Sheldonian Theatre on Broad Street is an unusual building renowned as Sir Christopher Wren’s first major architectural commission.
Pubs, bars and restaurants, as well as hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses abound in the city of Oxford. Museums, picture galleries, parks, botanical gardens, theatres and concert halls add much to the charm that is Oxford.
Oxford is accessible by train, bus, coach or car for reasonable fees. It is best to book in advance and online for your best price.