Oxford Travel Guide

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The main reason why most people settle on an Oxford trip – which is only 55 miles from London and easily accessible by car or rail, is to explore London’s surrounding areas during a day trip, fancy themselves a student at the world famous Oxford University or pay homage to C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Inklings. Many visitors decide to make a night of it in order to hit all of Oxford’s major attractions. Luckily, historic, luxury hotels like Old Parsonage ( www.oldparsonage-hotel.co.uk) or The Randolph ( www.randolph-hotel.com) are yours for the taking.

Although Oxford University is not as exclusive as it used to be in the old days, the rowing contests between Oxford and Cambridge still take place and many of the colleges are not open to the public when the stressful time of important exams shows its face again to the students with a good scholarship or a copiously filled wallet. However, when they are accessible to the public, the thirty university 'castles' are a must-see.

The university’s 40 colleges are scattered all throughout town and altered with historical buildings showing the impressive architectural character of several periods. Take for example the Bodleain Library, which is the second-largest library in the country. Magdalen College, with its cloisters and deer park, was the learning school of Oscar Wilde. Hertford College is the place to go to when you want to see one of Oxford's other famous sights, the Bridge of Sighs, whose design was based on the Ponte dei Sospori in Venice.

Besides that, Oxford is prepared for its students and visitors and offers, besides historical sights and several good museums, a vibrant shopping and commercial area with plenty of shops, Oxford restaurants, and cafes. Try the number one restaurant in Oxford for fine dining – Brasserie Blanc ( www.brasserieblanc.com) Additionally, Oxford has a somewhat reserved nightlife scene where the arts reign supreme. The Garsington Opera, Oxford Coffee Concerts, and The Oxford Playhouse are popular as well as the New Theatre. If you’re just interested in a pint, you’re in luck. Packed pubs are plentiful due to the huge student population. So it's up to you to decide whether you’ll indulge in a rowing trip on the River Cherwell, walk the cobbled streets of Oxford or see a Shakespearean play performed in one of the many theatres.

Top Ten Things to Do in Oxford

Carfax Tower - At every quarter hour, two "quarter boys" hit the clock bells on the east facade of the structure that was once the 1818 St. Martin's church. Now demolished, the tower is all that remains. It's well worth the workout -- so climb the 99 steps to the tower to enjoy spectacular views of Oxford's "Dreaming Spires." Carfax Tower is located at the junction of St. Aldates/Cornmarket Street and High Street/Queen Street, Oxford.

Radcliffe Camera and Bodleian Library - This is not your everyday "library." The building was built from 1737-1749 in Italian Baroque style. It has one of the largest domes in all of Britain and it is home to a collection of more than 6 million volumes. The three sections of the library: Old Library, Radcliffe Camera, and New Library. Bodleian Library made an appearance in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Catte Street, Oxford UK, Ph: +44 0 1865 277000, E-mail: reader.services@bodley.ox.ac.uk, Website: www.bodley.ox.ac.uk.

University of Oxford Botanic Garden - Spread out over three elaborate sections are 7,000 different types of plants, making the collection one of the most diverse collections on the planet. The three sections inlcude: The Glasshouses, the area outside the Walled Garden and the Black Border and Autumn Borders. Rose Lane, Oxford UK, Ph: +44 0 1865 286690, E-mail: postmaster@obg.ox.ac.uk, Website: www.botanic-garden.ox.ac.uk.

Brasserie Blanc - Brasserie Blanc is the best place in Oxford for fine French food and excellent wines. Lunch and Dinner are served daily from noon-2:45 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, noon-11:00 p.m. Saturday, and noon-10:00 p.m. Sunday. The popular and well-respected Brasserie Blanc also has restaurants in Cheltenham, Leeds, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Tunbridge Wells, and Winchester. 71-72 Walton Street, Oxford UK, Ph: +44 0 1865 510999, E-mail: oxford@brasserieblanc.com, Website: www.brasserieblanc.com

Magdalen College - Founded in 1448 as Magdalen Hall, Magdalen College is considered the most impressive of all Oxford's colleges. The campus stretches across hundreds of acres of riverside walks, lawns, and woodlands. It's famous Deer Park houses the college's 300 year old herd. Just a few notable attractions include: Addison's walks (one of Oxford's best walks), Fellow's Gardens, 57 species of birds, and Magdalen's Great Tower. FYI: Famous alums include: Oscar Wilde, Dudley Moore, and Cardinal Wolsey. Tours are available. High Street, Oxford UK, Ph: +44 0 1865 276052 (tours); +44 0 1865 276000 (general), Website: www.magd.ox.ac.uk.

Blackwell's Books - From antiques and art to travel and true crime, Blackwell's Books has the one of the largest selection of books in the world. Established in 1879 by Benjamin Henry Blackwell, B.H. Blackwell's opened its doors on one of the most celebrated days of the year around the world -- New Years Day. 50 Broad Street, Oxford UK, Ph: +44 0 1865 333000, E-mail: mail.ox@blackwell.co.uk, Website: www.bookshop.blackwell.co.uk.

Museum of the History of Science - The Old Ashmolean on Broad Street is the world's oldest surviving purpose-built museum building. It houses a collection of roughly 10,000 historic scientific instruments. The Museum's reference library is home to thousands of manuscripts, incunabula, prints, printed ephemera, and early photographic material. Broad Street, Oxford UK, Ph: +44 0 1865 277280, Website: www.mhs.ox.ac.uk.

Christ Church - Not only is Christ Church one of the largest colleges in the University of Oxford, it is also the Cathedral Church for the Diocese of Oxford. In just one visit, you will see why visitors flock here to explore the immaculate grounds and the spectacular interiors. You will also see (right away) why numerous scenes from the Harry Potter movies were shot here. The main gate to Christ Church, Tom Gate, is situated on St. Aldates, near the centre of the city. Christ Church, Oxford UK, Ph: +44 0 1865 276150 or +44 0 1865 276492, E-mail: tourism@chch.ox.ac.uk. Website: www.chch.ox.ac.uk.

Sheldonian Theatre - Designed by Sir Christopher Wren and erected 1664-1668, the Sheldonian Theatre has been described as "one of the architectural jewels of Oxford," by the European Commission. In addition to serving as a functional building of the University of Oxford, the structure has been used for conferences (seating capacity 1,000) and concerts for up to 800 guests. Tickets for concerts are available from the Oxford Playhouse ( www.oxfordplayhouse.com). University of Oxford Sheldonian Theatre, Broad Street, Oxford UK, Ph: +44 0 1865 277299, E-mail: custodian@sheldon.ox.ac.uk, Website: www.sheldon.ox.ac.uk. 

Old Parsonage Hotel - This beautiful 17th century hotel is located next to St. Giles Church in a dimunitive garden that offers the perfect break from the city. The hotel is quite pricey (roughly £137.59/$270US per night), but well worth it. On site you will find an elegant lobby lounge, the Parsonage Bar offering some of the best live Jazz in Oxford, restaurants serving excellent international fare, and twenty-six simple but elegant rooms and our spacious suites. 1 Banbury Road, Oxford UK, Ph: +44 0 1865 310210, E-mail: reception@oldparsonage-hotel.co.uk, Website: www.oldparsonage-hotel.co.uk.

Contributors

December 09, 2005 change by paulrouse

June 08, 2008 change by mcburton

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