Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, is a must-see destination for tourists and Britons alike. The home of some of our brightest and best minds of both today and yesteryear, it is also an historic and beautiful University city, woven with ancient alleyways, teeming with history and situated amid the green and pleasant surroundings of the River Thames.
While Oxford offers good shopping opportunities within its compact city centre, it is the majestic colleges and their surroundings which are the biggest draws.
For a small charge, you can tour the quad of Christ Church, which contains Oxford’s cathedral as well as the famous Tom Tower and whose Great Hall was used as Hogwarts in some of the Harry Potter scenes. While it costs to enter the college, you can wander in the famed Christ Church meadows for free, a walk which will find you skirting the banks of both the Thames, or the Isis as it is known within the city limits, and the Cherwell rivers.Common sights include the long-horned cattle which inhabit these meadows, and rowers practising on the river.
Other recommended activities including walking down the High and taking in the architecture of colleges such as Queen’s, crossing Magdalen Bridge and visiting the city’s Botanic Garden – the oldest in Britain – to marvel at the variety and colour of the species on display in both the greenhouses and the outdoor gardens. Visitors in July also get the chance to see the magnificent adjacent Rose Garden in full bloom. Magdalen College’s grounds, whose 100 acres famously include a deer park, are also well worth a visit, while the exterior of the circular and stunning Radcliffe Camera should not be missed.
Walking the Thames path is a beautiful way to explore the city, while still feeling like you are in the country.
Some Oxford hotels, such as the Four Pillars on Abingdon Road, offer easy access to this path – and indeed the pubs that can be found along its length. The Head of the River, with its prime waterside location and excellent food, deserves a special mention. Most of the best Oxford hotels can be found in close proximity to the centre and, despite the city’s fame, are reasonably priced for a night’s stay.
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, but still see some of its best sides, then a walk across the vast and beautiful Port Meadow to The Trout in Wolvercote, immortalised in TV’s Inspector Morse, is ideal. Locals swim in the Thames here if the weather is warm enough, and the meadow itself is so big that it never feels crowded, even on the sunniest days.