Britain's oldest university city
Without Oxford, there’d be no Lord of the Rings, we’d never have discovered Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and we’d be without one of Britain’s most beautiful cities. This academic city is home to over 800 years of history and an alluring, cosmopolitan buzz.
Oxford’s history extends way beyond its famous attractions. Don’t miss the chance to eat at the Old Parsonage Hotel where Oscar Wilde is said to have stayed, and enjoy a pint at the Eagle & Child pub - the regular meeting place of JRR Tolkien and his literary group, the Inklings. If it’s fine dining you’re after, head to the nearby village of Great Milton where you’ll find Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons - a 2 Michelin-starred restaurant run by iconic French chef Raymond Blanc.
Oxford is home to the oldest university in the English-speaking world. Here you can enjoy Oxford sightseeing by walking in the footsteps of world leaders, saints and Nobel prizewinners at any of the 38 colleges. Alternatively, at Oxford Castle, you can walk in the footsteps of prisoners at the 900 year-old underground crypt, which detained prisoners from 1071-1996. The Ashmolean Museum was the world's first public museum, founded in 1683. Today, it’s one of the most important museums of art and archaeology in Britain.
Oxford’s university buildings boast some of Britain’s most impressive architecture. In fact, poet Matthew Arnold named Oxford ‘the city of the dreaming spires' in reference to the many spires that crown the university buildings.
Our highlights? The Bodleian Library, Radcliffe Camera and Sir Christopher Wren's Sheldonian Theatre. Another of Oxford’s cultural highlights is the jam-packed events calendar - don’t miss the Oxford Literary Festival, Oxford Jazz Festival and the Oxford Chamber Music Festival.
You may have heard of a little-known literary series named after a wizard called Harry Potter. Oxford's sights have a strong connection to the feature films, and little ones will be delighted to discover the other side of the world-famous colleges. The Grand Hall of Oxford’s mighty Christ Church College was the inspiration for the design of Hogwarts’ Great Hall, and the Bodleian Library, New College and Blenheim Palace have all been Potter filming locations.
Oxford’s literary connections are legendary – it was home to C.S Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Oscar Wilde to name a few. It was here that author Lewis Carroll met a young Alice Liddell, who became his inspiration for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. The city’s historical attractions are plentiful too - don’t miss Kelmscott Manor - the home of poet and craftsman William Morris - and the amazing Blenheim Palace, considered to be one of the finest baroque houses in the country.
By day, Oxford is a quiet, peaceful city. But when the sun goes down, the city comes alive with vibrant bars, clubs and music venues. If you love live music, head to Cowley Road, where you’ll find the Regal and O2 Academy. In the city centre, you’ll find some of the city’s most popular watering holes on George Street and Magdalen Street, or for something different, explore the bohemian district of Jericho.
If it’s a unique shopping experience you want, you’ve come to the right place. As well as traditional high street shops, the city centre is home to the Covered Market - a lively mix of small stalls selling everything from handmade gifts to Oxford sausages and antiquarian books. Label lovers should head straight to the amazing Bicester Village. This designer outlet village sells collections from over 130 boutiques like Alexander McQueen, Burberry and Mulberry at up to 60% off all year round.
Oxford is packed full of fascinating places to discover. At Oxford Botanic Garden, you can sit under J.R.R. Tolkien’s favourite tree – said to be the one that inspired the tree-like Ents characters in The Lord of the Rings. And as you walk around the city, look up at the intricately carved gargoyles and grotesques that cling to the buildings. The mysterious faces have been there for hundreds of years – why not take a tour to discover the stories behind some of the most famous ones?