Oxford has been a place I’ve longed to visit for years- a city synonymous with excellence in education and research, in a beautiful and historic setting. Easily reached by train or bus from London, the city provides a perfect day trip or weekend getaway from the capital.
Here are my favourite 5 things to do in the City of Dreaming Spires.
1. Marvel at the Bodleian Library and Bridge of Sighs
Opened in 1602, the Bodleian Library (or ‘the Bod’ as locals refer to it) houses over 12 million items which are primarily used for reference- meaning they can’t be taken from the library reading rooms. The most famous part of the library is the Radcliffe Camera– the stunning round building. To get the best view of the ‘Rad Cam’ go inside the neighbouring Church of St Mary the Virgin and up the church tower. Be sure to go early in the day as the line can become quite long later on.
The nearby Hartford Bridge, more commonly known as the Bridge of Sighs is a replica of the Ponte dei Sospiri in Venice and also worth a visit.
2. Visit the University Colleges
The University of Oxford has 38 Colleges and 6 Permanent Private Halls of Religious Foundation. If you’re a student or staff member at the University, you must belong to one of these colleges, with everything from accommodation, dining, drinking and studying occurring within them. The oldest is University College which was founded in 1249 and boasts alumni such as Stephen Hawking, C.S Lewis and Bill Clinton.
I was lucky enough to get free entry to the colleges as I visited with a friend who is a researcher at the University. Normally entrance is between 3-6£ per college.
If you only visit one, I’d recommend Christ Church as it’s impressively grand and one of the film locations for Harry Potter. Especially look out for the Cloisters, Bodley Tower Staircase and the Dining Hall. Here you’ll also find a stained glass window dedicated to Lewis Carol’s works.
3. Enjoy brunch at Handle Bar Cafe
This place is run by a couple of French guys and not only provides a relaxed vibe and interesting decor, but delicious brunch and coffee with sustainably sourced ingredients. Arrive before you’re starving as it can become pretty busy on the weekends and you may need to wait for a table. More info here.
4. Have a drink at one of the classic pubs
There are many traditional old pubs in Oxford with my favourite being Turf Tavern which dates back to 1381! You’ll find it down a tiny alley (St. Helen’s Passage) next to the Bridge of Sighs- opposite the Bodleian Library. It was here in 1963 that legendary Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke set the Guinness World Record for drinking a yard glass of ale in 11 seconds.
Other local favourites include Bear Inn (established in 1242) and the King’s Arms. If cocktails are more your thing try FREVD cocktail bar.
5. Step into the largest single room selling books in the world
Blackwell’s Bookshop on Broad Street was founded in 1879 and boasts the largest single room selling books worldwide- the Norrington Room. A must for any book lovers, my favourite thing was the mystery books wrapped in brown paper with elusive blurbs.
If you have time to spare then check out the Natural History Museum on Parks Road- entry is free!