Oxford City Centre
From prison to palace, treasure vault to the private zoo, the magnificent Tower of London has fulfilled many different roles down the centuries. One of Britain’s most iconic structures, this spectacular World Heritage Site offers hours of fascination for visitors curious about the country’s rich history – after all, so much of it happened here. Inside the massive White Tower, built in 1078 by William the Conqueror, is the 17th-century Line of Kings with its remarkable displays of royal armaments and armor. Other highlights include the famous Crown Jewels exhibition, the Beefeaters, the Royal Mint, and gruesome exhibits about the executions that took place on the grounds. The adjacent Tower Bridge, its two huge towers rising 200 feet above the River Thames, is one of London’s best-known landmarks.
Christ Church Cathedral
Although the present building dates from the 12th century, Christ Church in Aldate’s Street, acquired cathedral status in 1546. The most striking feature in the interior is the double arcading of the nave, creating an impression of much greater height. In the south transept is the Thomas Becket window (1320) and five glass windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones and made by William Morris in 1871. The grave of philosopher George Berkeley (1681-1735), who gave his name to the town of Berkeley in California, is also located at the cathedral.
Also in Broad Street, Built in 1664, the Sheldonian Theatre was Sir Christopher Wren’s second major building and is used for the university’s annual Commemoration. The Museum of the History of Science – housed in the Old Ashmolean Building, the world’s first purpose-built museum building – is a fascinating facility that specializes in the study of the history of science and the development of western culture and collecting. The museum includes the blackboard that Albert Einstein used during his Oxford lectures of 1931.
Radcliffe Square in Broad Street is home to the Old Schools Quadrangle (1613) and the Radcliffe Camera (1737), a rotunda that originally housed the Radcliffe Library in Oxford University. The 16-sided room on the ground floor is now a reading room for the Bodleian Library, the university library, and the country’s first public library, founded in 1598. A copy of every book published in Britain is deposited here, including some two million volumes and 40,000 manuscripts. From the library, you can also explore the magnificent Divinity School.
With the evidence of teaching in 1096, University of Oxford is indeed the main attraction and reason for this city’s fame. It is the second oldest university in the world and has the first academic rank according to The World University Ranking
This campus consists of 38 Colleges. Bill Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, Stephan Hawking, Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) are the notable Alumni of this University.
Pedestrian-friendly Cornmarket Street, commonly known as the “Corn,” is Oxford’s busiest shopping street. Along with its many big-brand shops and department stores, the street is also home to the historic Golden Cross arcade, popular for its craft and jewelry shops, and the Covered Market, dating from 1774 and housing an eclectic mix of food retailers. Also of interest is the former Crew Inn, where Shakespeareis said to have stayed on his journey between Stratford and London, and St. Michael’s Church, notable for its early Norman tower.
Eagle and Child Pub
Nicknamed The Bird and Baby, is a historic pub in St. Giles Street, Oxford a small, narrow building, the pub reputedly served as the lodgings of the Chancellor of the Exchequer during the English Civil War (1642–49) when Oxford was the Royalist capital. The landmark served as a playhouse for the Royalist army, and pony auctions were held in the rear courtyard. These claims are inconsistent with the earliest date usually given for construction of the pub. When in Oxford, why not visit ‘The Eagle and Child’ pub and discover its unique history with some of the greatest writers in English history. In this pub, at around the year 1939 to 1962, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis regularly met.
In Woodstock, just eight miles northwest of Oxford, is Blenheim Palace, the seat of the dukes of Marlborough and the Spencer-Churchill familyand birthplace of Winston Churchill. This magnificent 200-roomed palace was built between 1701 and 1724 for John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough, with the financial support of Queen Anne, who wished to express her thanks to the Duke for his victory in 1704 over the French at the Battle of Blenheim, an event commemorated on the ceiling of the Great Hall. Another highlight is the chance to explore the magnificent gardens, with their French Rococo borders, and the Capability Brown designed parklands. Other outdoor attractions include Italian gardens and herb gardens, a butterfly house, and a maze.
The Jam Factory
Located in the old Frank Cooper jam and marmalade factory, a beautiful early 20th-century brick building purpose-built for the company’s jam producing needs, The Jam Factory has since been converted into a contemporary restaurant, bar and art gallery. The venue is now dedicated to supporting artists and promoting the local cultural scene through exhibiting artworks, running classes and workshops, and offering a free space for live acts to perform. The bar, meanwhile, offers an extensive drinks menu, from craft beers and real ales, to a varied wine selection to suit everybody’s tastes, making The Jam Factory an excellent spot to relax over a few drinks in an unusual yet beautiful setting.
Vaults and Garden
This central café has got it covered whatever the weather. If it’s raining, cosy up inside under the stunning vaulted ceilings of the University’s Old Congregation House with a hot chocolate; if the sun is shining head out into the garden, and enjoy your tea with incredible views of Radcliffe Camera. Vaults and Garden serves breakfast and lunch, as well as a good selection of cakes and scone, but it’s the little extras – like offering picnic blankets in the summer and hot water bottles in the winter – that makes this place so special.
The Duke of Cambridge
Classy, elegant and old-fashioned, The Duke of Cambridge epitomises the classic cocktail bar and is the perfect destination for post-dinner drinks, or to simply unwind on a Friday evening in a beautiful setting. Stepping inside, guests are greeted by dramatic, glittering chandeliers, dark polished wooden floors and curved sofas set into the wall, perfect for relaxing and socialising. The drinks menu is extensive, ranging from classic favourites such as the Cosmopolitan and Sex on the Beach, to quirky twists on the Martini, including the Crème Brûlée, vanilla vodka and butterscotch schnapps shaken with cream. The Duke of Cambridge offers a generous Happy Hour seven days a week.
The Natural Bread Company
If the smell of freshly baked bread doesn’t draw you into the café, the display of tempting cakes and pastries will! The Natural Bread Company is an artisan bakery in the heart of Oxford, with a small café inside. Here you can sample first-hand the delicious freshly made produce; whether that’s sourdough toast with your Full English or an afternoon pot of tea with a slice of homemade orange polenta cake. And of course it would be rude not to stock up on some warm loaves and pastries at the shop before you leave…!
The Old Personage Afternoon Tea
Where in Oxford is best for afternoon tea?’ this is the question we sent out into the ether of local facebook groups and, for a special occasion, the answer was overwhelmingly in favour of The Old Parsonage. The nature and delightful sunshine as well as slate-coloured wooden panelling, intimate lighting, a quirky collection of portraits and stuffed fish (go figure) and two roaring open fires you can feel as though you have stepped into the Parson’s personal study.
The Ashmolean Museum is known across the country for its fantastic collection of art and artefacts, but few know of its equally fantastic rooftop restaurant, famed for its afternoon tea. There are lots of different teas to choose from, or prosecco if you choose the ‘Celebration Tea’, perfect for accompanying their selection of cakes, temptingly placed on display in the centre of restaurant. The Ashmolean building itself is magnificent, and was refurbished in 2009, modernising the interior whilst preserving all that is architecturally brilliant in its classical values and appearance. There is, of course, a café downstairs but the real joy sits at the top of the building. This is the perfect spot for a well-deserved break from gallery hopping or to simply enjoy its unrivalled view of the roofs of Oxford, from behind the floor-to-ceiling glass windows or, English weather permitting, from outside on the terrace.
A restaurant combined with a punt station, the Cherwell Boathouse boasts one of the best views in the city. This allows you to look out over the river with a glass from their extensive wine list, which has won ‘Wine List of the Year’ from the Good Food Guide. Owned by the Verdin family since 1968, when the restaurant was first opened, the menu matches British ingredients with Gallic flair. Delicious, unusual dishes on the menu include an artichoke crème caramel, fillet of beef with foie gras and a white chocolate and cardamom mousse. A perfect end to a day spent enjoying Oxford’s many treasures is to indulge in a meal in this ideal spot overlooking the historic pastime of punting.
The Trout Inn
The Trout Inn is a well-known and well-loved historic pub located in Oxford’s Port Meadow, a large area of common land filled with flora and fauna just a few minutes walk from the centre of the city. Nestled on the banks of the River Thames, which runs through the meadow, the pub still retains many of its traditional features, including a listed wooden footbridge. Outside, tables and chairs in the garden area offer excellent views of the river, surrounding countryside and the pub’s beautiful stone building, while the interior boasts comfy sofas, roaring log fires and period features in a quaint dining room area.
Turl Street Kitchen
Not only does Turl Street Kitchen boast excellent quality food, meriting a place in the Good Food Guide, but it is housed in a building with a surprising history. Having begun life as lodgings for students of Exeter College in 1785, the space became a coffee house by 1820. In 1945, the Bahadur brothers opened the Taj Mahal restaurant on site, one of the first curry houses in the country. After a few years as the QI building and library, it is now home to a down-to-earth restaurant and café with a menu that changes daily, demonstrating their impressive commitment on sourcing local ingredients.
Opened in 2014 by Adam Tan, who formerly worked as front of house at Sojo, one of Oxford’s premier Chinese restaurants, Zheng is an inclusive affair. Named for Zheng He, the fabled explorer of the 15th century, the restaurant follows in his footsteps by including food from all over the Asian continent without skimping on quality. You can test your mettle against the intense heat of the Sichuanese ‘Grandmother’s Chilli’, savour the crunch of the Singaporean cereal prawns and enjoy the distinctive sweetness of Cantonese pork belly. Serving a Dim Sum menu on top of its impressive choice of dishes, Zheng is a must-visit restaurant for those wishing to sample Oxford’s up and coming culinary scene.
On walking into Atomic Burger you are greeted with a veritable explosion of popular culture, ideal for those who remember Saturday morning cartoons and MTV marathons. Atomic Burger’s décor is brash, fun and bold, just like their food. The burgers all have titles taken from popular culture, from the ‘Dolly Parton’ which comes with double patties and double bacon, to the ‘Boris Karloff,’ which is their take on the build-your-own. Each burger comes with a choice of sides, including their ‘sci fries’, traditional fries covered with a moreish rub made from chilli and garlic. Those with big appetites should also try one of their milkshakes, which come in alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions. The premises are small, so if you have trouble finding a table, try their sister restaurant Atomic Pizza further down Cowley Road, which also serves melt-in-the-mouth burgers.
Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons
A footpath lined with lavender winds its way up to a vine-covered manor house hotel and restaurant. Inside it’s even more fragrant: boasting two Michelin stars, this is a spot for special occasions – tasting menus are complex, delicate and very expensive. If things get really special, you can always book a five-star room upstairs.
Tour of Duke Humfrey’s Library
Duke Humfrey’s Library is the oldest reading room in the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford. Until 2015, it functioned primarily as a reading room for maps, music, and pre-1641 rare books;
This Library was used as the Hogwarts Library in the Harry Potter films.
The Story Museum
Alice’s Wonderland, Narnia, and Middle Earth were all worlds which emerged from the streets of Oxford, where fantasy authors Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien spent time writing. Yet Oxford’s significance in children’s literature was often overlooked until 2014, when the Story Museum opened its doors. Almost every room in the fantastical museum has something in it to touch, listen to, smell, or dress up in. Lining the walls of the Throne Room are hundreds of costumes for princesses, knights, and dragons to pose in on the Story Throne for photos. Here children can generate their own story titles by mixing together different words on a board.
The Headington Shark
About four months after the incident at Chernobyl, on August 9, 1986, Oxford-resident Bill Heine had a twenty-six-foot shark sculpture erected on his roof. Using cranes, Heine and sculptor John Buckley mounted the shark, head first, onto the roof in the middle of the night. That morning (which was also the 41st anniversary of the dropping of nuclear bomb “Fat Man” on Nagasaki), the headless shark began delighting curious onlookers; with the exception of town officials, that is.
Bill Heine, who still lives in the house today, says that the shark was assembled and properly placed to speak out against incidents such as Chernobyl and Nagasaki, as well as general government incompetence.
Oxford Electric Bell
This battery powered bell has been ringing since 1840 and is one of the worlds longest running science experiments. For over 170 years, the Oxford Electric Bell (also known as the Clarendon Dry Pile) has been chiming almost continuously, the composition of its power source uncertain. Currently located in the Clarendon Laboratory at the University of Oxford, the Bell is an experiment consisting of two brass bells each stationed beneath a dry pile battery, with a metal sphere (or ‘clapper’) swinging between them to produce a ring that has occurred on the order of 10 billion times.
The spot where three Protestant clergymen were burned at the stake during the reign of “Bloody Mary.” In the middle of the 16th century, during the reign of Queen Mary I of England (also known as “Bloody Mary” due to her brutal religious persecution), three Protestant clergymen were executed at this very spot in Oxford, now marked with a brick cross in the middle of the road. The Protestant martyrs, were brought before a commission at the Church of St Mary the Virgin and found guilty for not believing in transubstantiation, the change by which bread and wine becomes the body and blood of Christ. The first two men were put to death on October 16, 1555, while the later watched from the tower of the nearby Bocardo gaol (jail) at the Northgate. Hugh Latimer finally lost his appeal and was killed on the same spot on March 21, 1556.
The Alfred Jewel
One of Oxford’s greatest treasures likely belonged to the legendary King Alfred the Great. In the darkened galleries of the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, you’ll find an archeological treasure that, despite its diminutive size, is of priceless value to England and its history. The mysterious crystal likeness of a man can be seen in a teardrop shape enclosed within a golden dragon-headed frame. The pale figure stares at the viewer from under his mop of golden hair and clutches what appear to be two long-stemmed plants in his hands.