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Sightseeing in Oxford

Updated on March 6, 2012

The City of Dreaming Spires

It's the university which attracts the tourists to Oxford. The character of the city is provided by university and the impressive architecture of its buildings. Poet Matthew Arnold called Oxford the 'city of dreaming spires.'

The University of Oxford is made up 38 colleges which are spread around the city. The grandest is Christ Church College, which was founded in 1525 and has produced thirteen British prime ministers. The college has become popular with Harry Potter fans having appeared in several films. The oldest colleges are University College, Balliol and Merton. Many of the colleges are open to visitors.


A Place for Learning

A city of learning is a city of books. Plenty of those can be found in The Bodleian Library, a working library, housed in an impressive group of buildings at the historic heart of the University. Guided tours are available to various rooms.

Another iconic building is the Radcliffe Camera ('camera' means 'room'). Built in 1749 to house the Radcliffe Science Library, the Radcliffe Camera is now a reading room for the Bodleian Library.

The Radcliffe Camera

The Radcliffe Camera, Oxford
The Radcliffe Camera, Oxford

Remembering the Past

If examining artefacts from the past is your bag, check out the Ahsmolean Museum. It's the world's first university museum. The Museum of Natural History houses the University's scientific collections of zoological and geological specimens. Attached to that is the Pitt Rivers Museum, which is home to a fascinating collection of anthropological curiousities, including voodoo dolls and shrunken heads from the Caribbean.

Oxford Castle is another local attraction. Built in 1071, the castle was used as a prison until 1996. These days costumed tour guides take visitors on a tour though the castle's history. Part of the prison is now used as an upmarket hotel.

Carfax Tower, all that remains of the 13th century St. Martin's Church, is considered to be the centre of the city. A good view can be enjoyed from the top of the tower. The Saxon Tower of St. Michael at the North Gate is Oxford's oldest building. Dating back to 1040, the tower is so named because it used to be where the north gate was back when Oxford was surrounded by a city wall.

High Street, Oxford

When the Sun Shines

The Botanic Garden is the oldest botanic garden in Britain and well worth a visit when the sun is out. Christ Church Meadow is a pleasant place for a walk and picnic. The gates stay open until dusk. University Parks also provide plenty of scenic spots for outdoor lazing.

The Cherwell Boathouse is a family run boathouse on the River Cherwell where boats can be hired for punting. No trip to Oxford is complete without a session of punting on a perfect summer's day.

Peace and Tranquility

Christ Church Meadow, Oxford
Christ Church Meadow, Oxford


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    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 4 years ago from SW England

      Thank you kindly!

    • Snurre profile image

      Snurre 4 years ago

      @annart, thanks! I've been to some of them and it's been great. I'm following you now :)

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 4 years ago from SW England

      Searched for you and found some information about Morse's Oxford and pubs at the following site:

      You might find it interesting or it might be the starter for someone's hub!

    • Snurre profile image

      Snurre 4 years ago

      Reading this Hub brought happy memories of visiting Oxford and going to Evensong in Christchurch. Voted up and interesting.

      Any chance you could write a Hub about Inspector Morse's Oxford and his pubs?

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 5 years ago from SW England

      I love Oxford but haven't been for a while. It really is an impressive city with its 'dreaming spires'. This is a useful guide for those who don't know where to start! Then of course there's Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, not far away and well worth a visit whilst you're in those parts. Great hub.