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A guide to the city of Oxford

Updated on November 21, 2012

Everything you need to know about the city of dreaming spires

Oxford is, without a doubt, one of my favourite places in England. Known as the city of 'dreaming spires' due to the many towers and turrets of the university and the city churches, Oxford has inspired many a writer, poet and artist over the centuries. The city combines breath-taking architecture with beautiful surrounding greenery and countryside, just a small part of what makes it such a wonderful city. The university 'colleges' (more on them later!) are scattered throughout the city, meaning that everywhere you look there is an absolutely stunning building nearby. Oxford has also managed to retain a substantial number of independent shops and cafes, giving the city a really unique atmosphere. Combine this with all of the history associated with Oxford and you really do have the perfect city.

Below I have put together a collection of facts and trivia about Oxford and have highlighted some of the best things to see and do when you're there. Whether you're in for a flying visit or planning on staying a while, there is always plenty to do.

Tom Quad, Christ Church College, Oxford
Tom Quad, Christ Church College, Oxford

A brief history of Oxford

Oxford is one of England's oldest settlements. Founded in Saxon times and originally known as "Oxenforda" (Ford of the oxen), by the 10th century Oxford was an extremely important military town, lying between the Saxon kingdoms of Wessex and Mercia.

The city of Oxford is synonymous with the University of Oxford, the oldest university in the English speaking world. In fact, it's almost impossible to discuss the city without looking at the university. Although no one knows exactly when the university was founded, mentions of it appear in 12th century records. Similarly, no one knows which Oxford College is the oldest out of the following three: University College, Balliol College and Merton College. Originally established as centres of theology and philosophy, the academic nature of the university developed and expanded to include teaching of the main humanities subjects in the medieval period.

As the numbers of students in the city began to grow, resentment brewed between the students and the citizens of Oxford - commonly known as the rivalry of 'town vs. gown'. Such rivalries culminated in the St Scholastica Day Riot of 1355, when approximately 93 students and citizens were killed.

It would be impossible to list all of the famous events and people associated with Oxford throughout history. Kings and heads of state have been educated here, as have famous writers, artists, musicians, architects and scientists. I could go on. The university has educated the vast majority of British Prime Ministers, monarchs both British and foreign and world leaders in every field. The university has a reputation for excellence in both the sciences and humanities, and has been ranked as the No. 1 university in the UK and the fourth best university in the world.

Oxford today is an incredibly diverse city. The university now comprises of 38 'colleges,' each with their own distinctive architecture and atmosphere. In fact, Oxford is one of the few English cities that can boast architectural examples from every historical period. Famous buildings include:

The Saxon Tower of St Michael at the Northgate Church

The Norman motte and bailey castle

Tom Quad in Christ Church college, demonstrating an example of late medieval and Tudor architecture (see the picture above!)

The impressive Georgian front of Hertford college

The 1930s, art-deco style Crown court.

And that's just a smattering of what you can find in this wonderful city. Read on to discover more about the city of dreaming spires...

Punts nestled under Magdalen Bridge
Punts nestled under Magdalen Bridge

Top 10 things to do in Oxford

One: Visit the University Colleges

Tourists can embark upon guided walking tours around the many colleges scattered across the city. With 38 colleges in total and each with its own distinctive character, there's plenty to see. It is far better to go on an official walking tour as your guide will be able to tell you everything there is to know about the various colleges, including little-known trivia that you might not have discovered yourself.

To see the famous Harry Potter staircase, where Inspector Morse was fatally shot, Evelyn Waugh's room or where Albert Einstein briefly studied, a walking tour is the perfect way to take the university in.

Two: Go punting

Ah, the joys of punting. As Ratty says in 'The Wind in the Willows', there is nothing better than messing about in boats! Punting is one of the most popular activities to do in Oxford, by students, residents and tourists alike. Think being on a Gondola, but on an English river.

A punt is a long, narrow wooden boat which is split into three sections. One end of the boat is flat, the other end raised up. You propel the 'punt' forward by using a long metal pole. Standing at the flat end of the boat, the 'punter' places the pole straight down in the water, then uses the pole to push the punt away. You then steer by dragging the pole to the left and right in the water.

Punting is such a popular pastime that it comes with its own traditions: the typical image of punting is of people wearing boater hats and drinking Pimms. I would also recommend taking along some ice cream and strawberries in the summer.

You can hire a punt from the Magdalen Boathouse (located just underneath Magdalen Bridge), from the Head of the River Pub by Folly Bridge, or from the Cherwell Boathouse in North Oxford. Although the Cherwell boathouse is a fairly long walk (20-30 minutes from the city centre), this is the best place to go punting. The river is wide and not too deep, plus you can also punt to a wonderful riverside pub called the Victoria Arms where you can have a well-earned break after the exertion of punting! For beginner punters, Magdalen boathouse offers guided punts where you can float around the river guided by an expert, and have a go at punting yourself.

The boathouses are usually open from March to November.

Three: Take a tour of the Bodleian Library

The Bodleian library is one of the most impressive libraries in Britain. Affectionately known as the 'Bod' by students and tutors, the Bodleian was first opened in 1602. Its many reading rooms house some of the rarest and most famous manuscripts in the world. It is one of only three 'copyright' libraries in Britain, meaning that it is legally entitled to own a copy of every book ever printed. As such, it is incomparable when it comes to research.

For those who love Harry Potter, you should know that the Bodleian was one of the many locations used in the films! The Hogwarts Library is actually the Duke Humfries reading room, and that famous scene where Ron dances with Professor McGonagall took place in the Bodleian's Divinity Schools. All this and much, much more can be discovered on a tour of the Bodleian Library. Don't forget to visit their fantastic gift shop at the end of the tour.

Four: Go on a ghost tour

No trip to Oxford would be complete without taking part in a city ghost tour! There are two main tours available in the city: the first one is organised by Oxford Walking Tours and starts out at Trinity College. You will hear terrifying tales of English Civil War Battles, discover the story about a young girl whose heart was broken, find out where Queen Elizabeth I's love rival, Amy Robsart, was buried and also walk past JRR Tolkien's house.

The second Ghost tour is known as 'Bill Spectre's Ghost Trails'. You will be guided around the city by Bill Spectre, who terrifies visitors with the nightmares that lie beneath the city of dreaming spires. Complete with props, illusions and a magnificent swirling cape, this tour is not to be missed!

Five: Go for afternoon tea at the Randolph Hotel

The Randolph Hotel is world-famous as an extremely luxurious and exclusive hotel. Boasting excellent rooms and leisure facilities and located right in the heart of Oxford, taking tea at the Randolph is a must. Be warned: their restaurant is pricey, but the experience makes it well worth the money. Tourists can indulge in a traditional cream tea or a champagne afternoon tea. For students, the ever-popular graduation high tea is a wonderful treat on graduation day.

If The Randolph isn't quite your cup of tea, there are lots of other places that do wonderful teas around Oxford. My personal favourites include Quod, the Grand Cafe and the Rose cafe (all on the High Street), and the Vaults and Gardens Cafe located inside the University Church.

The Ashmolean museum
The Ashmolean museum

Don't miss out on activities 6-10!

Six: Climb the tower of the University Church

The University Church of St Mary the Virgin, located on the High Street, is a spectacularly beautiful church which also has the highest tower in central Oxford. Visitors can climb the tower and get fantastic panoramic views of the city. You can view the city from all four sides of the tower, guaranteeing a breath-taking view of Oxford whatever the weather.

After climbing the tower, have a look around this beautiful historical church, or pop into the church's vaults and gardens cafe for some tea and cake.

Seven: Attend a concert at the Sheldonian Theatre

The Sheldonian Theatre is an incredible example of British architecture. Designed and built during the 1660s by Sir Christopher Wren (who also designed St Paul's Cathedral), the impressive interior of the Sheldonian is the perfect place for classical music or a Shakespeare play. Visitors can also climb to the look-out point at the top of the theatre. The design of the building was derived from the Roman Theatre of Marcellus and owes a lot to ancient Rome. Hence the famous giant stone heads of Roman Emperors that encircle the building! The Sheldonian is also where university students matriculate and graduate.

The Sheldonian hosts a wide variety of events throughout the year - have a look at their website to see what's currently on.

Eight: Have a picnic in Christ Church Meadow

Not advisable in the winter (Oxford gets really cold!) but perfect in the summer. Christ Church meadow is a wonderful green space located right in the heart of the city. Visitors can spot cows and deer in the meadow, take a wonderful walk by the river or simply relax and take the scenery in. Students can often be found reading and studying underneath the trees, or playing frisbee. For extra-hot days, there is a wonderful ice-cream parlour opposite Christ Church called G&D's that sells the best ice cream in the city.

Nine: Visit the Botanic Gardens

The University botanic gardens boast an extremely wide range of trees, plants and flowers. Located at the bottom end of the High Street, opposite Magdalen college and next to the Exam Schools, the botanic gardens are beautiful in every season. Even on colder days, visitors can take in the various greenhouses and hot houses which display a wonderful range of exotic plants and flowers. The gardens are located right by the river which makes for an incredibly relaxing walk. Whether you're passionate about plants or just want a tranquil space to relax and read, then the Botanic Gardens is the perfect spot.

Ten: Visit the Norrington Room in Blackwells Bookshop

No trip to Oxford would be complete without a browse around Blackwells Bookshop. Located on Broad Street, opposite the Sheldonian Theatre, Blackwells stocks and sells books in almost every genre. With fields of expertise in both academic works and popular fiction, there's something for everyone. If nothing else, do go and visit the Norrington Room. Located on the lower ground floor, the Norrington Room houses Blackwells' main collection of academic books, *with over a mile of shelving and books*. Your first glimpse of this incredible room really will take your breath away.

Blackwells also has separate shops that cater specifically for music and art, also located on Broad Street.

Have you ever visited Oxford? What would be your favourite thing to do there? Would you like to see anything added to this list? Let me know here!

So what should I do on my second day in Oxford?

I could go on all day about all of the amazing things there are to do in Oxford. The Top 10 things to do in Oxford are only a small selection! Further down the lens you will find information on the many museums and shops that this amazing city has to offer.

Oxford Links

Now I've mentioned a fair few places and things to do on this lens, but to be honest there is simply so much to do, see and know about Oxford that it would be impossible to mention everything! So I've included links to some of the main websites about Oxford if you would like to find out more about anything that I've mentioned here.

Oxford on Amazon

It would be impossible for me to list all of the famous people and events associated with Oxford over the centuries. I've put together a list of popular and good quality books on the city and the university, for those who are interested in finding out more.

A view from the University Church tower, with glimpses of All Souls, Brasenose, Exeter and Hertford
A view from the University Church tower, with glimpses of All Souls, Brasenose, Exeter and Hertford

University of Oxford: the collegiate system

'Excuse me, where's the university?'

Oxford isn't like your typical campus university. The university buildings are not all gathered in one place. Instead, Oxford has what is known as the 'collegiate system'. The university is made up of 38 'colleges' which are all self-governing and independent. It has the advantage of allowing students to be part of an extremely wide, diverse community but also be part of a smaller, academic college community. The colleges all teach a wide variety of subjects, so students at Oxford meet an incredibly diverse range of people, rather than just the other students on their course.

When students apply to Oxford, they apply to a specific college. If accepted, they will study, eat and live at their colleges, in addition to receiving the majority of their teaching there. Although students say that they go to the University of Oxford, their prime loyalty is to their college. Colleges compete in inter-collegiate competitions, known as "cuppers," and each college has its own rowing team. Summer Eights, the main rowing competition during the summer between the colleges, is extremely popular.

When you visit Oxford, you quickly realise that the University is all around you. Made up of the many colleges and academic buildings that pepper the city, tourists soon realise that the university is everywhere. A common mistake is for tourists to ask: "where is the university?" This often results in laughter from the locals, as it can be quite difficult to explain that the 'university' as such doesn't really exist in the normal sense!

Colleges often have a friendly rivalry between one another. Brasenose and Lincoln have a long-standing rivalry, involving the stealing of Lincoln's college gargoyle. Keble college is usually the target of mischievous pranks, as, unlike the other colleges, it is made out of red bricks rather than stone. The infamous 'Nick a Brick' society awards points to those who manage to chisel out different coloured bricks from Keble's buildings. The black bricks are especially coveted.

Which is your favourite Oxford college?

Are you crazy for Christ Church? Nuts for Nuffield? In love with Lincoln? Let us know what your favourite Oxford college is!

Which is your favourite Oxford College?

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Hertford's Bridge of Sighs by night
Hertford's Bridge of Sighs by night

Oxford Trivia

Did you know that the tiny door from Alice in Wonderland is to be found in Corpus Christi college? Or the name of the pub where JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis sat and dreamed up the worlds of Narnia and Middle Earth? Oxford has been home to many an inspiration over the years and there are links to famous stories, books, films and people all over the city. Here are just a few pieces of trivia that you may not have known:

The Eagle and Child

This famous pub, often nicknamed 'the bird and the baby' not only produces excellent food and drink. It was also once home to The Inklings - one of the most influential literary discussion groups of the 20th century. It is famous due to two of its founding members: JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. Made up largely of academic members of the University, the Inklings would meet up at the Eagle and Child to discuss works of fiction, fantasy and mythology. It was here that helped to provide the inspiration for the Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings.

Alice in Wonderland

Charles Dodgson, or Lewis Carroll as we know him, was the author of the famous books about Alice in Wonderland (Alice's adventures in Wonderland, and later Alice through the looking glass). He was a mathmetician at Christ Church College, Oxford, where the Dean's young daughter Alice Liddell served as the insipration for Alice in Wonderland, and the college cat became the inspiration for the Cheshire Cat.

Nearby at Corpus Christi college, there is a little side door in the fellow's garden which is incredibly small in height. Dodgson noticed this door one evening and it became in his mind the small door that Alice struggles to get through! It is also said that Dodgson got the idea for the famous croquet tournament against the Queen of Hearts by watching hapless students attempt to play croquet on the college lawns.

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

Everyone knows C.S Lewis' most famous story, about four children who find a magical land called Narnia at the back of a wardrobe when they are evacuated to the countryside during World War 2. The lamp post that Lucy finds when she first enters Narnia is based on a lamp located on New College Lane, Oxford.

If you walk under the Bridge of Sighs in Oxford so that you are on New College Lane, and follow the lane heading towards Queen's College, you will come across a solitary lamp post tucked away in one of the alley's corners. It is said that this was what C.S Lewis had in mind when he wrote the story - a lamp post in the most unexpected of places.

Grotesque on an Oxford wall
Grotesque on an Oxford wall

Gargoyles, grotesques, ghosts and ghouls

Oxford as a city is famously haunted. King Charles I is said to walk the floors of the Bodleian Library. The spirit of Amy Robsart, the love rival of Queen Elizabeth I for the handsome Robert Dudley, is said to inhabit the University Church. Oxford is home to many a tale like this, which you will find out once you start exploring the city.

Gargoyles and grotesques are a huge feature in the city's architecture. The idea of the Gargoyle comes from French folklore, a variation of a dragon with batlike wings, a long neck and the ability to breathe fire. It was said to terrorise the streets of Rouen until it was defeated and someone cut off its head. The head was then stuck onto the church wall to terrify away evil spirits. Gargoyles were then used on many medieval buildings to help divert the flow of rainwater so that the stone would not be eroded. Look out for the fantastic gargoyles in the colleges and churches around Oxford.

A grotesque looks exactly like a gargoyle, but it is not used for water diversion; instead they were used purely for ornamental purposes and to frighten away evil spirits. There are hundreds of grotesques scattered around the city of Oxford: on church walls, in colleges, on the Bodleian Tower and New College Tower.... how many will you spot?

Oxford Fiction on Amazon - The best stories about, set in and involving Oxford

Here are just a few novels set in the great city of Oxford. Happy Reading!

The Lost College and other Oxford Stories
The Lost College and other Oxford Stories

Wonderful collection of short stories set in Oxford. There are several other books in this series now so do look out for them.

 
The Complete Inspector Morse
The Complete Inspector Morse

The world famous detective series is set in Oxford. Also look out for the excellent TV adaptations of Morse and the spin-off series Lewis.

 
Let dons delight: Being variations on a theme in an Oxford common-room
Let dons delight: Being variations on a theme in an Oxford common-room

Hillarious satirical book that observes the kinds of conversations to expect in an Oxford SCR (senior common room). Anyone who knows a student or fellow at Oxford will find this familiar, and funny, territory.

 
Zuleika Dobson
Zuleika Dobson

'Zuleika Dobson, or an Oxford love story', is a 1911 novel written by Max Beerbohm. His only novel, the book satires undergraduate life at Oxford university and is centered around young woman Zuleika, the only female in the all-male university environment. This book was first introduced to me on a ghost tour of the university, and is a must-read.

 
Brideshead Revisited:(Penguin Modern Classics)
Brideshead Revisited:(Penguin Modern Classics)

Evelyn Waugh's famous novel partly set in Oxford during the inter-war period. It follows the life of Charles Ryder and his relationship with the eccentric and enigmatic Flyte family, particularly siblings Sebastian and Julia. There's also a teddybear called Aloysius.

 
The imposing front of the Natural History Museum
The imposing front of the Natural History Museum

Museums

Oxford is home to a fantastic range of museums. Outside of London, few cities in the UK are blessed with this much choice in the arts and heritage, so make the most of it and see if you can visit all of the museums while you're there! As with all museums in Britain, admission is free, so go and while away an afternoon exploring these beautiful buildings.

The Ashmolean

Possibly Oxford's most famous museum. Located on Beaumont Street just opposite the Randolph Hotel, the Ashmolean's impressive neo-classical architecture will immediately take your breath away. Inside, the Ashmolean is quite similar to the British museum in that it houses ancient treasures from around the world. They are also home to many special exhibitions - they are currently running 'Visions of Mughal India'. It has recently opened a roof-top cafe and restaurant where you can relax and take in the beautiful city of Oxford.

The Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is a great place for families to visit, and is currently celebrating its 150th anniversary. The museum is home to many wonders of the natural world, including the famous Oxford Dodo! The grounds of the museum are equally impressive: clay dinosaur footprints lead up to the museum entrance, and a collection of giant 'ghost trees' from Ghana are scattered across the grounds.

The museum is located on Parks Road, just before the entrance to the University Parks.

The Pitt Rivers Museum

Not many people know about the Pitt Rivers, which is a shame because it houses Oxford's collection of anthropology and world archaeology artefacts. Even its entrance is hidden away - you access the Pitt Rivers through a secret door at the back of the Natural History museum. Look out in particular for their famous collection of shrunken heads!

Museum of the History of Science - the world's oldest museum!

I didn't visit this museum until fairly recently, and really regret it because it's a fascinating place. Not only does it house a huge collection of early scientific instruments (including beautiful telescopes and grandfather clocks), it is also the world's oldest surviving purpose built museum building. So it's well worth visiting, even if it's just to say that you've been to the world's oldest museum! The museum is on Broad Street, opposite Blackwells bookshop and next to the Sheldonian Theatre.

Museum of Oxford

Why is there a road in Oxford called Dead Man's Walk ? What really happened in Oxford during the English Civil War? The answers to all of your questions about Oxford can be found at the Museum of Oxford. This is another museum that is fairly hidden away and often passes tourists by. Unlike the above museums, this one focuses specifically on the story of the city of Oxford - perfect if you want to get to know the city better. It is another great place for families to visit as it always has lots of activities on for children. You'll find this museum just next to the Town Hall, on St Aldates.

Oxford through the camera

Click thumbnail to view full-size
I've talked a fair bit about the various gargoyles and grotesques that can be found around Oxford, and thought I'd share this one in particular: I found this inside an Oxford college on my first trip to the city.Sunlight catching the University Church tower. One of the things that makes Oxford so beautiful is the effect of sunlight on stone.One of the great things about Oxford is its many eccentric and unusual road names. Logic lane happens to be one of my favourites, but other gems include 'Turn again lane' and 'Dead man's walk'.Another Emperor's head statue. In the wonderful Oxford novel 'Zuleika Dobson', the Emperor's heads are said to start sweating when Zuleika goes by in her carriage because they know that she's going to cause all sorts of trouble for the men folk in OxStatue of a Roman Emperor outside the Sheldonian Theatre. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren during the 1660s, the Emperors help to convey the idea of the theatre as a neo-classical construct.
I've talked a fair bit about the various gargoyles and grotesques that can be found around Oxford, and thought I'd share this one in particular: I found this inside an Oxford college on my first trip to the city.
I've talked a fair bit about the various gargoyles and grotesques that can be found around Oxford, and thought I'd share this one in particular: I found this inside an Oxford college on my first trip to the city.
Sunlight catching the University Church tower. One of the things that makes Oxford so beautiful is the effect of sunlight on stone.
Sunlight catching the University Church tower. One of the things that makes Oxford so beautiful is the effect of sunlight on stone.
One of the great things about Oxford is its many eccentric and unusual road names. Logic lane happens to be one of my favourites, but other gems include 'Turn again lane' and 'Dead man's walk'.
One of the great things about Oxford is its many eccentric and unusual road names. Logic lane happens to be one of my favourites, but other gems include 'Turn again lane' and 'Dead man's walk'.
Another Emperor's head statue. In the wonderful Oxford novel 'Zuleika Dobson', the Emperor's heads are said to start sweating when Zuleika goes by in her carriage because they know that she's going to cause all sorts of trouble for the men folk in Ox
Another Emperor's head statue. In the wonderful Oxford novel 'Zuleika Dobson', the Emperor's heads are said to start sweating when Zuleika goes by in her carriage because they know that she's going to cause all sorts of trouble for the men folk in Ox
Statue of a Roman Emperor outside the Sheldonian Theatre. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren during the 1660s, the Emperors help to convey the idea of the theatre as a neo-classical construct.
Statue of a Roman Emperor outside the Sheldonian Theatre. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren during the 1660s, the Emperors help to convey the idea of the theatre as a neo-classical construct.

Shopping and leisure

Indulge in some retail therapy

Oxford is a haven for people who love to shop. Not only can you visit the shopping outlet village of Bicester (a short bus journey away from the city centre), but Oxford itself has many shops both high-street and boutique. Whether you're looking for a unique gift for someone, would like a memento of your time in Oxford or are just window shopping, there's something for everyone. Below I've listed some of the best places to go shopping in Oxford - but as with everything in this city, sometimes the best places are hidden away - explore the city and discover some of its hidden treasures yourself!

Cornmarket and Queen Street

The two streets of Cornmarket and Queen Street house most of the popular high street chain stores in the UK, plus several cafes and coffee shops. Cornmarket also has a great tradition of street performers and musicians, especially on weekends. Look out for the slack-rope walking violinist and fantastic accapella university group Out Of The Blue !

High Street

Oxford's High Street is home to many popular designer stores, including Coast and LK Bennett, but is also home to several more typically British designer stores, such as Ede & Ravenscroft and the university store Shepherd and Woodward. There are also several pubs and restaurants to take a break in, including two of England's oldest coffee houses: The Queen's Cafe and the Grand Cafe are the perfect place to sit and people watch in beautiful historical surroundings.

The Covered Market

The Covered Market is one of the best places to shop in Oxford. Home to a huge range of unique shops, boutiques and cafes, no visit to Oxford would be complete without exploring the market's alleys. You can get to the market either from the many entrances on the High Street, or from a side-street just off Cornmarket.

Foodies will love the many cafes and patisseries in the market, from chocolate shop Chocology to the incredible and world-famous Cake Shop. Take a look in the Cake Shop's window to gaze upon their incredible culinary creations! The Covered Market is also home to Moo-Moos , a milkshake company that makes every flavour of milkshake... and I mean every flavour. Including Sugar Puffs.

It's easy to get lost in the Covered Market (I used to be convinced that the isles and shops actually moved around in the night just to confuse me!), but that's part of the fun. Lose yourself here and discover some wonderful hidden boutiques.

When you're wandering around Oxford, look out for side streets and explore the many independent shops that are hidden away. I recommend Arcadia on St Michael's Street (opposite the Oxford Union) and Scriptum on Turl Street for two truly unique shops.

Arcadia is a wonderfully olde-worlde place that sells beautiful gifts and books. Scriptum sells stationary... but don't confuse it with Staples! Scriptum sells only the finest stationary and gifts, including quill pens, inkwells, beautiful writing sets and Venetian masks. Also wonderful ornamental hot air balloons.

More Oxford Links

Here are the links to some of the other places I've mentioned on this lens, for those of you who are keen to learn more about the city of dreaming spires.

Spotlight on the Turf Tavern

No trip to Oxford would be complete without visiting some of its many illustrious pubs! You'll find a great mix of modern and olde worlde here, so there's something for everyone. However, I felt that I had to draw attention to this gem of a pub, the Turf Tavern. Hidden away behind Hertford College and New College, you could easily miss the Turf if you didn't know what you were looking for!

Spotlight on the Turf Tavern

The Turf is a wonderful medieval pub that dates back to the 13th century, complete with low ceilings and Tudor beams, but also a great outdoor area for those hot summer days. They always have a great selection of ales on offer, plus seasonal favourites like Pimm's in the summer and spiced mulled wine in the winter. The food isn't half bad either!

How do I get to the Turf?

To get to the Turf, walk under the Bridge of Sighs on Catte Street, and on your left you will spot a little alleyway called 'Queen Helen's Passage'. Walk along the alley and follow it round and you'll get to the Turf. Taller visitors may need to watch their heads, as the entrance to the pub itself is tiny, and there are low ceilings throughout.

You can also get to the Turf around the back entrance. To do so:

Walk down Holywell Street , located at the junction of Broad Street, Catte Street and Parks Road. On your right you will see signs for a hotel called Bath Place , located down a little cobbled alleyway of the same name. Walk down the cobbled alley (it's very short), and at the bottom, turn left under a beamed archway. You will find yourself in the Turf's courtyard.

For a great olde worlde pub atmosphere, you can't do better than the Turf!

Out Of The Blue! - Oxford's all-male a cappella group

Out of the Blue, the famous all-male a capella group, are all students from Oxford. You may know them from Britain's Got Talent, where they reached the semi-finals in 2011! Here is a short video of them performing in central Oxford (you can find many more videos of their songs elsewhere on Youtube), plus their Britain's got talent audition which took the audience by storm! Try and catch one of their street performances if you're ever in Oxford - they're usually around Cornmarket on the weekends. They also do shows now and then at the Oxford New Theatre and Oxford Playhouse.

Christmas in Oxford

If you are lucky enough to be in Oxford over the Christmas season, then I would definitely recommend popping into Christ Church Cathedral at some point. Their choir is world renowned and will be performing a series of Advent and Christmas carols over the next few weeks. Beautiful music in beautiful surroundings - what more could you want?

Please let me know what you think of this lens! Was it helpful? Are you planning on visiting Oxford soon? Share your stories about this beautiful city.

Guestbook Comments - What's your favourite thing to do in Oxford?

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      C A Chancellor 4 years ago from US/TN

      I have a friend who lives in Oxford! I'm so jealous. It looks like an amazing place to live.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Oxford has always been of interest to me, so when I saw the title of this lens it caught my eye right away. Thank you for sharing this article. :)

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      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks for bringing back to memory what I have seen.

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      melissiaoliver 5 years ago

      @chezchazz: Oxford's only an hour by train or 1.5 hours by bus out of London, so if you're there again you should definitely pop up for a visit!

    • chezchazz profile image

      Chazz 5 years ago from New York

      Thanks for the armchair tour. I"ve been to London but have not had the chance to see the rest of the UK. Hope to be able to do that soon.

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      savateuse 5 years ago

      I was there for four years... Fond memories...

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      Stephen J Parkin 5 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      Ah! Oxford, I have fond memories of learning to punt under the bridges on the river there, such a beautiful city particularly on a fine summers day a pretty girl a picnic and the punt!

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      AJ 5 years ago from Australia

      I haven't visited Oxford, but hope to pay a visit next year. I have included this lens in my Colossal Squid Stars. It has been a truly educational and enjoyable tour.

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      golfspice 5 years ago

      Living about 8 miles from Oxford I know it very well. Just strolling around the city, colleges and meadows is both interesting and relaxing, especially if you visit the Turf tavern along the way. For something a little different, try Bill Spectre ghost tours which are good fun and good value.

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      melissiaoliver 5 years ago

      @Michey LM: Glad you found the lens useful! I hope you get the chance to visit this beautiful city some day.

    • melissiaoliver profile image
      Author

      melissiaoliver 5 years ago

      @TonyPayne: I'm so glad you had a good time there; Oxford in the summer is amazing.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 5 years ago

      Never had the chance to visit Oxford, but you give me precious info here.

      Thanks

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 5 years ago from Southampton, UK

      We spent a day in Oxford last July for my wife's birthday and it was wonderful. It's definitely worth taking a guided walking tour, so you can enter those places you would not be able to otherwise. I went punting there when I was at university, it was definitely a lot of fun.