Exploring Oxford

Thoughts from Alanna…

During a recent long-weekend, I made the trek west for a quick holiday! Here I visited Oxford, Bath, Bristol and Stonehenge. If you check Google Maps, this is an easy route as they’re all near each other in a big loop.

First up was Oxford.

This city really oozes importance and historical significance. It looks exactly what you’d picture historic England to be: large, broad buildings with beautiful details in bright white stone, cobblestone streets and pubs everywhere you look.

Nowadays, Oxford is very much a university city. There are thousands of bikes attached to every fence possible with university buildings dotted all over the city. It really is beautiful!

If you’re getting here by car, do not park in the city. You won’t find a spot! Instead, park in a designated “Park and Ride” lot where you can take a bus right into the city and buses back will run quite late. You’ll need to pay to park your car and buy a bus ticket, but it’s not expensive. Otherwise, there’s tons of coaches that travel into Oxford from London.

Once in the city, I would really suggest doing Oxford Castle Unlocked. For £11, you get an hour-long tour around the castle and up the tower, which gives you great views of the city. You’ll see the crypt and the prison cells along with a small museum. Worth the money! Make sure to do this first thing in the morning so you’ll avoid any crowds.

Next is the Ashmolean Museum. Totally massive (and free) this museum is packed with all sorts of history with something for everyone: paintings, pottery, artifacts, instruments, sculptures, jewelry, bones and more. You can easily spend hours here but avoid the café. You can get cheaper food once you’re outside the museum.

Probably best known in the city is Oxford University. There’s buildings all over the city with beautiful architecture so you can’t miss it. Apparently, it’s the oldest university in the English-speaking world, created before the Aztec Empire and the Manga Carta. The school received around 18,000 applications last year for just 3,200 undergrad places. Supporting so many students are the Bodleian Libraries, which you can pay to tour. First opened in 1602 AD, the library boasts over 12 million printed texts and it’s incredibly impressive, even if you just view it from outside.

One of the most photographed buildings is the rounded Radcliffe Camera which houses some reading rooms for the university. It’s beautiful but you can only get inside with an extensive guided tour. A street or so away is also the Bridge of Sighs, over a hundred years old piece of architecture and really cool to see.

Just down the street is Christ Church Cathedral (founded nearly 500 years ago) is giant but you’ll need to pay to enter. If you’re not feeling the price, walking around the surrounding meadows is really pretty and great for picnics!

For quick visits, I also saw the Museum of the History of Science (it’s a mouthful) and the Museum of Natural History. The science museum was really cool and jammed packed with all sorts of gadgets relating to technology, chemistry, and astronomy to name a few! But it was very busy with local school tours. The Natural History museum is what you’d imagine: animals, gems, dino bones but most importantly, tea and cakes! Both museums are free and both deserve a look.

Oxford is totally beautiful and totally worth visiting! Next up: wandering the streets of Bath.