The city of dreaming spires, intellectual home to so many world-changing scientists, thinkers and writers, is certainly a global centre of learning and study. But Oxford is also a wonderfully intact and atmospheric medieval city that has every modern convenience fitted neatly into its honeyed Cotswold sandstone. It’s easy to see why it has so often been used as a film set (in the Harry Potter franchise, for example) but Oxford is still a living, breathing place, with remarkable sights around every corner.

Language and Currency

With many international students and scholars, Oxford hums with global languages. There are also significant Polish, Chinese and South Asian populations in the city. English is the language for most though; listen out for the local accent – a curious halfway house between London, Birmingham and the West country.

The currency in England is the Pound Sterling. As of January 2016 there were 1.32 Euros to every £1 and 1.43 US Dollars to £1.


Oxford has a classic mild English climate, it tends to be warm but not hot in Summer, while Winters can be quite cold but very rarely to any great degree. Oxford is not particularly wet but it is worth packing an umbrella in case of rain.


The main focus is the 38 colleges that make up the world famous University of Oxford. These are dotted throughout the city and account for a good deal of its most memorable architecture. Luckily, a large number of them are open to the public. Favourites for wandering around are the magisterial Christ Church College, the breathtaking Queen’s College, the transporting gardens of New College and the extraordinary elegance of Trinity College. There is great pleasure to be had in just strolling about the town centre and seeing what you stumble upon down its narrow alleys and streets.

The University of Oxford is also home to some of the most important and historic libraries in the world. We highly recommend taking a tour of the Bodleian and the Radcliffe Camera. These are situated between two of Oxford’s most iconic streets: Broad Street and The High Street.

Meanwhile, there are several world-class museums: the Pitt Rivers, the Ashmolean and the Museum of the History of Science. The University Botanic Garden is the oldest botanic garden in Britain. Or why not hire a punt (flat-bottomed traditional boat propelled by a long pole) from the Magdalen Bridge and see the city from the tranquillity of the River Thames?


The old Covered Market, off Cornmarket Street, is full of quirky little shops and delicious food sellers. On Broad Street you will find the vast emporium of the written word that is Blackwell’s Bookshop, across the road from the Blackwell’s Art and Poster Shop, which is next door to its sister Music shop. On The High and Turl Street there are interesting boutique and artisanal stores too, such as traditional cobblers and outfitters.

Oxford also has two good shopping hubs full of high street stores: the Clarendon Centre and the Westgate Shopping Centre. And just a few miles outside the city walls is Bicester Village – an enormous designer outlet shopping centre.

Nightlife and Dining Out

There is no shortage of appealing old pubs to complement the city’s centuries-old charm. Some of the best are The White Horse on Broad Street, the Turf Tavern on Bath Place and the King’s Arms on the corner of Holywell Street. Real ale is plentiful and a good deal of it is brewed locally so we recommend sampling something from the barrel. If you want another slice of history then check out The Eagle and Child on St Giles, where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein used to chat about their literary creations over a pint.

There are a wide variety of good restaurants in the city too, with many global cuisines on offer. If you’re looking for something more high-end then the renowned oyster bar at the palatial Randolph Hotel might be the place. At the other end of the scale, check out the Cowley Road in East Oxford where there are more rough and ready options in this bohemian area, which provides a nice contrast to the centre of town.

With all that study Oxford students surely need somewhere to let off steam?! There are plenty of clubs, or head up to the Jericho area for the great choice of cocktail bars.


Oxford is compact and intricate, so it’s best to explore the city centre on foot or perhaps on one of the open-topped bus tours. However, the city lies at the edge of the beautiful Cotswold country, full of quintessentially English villages such as Broadway and picturesque valleys, so it would be well worth getting hold of a car to discover the surrounding landscape.

Also, a few miles north of Oxford lies the magnificent Blenheim Palace – stately home and birthplace of none other than Winston Churchill. Should you decide to drive on those English roads here are some useful pointers:

  • Most cars in Britain are shift operated rather than automatic
  • Remember to drive on the left-hand side!
  • … and always give way to the right
  • If you drive into the countryside be aware than many of the roads are narrow single-lane highways and you may have to use passing places

Tourist Information

To find out what’s on and for guidance on what to see please go to Oxford Visitor Information Centre, which is located in the town centre at 15-16 Broad Street. It is open Monday–Saturday 9.30am–5.30pm and on Sundays 10am–4pm (in the Winter it closes half an hour earlier).


London Heathrow International is the nearest major airport, just one hour away, with services coming in from all over the globe. Gatwick Airport is also well connected to Oxford by the Airline coach company who run a 24-hour timetable from both.

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