Guide to Oxford
- Oxford map: link
- Oxford is known as the "city of dreaming spires"
- Oxford is not a campus university, so it is not all located on one site. It is made up of many different buildings, including academic departments, colleges and halls, located around the centre of Oxford.
- Oxford University is the oldest English speaking university in the world, “evidence of teaching as far back as 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world's second-oldest surviving university.
- After disputes between students and Oxford townsfolk in 1209, some academics fled and established the University of Cambridge.
- Oxford is most famous for English, Classics, Law (Jurisprudence), PPE (Politics, Philosphy, Economics)
About the sights
- Important streets
- Cornmarket Street: where all the major shops and restaurants are.
- High Street: another main street with more shops
- Broad Street: where the Bodleian Library
- George Street: where all the restaurants are
- Colleges: see below in "about student life"
- Radcliffe Camera & the Bodleian Library
- Also called the “Rad Cam, is one of many buildings that are part of the university's main library, the Bodleian Library.
- The Rad Cam houses History & English literature books. Other subject books are in their respective departmental / college libraries.
- The Bodleian Library is the main research library of the university, has over 12 million items. Is the second largest library in Britain (after the British Library).
- Bridge of Sighs (Hertford Bridge): a replica of the Venetian bridge and also of the one in Cambridge. It’s said that students used to “sigh” as they walked across the bridge to exams (at least they did in Cambridge).
- Sheldonian Theatre: a theater for musical performances, but also where matriculation and graduation ceremonies. Matriculation is a ceremony whereby you become an official member and student of the university. We have to wear sub fusc (see below in "about student life")
- Famous bars and pubs
- White Horse
- Eagle and Child: the informal meeting place of literary giants C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien
- Lamb and Flag
- Ashmolean museum (home to “Greek and Roman carvings, Eastern arts”, valuable antiques. Apparently one of the best British museums outside London.
- Pitt Rivers Museum (archaeology) & Natural History Museum (biology, lots of animal skeletons - smaller scale version of the one in London).
- Covered Market (not *that* important an attraction): a market with numerous stalls selling fruits, vegetables, some small shops and restaurants are located here too.
About student life
- The university has 38 colleges, 6 private halls. Each college has its own “culture” e.g. Wadham College is known for having the most liberal values
- Minnie went to Worcester College, which has a very beautiful lake, Helen went to St Catherine's College (the youngest/newest of all colleges). I went to Somerville (previously an all-women college) - famous alumni include Margaret Thatcher and Nobel Prize winning chemist Dorothy Hodgkin.
- Not all colleges offer every subject. Each college normally has ~3-10 students per subject. The subject with the most students is probably chemistry, with 700-800 undergraduates, then maths.
- What’s unique about the teaching at Oxford is the tutorial system (although personally I found it very overrated.) Students have 1-3 tutorials a week on top of lectures everyday and complete a piece of work beforehand (problem sheet / essay, usually 1500-3000 words) to be discussed in the tutorial. Tutorials are usually 1:1 with your tutor, but can be up to 1:4 students. Science students normally get problem sheets, although biology and psychology are predominantly essay-based like the other humanities subjects.
- Magdalen College (pronounced mawd-lin) has a deer park
- Christ Church (HP’s dining hall was based of theirs, cathedral, the meadows with rare breeds of cattle; most prominent politicians have graduated from this college)
- Merton is known for being the most “academic” of the colleges, Trinity / St Edmund’s college has a Michelin starred chef
- Oldest colleges are University (Stephen Hawking, Bill Clinton are alumi), Balliol and Merton although the 3 constantly dispute over which is the oldest.
- Brasenose: David Cameron
- St Hugh's: Theresa May (too far for you to see)
- All Soul’s College: as one of the most elitist colleges, its student body only consists of graduates and post-grad students that have to apply for Examination Fellowships to get in. People are “invited” to take one of the “most difficult exams in the world” to become a member of the college https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Souls_College,_Oxford
- Sub fusc
- Worn for important events: matriculation, graduation, when taking exams
- Most of the restaurants and cafes are located on George street and High Street.
- Japanese food
- Edamame is a family owned restaurant serving authentic Japanese food. I recommend the salmon teriyaki rice (my guilty-pleasure meal) or the katsu curries. I wouldn’t bother with ramen because it’s much better in London.
- Wasabi for cheap, fast Japanese food
- Thai food
- Sasi’s Thai (covered market, £4-5 per dish)
- Angrid Thai (£5-6 per dish with rice)
- At Thai (pricier but I love their shrimp garlic / chicken garlic w/ rice £7-8)
- Chiang Mai (most expensive of the thai restaurants but has the best pad thai £9-10? Can’t remember - google it :P)
- Chinese food: Sojo, Opium Den
- Quick bite: The Alternative Tuck Shop: a student favourite delicious sandwiches, panini, wraps. My favourite is the tikka chicken mango-chutney panini or their best seller, the chicken-cheese-avocado sandwich. Pret is also convenient, Taylor's .
- Coffee: Society Cafe (I love this place), The Missing Bean, The Handle Bar Cafe, The Natural Bread Company (Jericho but their coffee is so good)
- French: Brasserie Blanc (Jericho, it's a little far but you won't be disappointed)
- Western food: Gee's Restaurant is beautiful, great food and ambience
- Italian: Zizzi's (don't go to Bella, I also think Jamie's Italian is overrated)
- Afternoon tea: try the scones at The Rose Cafe (reputedly the best in Oxford), or order decadent afternoon tea sets at The Grand Cafe.
- Sweets: G&Ds ice cream (opposite Christ Church College), Moo moo’s milk shakes and Ben’s Cookies (Covered Market)
- Groceries: M&S, Tesco.
- Pharmacy (UK's version of Sasa): Boots
- Electrical appliances: Argos
- Clothes: lots of nice brands on High Street e.g. Reiss, Jigsaw. Zara on Cornmarket Street.
Getting to Oxford
- Take the Oxford tube coach
- Buy tickets from the driver (one of you can use my card)
- Get on at Marble Arch (on the side of Hyde park) or Victoria station (see my map)
- Get off at High street (3rd last stop), St Aldate's (where Christ Church is) or the final stop/bus terminus Gloucester Green
- Normally takes 1.5 hours
- Avoid rush hour: 7-8am, 5-7pm
- To get back to London, take the same route.
Proposed itinerary (what to see)
- Visitor Information Centre at Broad Street to get a map? If you want to go on a paid city walking tour, I think most begin on Broad Street.
- You can either go to Christ Church College or the Radcliffe Camera (library) first. Christ Church's dining halls are closed to the public during lunch hours (details here) whereas for the Radcliffe you'll just be taking photos outside anyway (the public isn't allowed to enter the building
- If Radcliffe Camera then Christ Church, keep reading
- Stroll down Cornmarket Street, walk down High Street to get to Bodleian Square, where you'll see the following:
- The Radcliffe Camera (grand building with the robin-egg blue dome, is a library building)
- University Church tower behind you - can go up to get a panoramic view of Oxford, but you need to pay.
- Brasenose & All Souls colleges
- Bridge of Sighs
- Divinity School: another Harry Potter reference
- Sheldonian Theatre
- Walk up Broad Street - can buy souvenirs
- Head to Christ Church College: dining hall, Tom Quad, Christ Church Meadows (they have a rare breed of cow there too).
- APPARENTLY "Oxford University Card holders and Oxford Alumni card holders are permitted free entry during our normal visitor hours. Please show your card upon arrival at the gate. Each card holder may bring two guests free of charge per day." Otherwise it's 8 pounds per adult.
- Vaults & Garden cafe at the base of the University Church Tower (Radcliffe Square) - can eat outside on a nice day
- Pubs: The White Horse, King's Arms, Lamb and Flag, Eagle and Child, The Turf Tavern.
- Sasi's Thai in the Covered Market has cheap and good Thai food.
- Many Western restaurants (Italian food) on George Street. Have a browse!
- Magdalen College: see the deer park and water grove
- Visiting details here
- The water grove inspired C.S. Lewis' Alice in Wonderland
- Go punting - the boathouse is by the bridge. Takes about an hour. RE: punting
- For more information, visit this link
- Magdalen Bridge Boathouse
Punts (self-drive and chauffeured), rowing boats and pedalos. Float along the Cherwell past the Botanic Gardens, around Magdalen College School playing fields and Angel & Greyhound meadows, past St Hilda's, and up the recently cleared byways past Christ Church meadow to the Isis if you feel so inspired!
Open: daily, February-November, 9.30am to dusk.
Cost: £22/hour weekdays; £24/hour weekends; chauffeur is £30/half-hour. Deposit: £30 (cash only) with identification.
Magdalen Bridge Boathouse, High St, Oxford OX1 4AU. Map.
Tel: 01865 202643
- Visit a museum
- Magdalen College: see the deer park and water grove
- Visit one of the famous pubs!
- Gee's restaurant, 10-15 minute walk out from the centre of town. In a beautiful glasshouse adorned with plants and candle decor
- Pierre Victoire is also a romantic little French restaurant, on Little Clarendon Street
- For something closer to the bus station, try Cote Brasserie for French food or the Red Lion pub.