Oxford University consists of 40 higher education schools, or institutions. But the Christ Church College is the largest. And it is indeed rare, because it's the headquarters of the Cathedral of Oxford. The Cathedral is within the university. Admission costs £ 6, but if you come there to pray or if you have another reason for not paying the entrance fee, you can talk to someone who will let you go in. The Christ Church was founded in the 12th century by King Henry VIII. The site of the cathedral has been a place of worship since the 8th century. The present cathedral is from the 13th century and it replaced an old Saxon church. It's also the school chapel, which is the place of worship for students. The church has beautiful stained glass from various periods in the 13th century, as well as a memorial of royalty and the English Civil War. You'll also find the tomb of the patron saint of Oxford there, St. Frideswide. He built a monastery there in the 8th century, which is now the cloister. The choir of Christ Church has an international reputation, and they have a website with the concert schedule.
The Radcliffe Camera is one of the most beautiful buildings in the old center of Oxford. Colloquially, students call it Radders, or Rad Cam. The building was designed by James Gibbs and built in the mid 18th century. It's English Palladian style. John Radcliffe, whom the building is named after, was a scientist in King William III's Court. He wanted to build a library for students, but he wasn't able to before his death. Initially it was thought that there would be an extension to the Bodleian Library, which is next door. But finally came this beautiful building came around. Only the college students can go inside. But it's worth a few minutes to stop by and admire it for a minute or two. It's one of the first libraries in the country. The site has three main floors on the outside, and two on the inside. Columns support the building's facade. The area around it is paved and landscaped. A few movies, such as Sherlock Holmes, and The Saint filmed some scenes here.
Carfax Tower is situated in the heart of the city of Oxford, at the crossing of the four main streets, Queen, Cornmarket, Aldate's and High Street. It is one of the most importnat landmarks to be found in the city, and is considered to be its center. The name is taken from Carfax Carrefour in French, meaning crossroads. The crossing tower is all that remains of the church of St Martin's, which was the the first official church to be built in the city of Oxford. Now its name has been changed to St Michael. The tower dates back to the 13th Century and now belongs to the city council. It is about 23 meters high, and features six bells. The bells sound every 15 minutes, and also on special occasions. You can climb to the top to see the center from one of the highest points of the medieval city. The tower is open daily from 10am to 17:30 in the summer, and in winter it closes at half past three. In addition to the bells, the tower has a clock used by the inhabitants before having personal watches.
The Museum of Natural History Oxford is very interesting to explore with family, especially with children. Admission is free, the museum is in front of Klebe College, Parks Road and belongs to the University of Oxford. We were driving and it had plenty of free space in front that were reserved for the college crowd so we had a hard time parking. The museum building is almost as interesting as the museum itself it's Victorian with a glass roof supported by a metal frame giving plenty of light, it has a main floor and upstairs balconies for temporary exhibitions. Below has the story of evolution, remains of dinosaurs, elephants, rare birds, etc. and the background comes from the collection of university research. There are some interactive activities for children and a souvenir shop with educational books.
Radcliffe Square is one of the squares in the old heart of Oxford, and one of the loveliest because you are surrounded by monuments from different periods, which are quite harmonious together. In the middle of the square, is the Radcliffe Camera, a Palladian-style building, constructed in memory of John Radcliffe, a student of the university who became the doctor of the king, and left a big donation to the University of Oxford. The Radcliffe Camera is a library, and only students can enter. The files are so special that you have to be motivated to read, and you can take a table for a defined time. There is space for over 600,000 books. On the west side of the square lies the Brasenose College, one of the oldest Colleges in Oxford, and opposite lies the All Soul's College. In the south is the church of St Mary the Virgin, and you can climb the towerr to see the view.
St Giles' Church is one of the oldest monuments in Oxford. Its name comes from the street on which it is located which is at the lower end of Cornmarket in the direction of Woodstsock. The church is dedicated to St Giles which many other churches located outside the medieval walls of the city are also dedicated to. St Giles was a Greek aristocrat who became a hermit in France in the 7th century. The first church in his honor, it dates back to the 12th century and can be found in a lovely natural environment surrounded by gardens and an old cemetery. It managed to keep its location in this area while many other churches of the center such as St Martin had to be relocated due to the growth of the city and the construction of private houses and universities. St Giles is known for its painted windows that are very thin and old. A common thing in the parish churches of the UK, St. Giles keeps a war memorial in the northwestern part of the nave. The names of those killed in the first and second world wars are listed here.
The Sheldonian theater is one of the most iconic landmarks of Oxford. It was built 1664-1668 to a design by Christopher Wren under an order from the University of Oxford, and it's named after Gilbert Sheldon the dean of the University at the time. It's a round structure on Broad Street. Around are characters whose amazing faces appear in many postcards of Oxford. Inside there's an octagonal dome which can be reached as there are some seats upstairs. The windows offer a beautiful view over the city. The ceiling frescoes were renovated recently and are beautiful. There are 32 paintings commissioned by King Charles II that deserve a look too. It will fit 800-1,000 people and is now used for music concerts, lectures and university graduations, but there is more drama.
St Giles is a wide street in the north of Oxford, towards Woodstock and Banbury and is the last point, if you come by car, where you can park - if you want go to the center you have to take a bus or walk, there's a deviation for cars. It's a pleasant town to explore on foot/by bike. Parking is free for 2 hours on Sunday but otherwise it's 1 pound/hour. In the northern part of St Gile's is the war memorial, the largest in the city. To the south is Martyrs Memorial which commemorates the death of the martyrs of Oxford, burnt for their religious views in the sixteenth century. There are several colleges and schools that make up the University of Oxford, St John's College and Balliol both have buildings in St Gile's. To the north is St Gile's Church which gives its name to the street. To the south the street meets Magdalen Street to become Cornmarket (the central pedestrian street). Don't miss the Ashmolean Museum with beautiful ancient art.
St Peter's College is one of the schools that makes up the University of Oxford. It is located behind Bonn Square on New Inn Hall Street. It's located in two old medieval hostels, The Inns, that once served to accommodate students for long periods. The school was created in 1929 and named St. Peter, although part of the university dates back to the thirteenth century. Most of the university's buildings are older than the school itself. The university, instead of constructing new buildings, adapted the buildings that were already on the grounds for its classes. The name of New Inn Hall reminds one of the Inns built on this street. You can see a room, which is where the students eat now, in the Hannington Hall. The college chapel was also a church before, that was built in 1874, and is the third church on this campus. Some of the students live on the school grounds.
Balliol College is one of the largest schools that comprises the University of Oxford. It is named after John I de Balliol and was founded in 1263. Balliol was a wealthy man of nobility who decided to give scholarships to students in Oxford and built a house university, the future Balliol College. The main entrance is on Broad Street. You can take guided tours of all of the universities. Balliol College is the most popular, in terms of the number of people who apply to study there each year and many international students go there. The best known student is perhaps the economist Adam Smith, who determined the laws of the invisible hand that regulates the market and economic exchanges. Within the school grounds, one can find a great library, but also entertainment, two bars and lounges where students can gather annually, tennis, hockey, cricket etc ...
On Queens Street, the road which formerly led westward out of town, you will also find the Oxfordshire County Council which goes by the name of the 'County Hall.' The Oxfordshire County Council is not only the administration building but also includes the county government. The buildings that are there today are part of the 'County Council,' the current Board of Directors, and were built in 1976. The County is responsible for all kinds of public services. This includes schools, libraries, hospitals and public safety. Most of the meetings held here are public. Right next to this more modern building is the original one that was built in 1841. A council chamber is located here now in which the members meet. The building is located on the castle grounds of Oxford.
All Souls College in Radcliffe Square, Oxford is next to St Mary The Virgin church and the beautiful Radcliffe Camera. It's one of several colleges that make up Oxford University and was created in 1438. The particularity of All Souls is that when you enter you automatically become a member of the "government" of the school, with the right to make important decisions about site management. There are no 1st-year courses, only masters and postgraduate so it's more about research studies. You can't enter if you're not part of the school - I found it one of the prettiest buildings in Oxford. It's one of the richest schools, with 240 million pounds donated by benefactors and alumni. The school was founded by Henry IV, King of England and at the beginning only had 40 students. Tradition is very important and the school has centenary celebrations with a feast for all the students and a procession with lanterns, singing a hymn around the school.
Cornmarket Street is one of the main streets in the centre of Oxford. It runs from north to south, from St Giles, to become St Aldate's a little lower. All of Cornmarket is pedestrianised- it is a nice wide street for shopping and eating. Most of the buildings are very old, like this medieval house, which seems to be falling and looks like its wooden structure no longer holds it, but it was completely renovated and is now a Pret a Manger, a fast food restaurant. You can find all the major brands here, McDonald's, KFC, bookstores, record stores, Starbucks, and The Clarendon Centre is a large shopping centre at the height of the Carfax Tower. Heading to the east you will come across the arc of the golden cross, which leads to a courtyard that was historically for jewellers and craftsmen. You then reach the covered market. The church of St Michael at the North Gate is the oldest monument in Oxford.
The Magdalen Tower is one of the landmarks of Oxford. It belongs to Magdalen College, part of the University. The tower was built 1492-1509 in the eastern part of the city, near the road leading to London. At the same time the chapel was built and the main entrance to the city. The university is renowned for the quality of its choir and once a year, on May 1, members climb the tower at 5 am to sing from there. People gather to listen on the near Magdalen Bridge.
The chapel of Merton College is a beautiful historical monument, south of High Street in Oxford's medieval center. The college, part of Oxford University, was founded in 1260 and with it the first church. It quickly fell into ruin and in the fourteenth century they began to build another chapel. It has very fine stained glass windows and you can go inside every day in the afternoon, though on Sunday there's a restricted schedule. The bell tower dates from 1450, the chapel replaced the parish of St. John and remained a parish until 1891. There's an interior entrance for the school's students and an outside entrance for inhabitants of Oxford. The chapel has a choir which was made recently, not like the historical choirs of Oxford.
St John's College is one of the best schools in Oxford University. It's in St Giles, the central street of the city, and was founded by businessman Sir Thomas White in 1555. White's heart is buried in the college chapel, he bought the land to build a Catholic university and chose St John to dedicate it. Before, colleges were also student accommodation so they had chapels, sports courts, rooms, eating rooms and meeting rooms. It's said to be the richest college in Oxford, with an annual budget of 300 million pounds and it's one of the most prestigious schools (currently the 2nd best in Oxford, after Merton). Visitors can see common areas, such as gardens and the chapel, but not classrooms.
Keble College is one of the largest schools at the University of Oxford. It is named after John Keble and was founded in 1870. It focuses on the arts, theater and music. The main buildings are in Park Road, opposite the Natural History Museum. Keble was a churchman and theology was mostly taught at the college in earlier years. The buildings are in the neo-Gothic style. It is one of the largest colleges at the University of Oxford. It is also one of the few that is open to visitors. You can see the inner courtyard of the main block. In the side chapel of the church you can see the famous painting by Hunt, The Light of the World. Hunt donated it to the school. There is a copy in St Paul's Cathedral in London.
Oxford Station is in the city center, at the height of Hythe Bridge. Oxford made a great effort to remove cars from the center so it's a real pain to drive and park in the historic center. You're much better by train! If you come from London there's an offer where 4 travel but you only pay for 2 (valid on weekends). There's also a Network Railcard which gives you 1/3 off and costs only 20 pounds (worth it if you stay for Erasmus or are working). The station has many services, a tobacconist, newsagents, a couple of coffee shops and a tourist information office. If you get your train ticket and take the vouchers at the station, you can take advantage of a 2 for 1 on many city attractions such as the castle of Oxford, Blenheim Palace, the Bodleian Library and the famous library of the University of Oxford.
Broad Street, the heart of the historic center of the city, is a good starting point to begin a tour of the places things to visit in Oxford. It contains some of the oldest colleges of the University of Oxford such as Trinity College, Exeter College, and Balliol College. Broad Street also houses the original theater of the university, the Sheldonian Theatre, and the Clarendon Building, former headquarters of the university press, both of which are interesting historical things to see in Oxford.
At the end of Broad Street, opposite the school of theology's Divinity School, is the Bodleian Library, another historical building. A visit here is one of the most popular Oxford activities. Do not miss the Old Schools Quadrangle, the courtyard of the library, the Tower of the Five Orders, and Radcliffe Camera, which is one of the most Oxford attractions along with the Carfax Tower. Another of the essential attractions in Oxford is Chirst Church. Also known as The House, it is the largest and most prestigious college of the University of Oxford, which has its own chapel, Chirst Church Cathedral.
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