Explore the Academic City of Oxford
A city known for its intellect, Oxford not only has a famous University, but also has great museums and history.
Predominately known for its academia, Oxford is also home to many things, including Alice in Wonderland, the Oxford University Press, and the playground to countless authors and academics including C.S. Lewis, that's right, the creator of Narnia. A town filled to the brim with whimsy, bicycles and students, it's easily a town you can relax and get inspired in.
Oxford is easily accessed as it is located about an hour's train ride from London or an hour and 4o minutes by bus. Downtown Oxford is only 2 minutes walk from the train station, and the bus station is very central.
ACADEMIA & MUSEUMS:
Oxford has many beautiful colleges that specialize in different subjects. As a visitor you can opt to see many of these colleges, but you have to pay an admission to enter the grounds.
While I was at Oxford, I opted to see one of these colleges, Trinity. I put up pictures above of some of the outside scenery from the college. Unfortunately, the church was being refurbished so we couldn't go inside. In fact, we were unable to get into any of the buildings and the admission was solely for the exterior of the buildings. Frankly, the admission price wasn't worth it.
Museum of History of Science- Such a great museum to those who love science and geography (like I do). They have an amazing collection of compasses and astrolabes that I couldn't get enough of. Additionally they have artifacts such as Einstein's chalkboard (I live around Princeton so I wasn't impressed), the development of Penicillin, and the atomic weight and how it was discovered by an Oxford man. It's free admission and covers 3 floors, OH and its the oldest surviving purpose built museum (founded in 1683).
Ashmolean Museum- This museum is constantly rated as the thing to do in Oxford. It is home to vast collections including beautiful pantings dating from all periods and Egyptian artifacts. Didn't have time to do while I was there but heard it was worthwhile, and free, so you can't lose there.
Also, the Pitt Rivers is another top rated museum that I didn't have the chance to check out, also free.
Bodleian Library- LOVED this library. A part of Oxford University, and one of the oldest libraries in Europe, the Bodleian is an incredible institution. The tour for this library is limited so purchase your timed tickets ahead of time. Showcasing original library methods (chained to the shelf like prisoners) the library is seeped in history and really provides some insight as to how far we have come and developed as a society. I know that this may sound boring, but even the guy I brought (super impatient) really enjoyed it and said it was one of his highlights of Oxford. It's really an incredible tour, and it ends in a beautiful room that looks like it rolled straight out of Harry Potter (which also filmed scenes around Oxford). Super interesting and informative. Also it ends up in the Divination room which is an absolutely beautiful room with great history (it is the room with the amazing ceiling in the picture above).
OTHER THINGS TO DO:
Pub Crawl- As Oxford was home to many academics and writers, it should come as no suprise that Oxford has some of the oldest pubs in the UK. There are many pub crawl lists available, but I like this one the best, they have themes like Alice in Wonderland, Nautical, Political, and Animals.
Oxford Castle- At one time this used to house prisoners, but it has been commercialized and modernized to include a hotel, chain restaurants and bars. A great place to have a drink before you get on the train back, but not worth your time to seek out just for its own sake.
Carfax Tower- Although didn't get to fit into my daytrip, it's ranked highly as a great place to get views over Oxford for 2 pounds a climb.
Botanic Gardens- Looked nice from the outside, but since it was 5 pounds, and the person I was with refused to pay 5 pounds to look at flowers (actually sums up why he never got me any flowers), I just jumped on his shoulders and looked over the fence like a sad person.
Row, Row, Row, Your Boat- Oxford is famous for their crew team so it's no suprise the city is surrounded by a little river. This features scenic bridges, walks and little boats (called punts or pedalos). One place to rent them is actually across from the botanic gardens. More information can be found here.
DINING & SHOPPING:
Finding different places to eat and drink in Oxford is not difficult, with each winding road, you will manage to find a myriad of small pubs and cafes. Mixed in with these places to eat are a few stores, but most will be selling Oxford merchandise or Alice in Wonderland memorabilia.
OVERALL, Oxford's roots really are seeped in the University, however the history of this town and its position as a launch pad for innovation and modern day science, really places it as a great place to learn. Whether you chose to get lost by walking around the twisty roads, rent a boat to explore by water, or by biking around like the students, Oxford is an enjoyable, relaxing day trip.
Culture: Academia, Alice and Wonderland, Oxford University, Pubs
Museums & Libraries: Museum of History and Science, Ashmolean Museum, Bodleian Library