1 st May 2011
"ONE HOUR IN OXFORD IS NOT ENOUGH"
By: Nicholas Newman -
It’s amazing how hard being a tourist is. Take Oxford. Most day
trips out of London only allow their paying customers just an
hour to see the sights. That is the city of ‘dreaming spires’,
its famous university and the locations where their favourite
films like Harry Potter or Inspector Morse or Lewis where shot.
Then they are off to some other tourist attraction like
Stratford to see the Shakespeare.
As a local, one feels sorry for such visitors. Oxford needs
more than just one hour to look round its ancient university,
see the sights and have a chance to have a real taste of the
Often the very first question a tourist asks a local is: ‘Where
is the university?’ The answer is that the University is all
around you. This is because Oxford is made up of a number of
fiercely independent colleges located throughout the town,
though originally centred within the old city walls. Many of
the fine buildings date from the Middle Ages and Renaissance,
but you will also find some of the most modern architecture in
the world, much of it a joy to see.
A good place to see the most famous parts of the city is
afforded from atop Carfax Tower in the heart of the city or
nearby from the University Church of St Mary the Virgin on High
Street. Here you can see the colleges that line the High Street
or the fine University buildings like the Bodleian which is one
of the oldest libraries in the world. In fact many of the
colleges are virtual palaces of artworks, treasures and fine
architecture, which have influenced the development of
civilization for centuries.
Visiting the colleges is a good way of following in the steps
of famous politicians like Clinton who studied here as a
student, writers like CS Lewis, scientists like Edmund Hailey
who discovered the comet that is named after him, even today,
behind these ancient walls discoveries are being made. Though
what surprises many visitors is finding Christ Church Meadow, a
vast Thames side meadow in the heart of the city affords you
views of rowers on the river and spectacular views of the
city’s medieval walls and colleges.
The only way for visitors to really see this fine city is to
come for a weekend at least, when the hotels are cheaper and
the tourists are fewer. Oxford has a good range of places to
stay to suit all pockets, from the standard to the unusual,
like the newly opened four star Malmaison hotel, which is
located in a former prison wing of the newly restored Oxford
Castle. The food and the facilities are excellent, and for an
extra fee it should be possible to stay in one of the
unconverted prison cells kept in its original condition.
As for food, the range available is cosmopolitan, from the
latest in gastro pubs to cordon bleu cookery on offer. If you
want to meet the locals while enjoying a good meal, then a pub
called Far From the Madding Crowd is worth the effort to
explore. Here you will meet a good local crowd from nearby
theatres, shops and businesses often having lively debates
about today’s issues.
For those visitors in search of a spot of culture, the city’s
many fine galleries, museums, cinemas and theatres cater for
all tastes. My favourite museum is the Pitt Rivers Museum which
has a extensive collection of the University of Oxford’s
fascinating anthropological collections which range from Benin
death masks to Polynesian canoes.
Others will find the high art of the recently improved
Ashmolean Museum more to their taste with its paintings by
Turners and Roman sculpture. On a hot summer’s evening many of
Oxford’s college gardens offer open air concerts or plays for
those who wish to spend the evening outside rather than in a
club or theatre. While the local river boat company offers
themed cruises where you can watch the countryside go by and
enjoy a good meal accompanied by perhaps a jazz band.
After spending a weekend in this bustling city, you will find
you will want to come back for more.
Oxford Tourist Information Centre
Phone: 01865 726871
Fax: 01865 240261
Oxford Information Centre 15-16 Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3AS
University of Oxford
University Offices, Wellington Square, Oxford OX1 2JD. Tel +44
The Tread Wheel 43 Oxford Castle
Oxford OX1 1AY
New Road, Oxford, OX1 1LD
Malmaison Oxford Hotel, Oxford Prison Hotel. Reservations Hot
line: 0118 983 1348.
Pitt Rivers Museum
South Parks Road Oxford.
telephone 01865 270927
Beaumont Street Oxford, OX1 2PH
Tel: (01865) 278000
Fax: (01865) 278018
Address: Bodleian Library, Broad Street, Oxford OX1 3BG
Phone: 01865 277180
Fax: 01865 277105
Far From The Madding Crowd Pub
Far From the Madding Crowd
10-12 Friars Entry Oxford OX1 2BY
Telephone: 01865 240900 Fax: 01865 792200