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Welcome to Oxford


Having spawned the legendary Alice in Wonderland, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, and the Chronicles of Narnia, Oxford is not only England's oldest centre for learning, but the home and inspiration of such famous authors as Lewis Carroll, CS Lewis, and JRR Tolkien. The city recently added to its literary resume by acting as the location of several parts of Hogwarts in the blockbuster Harry Potter films.

The dreaming spires of the famous Oxford University house the famous Ashmolean Museum and the Museum of Modern Art; other excellent museums in Oxford include the Pitt Rivers Museum of Anthropology and Ethnology, the Christ Church Picture Gallery, and the Oxford Museum of Natural History. Whether lazing on one of the college quadrangles, punting down the river or exploring the city's ancient heritage, Oxford promises something for visitors of all ages.

Outside of the university, the city of Oxford has a number of its own attractions, including active theatre and art communities and many unique and interesting shops and restaurants. The Covered Market in High Street is the oldest in England and worth a browse and you'll find many shops that sell Oxford University memorabilia, whether authentic or not.

It should come as no surprise that a town this dedicated to its university would have a busy nightlife, and many bars, pubs and nightclubs open their doors nightly to students and anyone else who wanders in.

Information & Facts


In common with most of southern England, the weather in Oxford is generally dull and wet. Records have been kept in the town since 1815 and a month has never gone by without some rain, although Oxford is comparably one of the driest cities in the country. The wettest month statistically is October, and the driest March. Summers are usually mild to warm, although there have been occasional heat waves. Winters are mild, temperatures seldom approaching freezing, the coldest month being January with an average temperature of around 38°F (3.5°C). Nights bring frost, and snow falls in late winter and early spring.

Getting Around

Regular buses operated by different companies link all parts of Oxford to surrounding towns and villages. The city centre is largely pedestrian-friendly and most streets are open to one-way traffic; therefore a vehicle is more a hindrance than a help. Parking can be difficult as well. There are several park-and-ride car parks in the surrounding area, which are the best option for those arriving by car. Sightseeing is best accomplished on foot or by making use of a 'round the city' hop-on, hop-off bus tour. Wide-ranging cycling tracks run through Oxford, offering a more active, scenic alternative for seeing the city.

English is the official language, though visitors will be astonished by the variety of regional accents.

The currency is the pound (GBP), which is divided into 100 pence. ATMs are available in all towns and Visa, MasterCard and American Express are widely accepted; visitors with other cards should check with their credit card companies in advance. Foreign currency can be exchanged at bureaux de change and large hotels, however better exchange rates are likely to be found at banks. Travellers cheques are accepted in all areas frequented by tourists; they are best taken in Pounds Sterling to avoid additional charges.

Local time in the United Kingdom is GMT (GMT +1 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).

The Ashmolean Museum houses a fascinating and extensive collection of art and archaeology covering four thousand years of history, ranging from the ancient civilisations of Egypt, Greece and Rome to the 20th century, and including sculpture, ceramics, musical instruments and paintings. It is the United Kingdom's oldest museum, founded in 1683.

Chief among Oxford's many academic and architectural attractions is the unique Bodleian library, which is spread throughout several buildings across the city. The central core of this collection of buildings is set in Radcliffe Square and includes the historic Duke Humfrey's Library, dating from the 15th century, and the gothic Divinity School with its magnificent vaulted ceiling, which is open to the public. Only members can use the reading rooms of this library, which contains a copy of every book printed in Britain since 1610, and no books are ever loaned out. Guided tours are available to view the main buildings.

The photo opportunity afforded from the top makes it worthwhile climbing the 99 stairs of the Carfax Tower in the centre of Oxford's shopping district. The tower top is the best place from which to view the 'dreaming spires' of this architecturally beautiful city. The tower is the only remnant of the 14th-century St Martin's church, demolished in 1896 to improve the traffic flow at the junction of Cornmarket and Queen Streets. On the first floor a display depicts the history of the church, while information boards on the tower top identify the landmarks and spires in the panoramic view. On the eastern side of the tower is a clock with two figures that strike the quarter hours.

Christchurch, one of Oxford's most renowned university colleges, possesses an important collection of about 300 paintings and 2,000 drawings, mainly by the Italian masters. Works by Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael and Rubens are to be seen here, along with examples from Van Dyck, Frans Hals and Hugo van der Goes. The entire collection cannot be displayed at one time because of space constraints, but the exhibition changes every few months. There are also displays of 18th-century glass and Russian icons.

The oldest Botanic Garden in the country, Oxford's enormous botanical collection of more than 7,000 species of plants has been growing for four centuries. It was founded as a 'physic garden' by the Earl of Danby in 1621, but today its biodiversity is renowned as being greater even than that of a tropical rainforest. One does not, however, have to be a horticulturalist to enjoy the beautifully planted walled garden, exotic greenhouses, herbaceous borders, rock and water gardens that make up this botanic feast.

The quaint and picturesque country town of Stratford-Upon-Avon (which, as its name suggests, rests on the banks of the River Avon) is the historic birthplace of William Shakespeare. Visitors can explore Shakespeare's birthplace; Mary Arden's House, where his mother lived before marrying his father; his wife Anne Hathaway's cottage, as well as the school Shakespeare attended. Stratford-Upon-Avon is within easy access of the Cotswolds, set in the beautiful, rural Warwickshire countryside.

Set against the beautiful backdrop of Cotswold Hills, Sudeley Castle is steeped in history. With royal connections spanning a thousand years, it has played an important role in the turbulent and changing times of England's past. The Castle was once home to Queen Katherine Parr (1512-48) following her marriage to Sir Thomas Seymour; and Lady Jane Grey. Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Queen Elizabeth I all visited Sudeley. King Charles I stayed here and his nephew Prince Rupert established his headquarters at the Castle during the Civil War. Following its destruction by Cromwell's troops, Sudeley lay neglected and derelict for 200 years; however, its romantic situation and ruins attracted many visitors, including King George III. In 1837 Sudeley was bought by John and William Dent, successful businessmen from Worcestershire, who began an ambitious restoration programme; the castle is still home to their descendants. Within the Castle's apartments are a range of historic possessions dating from the Civil War and an important art collection including paintings by Van Dyck, Rubens, Turner, Reynolds, Claude and Jan Steen. The romantic 14-acre grounds are worth a visit from March to September and are the setting for outdoor Shakespeare performances, concerts, and other events in summer.

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