Oxford (map), some 50 miles (80 km) to the west of the capital London in its own county of Oxfordshire. The University of Oxford was founded in the 12th century and therefore constitutes the oldest English-speaking university.
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Together with Cambridge (the second oldest university city and Oxford’s great rival, map), Oxford has long represented the English academic establishment and elite (“Oxbridge”), a haven of tradition and endeavour.
Oxford city centre is very compact and easily walkable. Many areas of the city centre are pedestrianised, and all major tourist sights are well signposted.
Bodleian Library (map). The main research library of the University of Oxford, the Bodleian is one of the oldest libraries in Europe (opened in 1602, based on the collection of Thomas Bodley), and in the UK is second in size only to London’s British Library (map).
Hertford Bridge (Bridge of Sighs, map). A quaint pedestrian bridge for the students of Hertford College which has popularly become known as the “Bridge of Sighs” of Oxford.
Many Oxford colleges allow tourists to visit their grounds during certain hours and certain seasons, although some are closed to tourists at all times. It is advisable to visit the college’s website before visiting, or to enquire at Oxford’s local tourist information office to be certain you are not disappointed.
Ashmolean Museum (map). Vast, impressive, and has undergone major redevelopment, the Ashmolean is Britain’s oldest public museum, having been founded in 1683.
Christ Church Picture Gallery (entrance via Oriel Square, map). Houses an internationally renowned collection of Old Master paintings and drawings – some 300 paintings and almost 2000 drawings.
Oxford University Museum of Natural History (map). Houses the university’s scientific collections of zoological, entomological, geological, palaeontological and mineralogical specimens, accumulated in the course of the last 3 centuries.
Woodstock (map). Located 8 mi (13 km) north-west of Oxford is the picturesque and historic market town of Woodstock, the location of UNESCO World Heritage Site Blenheim Palace (map), and birthplace of wartime prime minister Winston Churchill.