A beautiful nickname for a beautiful city, Oxford is known as “The City of Dreaming Spires” – a term coined by English poet Matthew Arnold (1822-1888). With a metropolitan population of nearly 250,000 and stretching upon an area of 45 square kilometres, it is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the United Kingdom. Known all around the world due to the presence of the University of Oxford (the oldest university in the English-speaking world), it boasts with some of the most exquisite architectural marvels of England (in fact, it houses almost all architectural styles from the early Saxon periods until now). In spite of its modest size, Oxford is a considerable cultural, economic and social centre. Oh, and let us not forget about the most important perk of having a prestigious University within the city bounds: the abundant presence of the colourful youth (wink).
Like most parts of England, Oxford is located within the Oceanic climate zone with significant yet forgiving temperature fluctuations. Precipitation is plentiful all year long and evenly distributed throughout the seasons. The lowest temperature ever recorded in Oxford was -16.6 degrees Celsius but it rarely drops that low. Most winter days do not drop below 0, so you needn’t have to worry about your tea freezing over (wink). Summers are warm to hot with a record high of 35.6 degrees Celsius.
Oxford is served by the eponymous privately-owned Oxford Airport (also known as the London Oxford Airport or the Kidlington Airport) located 11 kilometres north of the city and over 100 kilometres away from London. Home to the Oxford Aviation Academy, the airport possesses two asphalt runways and it does not have scheduled commercial flights (charter and private flights are the ones operating there only). Being the only airport between Heathrow and Birmingham (these are the closest options if you do not pertain to the wealthy, private-jet-using class), it faces gradual decline. If you still find yourself there via a charter flight, you should be on the lookout for the Oxford Airport Shuttle buses for they are the ones connecting the airport with the Oxford railway station and the Oxford bus station.
What you should know about England is that it is extremely well-connected by highways. This means that, like most cities, Oxford has direct links to its neighbours. London, for example, is connected to it by the M40 motorway (around 80 kilometres long). Note, though, that traffic can get heavy and you might be spending around 90 minutes on the trip. The M40 also runs all the way to Birmingham (England’s forerunner when it comes to size). Note also that we do not recommend that you rent a car in Oxford for parking spaces are extremely limited. If you cannot find a state-owned parking lot, you are in a heap of trouble because the narrow streets of the city will shed light on your ill-parked car in nanoseconds. Both cameras and wardens are on the prowl for rule-breakers and hefty fines are not uncommon. Oxford is a relatively small city, so we recommend that you use the public transport or walk even.
SIGHTS AND ACTIVITIES:
No matter what you may be doing in Oxford, you cannot elude the all-encompassing image of its celebrated University. For this particular purpose, the very first establishment that we are going to recommend to you will already be affiliated with it: the Pitt Rivers Museum. Accessed through the main building of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History (another fine establishment that one should not leave out if circumstances demand passage through it anyway), the museum was founded by Lt-General Augustus Pitt Rivers in 1884. Pitt Rivers’ donated collection served as groundwork for the grandiose exhibitions that decorate the halls of the museum today. Dedicated to archaeology and anthropology, it boasts with a collection of over 500,000 items. Notable objects on display include: shrunken heads; skulls from Yungya Village, Nagaland; Japanese Noh masks; and many others.
Remember the omnipresent nature of the Oxford University? Well, the Radcliffe Camera, your next point of interest, is also linked to it – it houses the Radcliffe Science Library of the University. The awe-inspiring domed building was designed and built by James Gibbs between 1737 and 1749 and it adheres to the specific standards of the English Palladian architectural style (referring to its pioneer: the Venetian master architect Andrea Palladio). Oh, and do not forget to admire its magnificent Corinthian columns.
Next up, be sure to head over to the University of Oxford Botanic Garden, one of the oldest scientific gardens in the world. Stretching upon an area of 1.8 hectares, it can be found on High Street. Established in 1621 as a physic garden for medicinal purposes, it has grown into the juggernaut that it is today due to the constant supply of new plants. Today, the garden harbours over 8,000 different species and it also prides itself with possessing specimens from at least 90% of the higher plant families (Vascular plants). If you are passionate about flora or botanical research, we highly recommend that you spend an afternoon at the garden for there is more to behold and study there than one can possibly fathom.
As you can see, the University of Oxford cannot be avoided if one wants a thorough experience of the city itself. Why? Because the city has become so tangent with its University that they can no longer be separated. Watch your parking and enjoy the academic atmosphere of one of the moodiest cities in England. Safe travels!