The highest echelons of academia, vistages of colonial England, Oxford is a beautiful place to visit, steeped in history and wonderful architecture. Lucky for us my cousin and his wife are currently based there so we got the best tour guides to show us around. It is a cheap and easy day trip from London or a lovely place to spend the weekend. First things first you will want to check out a few of the colleges, some are only open certain hours and others you have to pay for. My cousin’s wife took us for a tour around her one – Worcester College – which was absolutely stunning. Perfectly manicured lawns and gardens, lake with swans, gorgeous architecture – just as lovely as we imagined.
Other lovely sites around the centre of the city include Radcliffe Square, the ‘Bridge of Sighs’, Christ Church Cathedral and Oxford Castle. In fact, every street you walk down, you simply ogle at architecture. Taking a walking tour around the city is the best way to do it. We decided to do something a bit different and went on ‘The Uncomfortable Oxford Tour’. This is an initiative by two Doctor of Philosophy candidates in the Department of History at Oxford University where they started walking tours in Oxford that raised ‘uncomfortable’ discussions about the built urban landscape and its connection to imperialism, colonialism, and global histories of oppression and inequality. It is a truly fascinating and engaging way to see the city.
Once you tear your eyes away from the buildings there are a few activities to do in town, like visiting the Covered Market that has been in use since the 1700s. A drink on the roof at the Varsity Club is a great way to unwind and get some fabulous views of the city. And if it is shopping you are into, why not scramble through the piles of clothes at the quirky vintage store called Unicorn. However, probably the most quintessential ‘Oxford’ thing to do is going punting down the canals. You can rent a punt for about £20 pounds an hour near Magdalen College and take yourself on an adventure. You can hire a guide but why would you miss out on the fun of watching your friend potentially fall into the water? We had a lot of fun and it was a great way to see different views of the city. Oxford is flanked by both the River Thames and River Cherwell which provide lovely river side walks, which is another good way to see a different and peaceful side to the city.
Oxford is full of old pubs, which of course is the perfect way to end a day of busy site seeing. We visited the famous Turf Tavern, which has been visited by many a celebrity, including Bill Clinton and CS Lewis. However, it is most famous for being where former Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, set his Guinness World Record for consuming a yard glass of ale in 11 seconds in 1963. What a legend. We didn’t quite re-enact this feat, however, we did consume some ale.
Overall, Oxford is a fantastic place to visit and we had a lovely time in this famous place of academia. Cost wise it is a bit cheaper than London, but you’re still looking at around £50-£70 (NZD$100 – $140) per day depending on what you decide to do.