Tourist Information in Oxfordshire
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Oxford Town Information

Use the links on the left to find information and images for the towns and villages throughout Oxfordshire...

Christ Church College - Photo © Steve Matthews
Christ Church College - Photo: Steve Matthews CCL

Crammed with architectural jewels – there are hundreds of listed buildings - Oxford has rightly been called the ‘city of dreaming spires’. It still is, even today, despite the traffic, the industry and the encroachment of modernity.

Built on the banks of the rivers Cherwell and the Thames (known around here as the ‘Isis’), it provides a unique glimpse into England’s Gothic past. And while its magnificent cathedral is comparatively small, everything else seems overwhelmingly ornate, as you might expect from Britain’s first university city.

Oxford’s story began rather humbly with Saxon ox-drovers and the founding of St Frideswide’s nunnery in the 8th century. Its famous university originated in the early 13th century when an irate Henry 11 discovered the exiled Thomas Becket had fled to France and demanded that all English students return home. After a great deal of strife many of them ended up in Oxford determined to recreate their Continental lifestyle.

The city’s rich history was often steeped in violence. In the 11th century, for example, Danish immigrants were burned to death by a mob after seeking sanctuary at St Frideswide’s.
Oxford’s city-centre castle was built in 1071 by the Norman baron Robert D’Oyly. Here, Henry I's daughter, Matilda, had to withstand a 10-week siege and was forced to escape in the snow, dressed in white. Later Henry II’s queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, gave birth to the future King Richard I in the castle.  The stronghold eventually fell into disrepair only to become the county jail, then Oxford prison and now a major hotel-cum- shopping complex.

The city has many beautiful parks and walks, mostly associated with its riverbanks and – unsurprisingly - is a haven for boaters and lovers of water.

Oxford's old Prison - Photo © Terry Bean
Oxford's old Prison - Photo: Terry Bean CCL

Perhaps its most revered masterpieces, though, are its museums and galleries. The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology was the world’s first-ever university museum, created to house the collection of curiosities of Elias Ashmole in the 17th century; the Bodleian Library is one of the oldest libraries in Europe.

The semi-circular Sheldonian Theatre was built in 1699 to the design of Sir Christopher Wren who, at that time, was Professor of Astronomy at the university.

The city has many other treasures among which is the oldest botanic garden in the world.