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The University is one of the oldest in Europe with some evidence of organised teaching going back to 872. Differences between town and gown caused the University to close in 1209 only to be re-opened in 1214 after local traders felt the pinch. Since then it hasn't looked back and is now ranked as one of the great learning centres of Europe. Unlike many University sites, Oxford does not have a campus as such but is a collection of colleges and other buildings spread throughout the city. Most colleges are open to the public, some with a small charge, but it is advisable to check with individual colleges especially if intending to visit in a large group. Since the colleges are places of study, please remain as quiet as possible when visiting.
Blenheim Palace & Bladon - Magnificent 18th Century Baroque palace, home of the 11th Duke of Marlborough and the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. (mornings mid-March to end October). Cotswolds - Minster Lovell, Burford, Filkins, Bibury, Windrush & Coln Valleys. For a memorable day combine these two tours for a reduced price. Warwick Castle - Britain's finest medieval castle with its ghost tower, dungeons, ramparts, state rooms, 'Kingmaker' exhibition and impressive gardens.
Bath & Castle Combe - Walking tour of this magnificent Georgian city showing its architectural highlights then time to visit a museum or to shop! Return to Oxford via the quaint, unspoilt village of Castle Combe and the Southern Cotswolds. North Cotswolds - Beautiful scenery, historic villages and towns, including Bourton-on-the-Water, the Slaughters, Chipping Campden, Broadway, Stanton, Stanway and Sudeley Castle. South Cotswolds - A fascinating tour including Great Coxwell Tithe Barn, Fairford, Cirencester, Duntisbourne Valley, Owlpen Manor and Painswick.
Stonehenge, Salisbury & Avebury - Explore the mysteries of Ancient Britain, visit famous stone circles, ancient burial sites and admire the magnificent Salisbury Cathedral. Stratford-upon-Avon & Warwick Castle - Scenic route to Shakespeare's hometown, visit Holy Trinity Church then have time to explore. Next, a photostop at Ann Hathaway's cottage, a visit to Mary Arden's House before moving on to Warwick Castle. Gloucester, Forest of Dean & Welsh Borders - Visit Gloucester's magnificent Cathedral, historic docks and museum. We stop at Symonds Yat Rock in the Forest of Dean with its spectacular views over the River Wye, followed by Tintern Abbey (12th century) and a final stop at Chepstow with its imposing castle.
The Martyrs' Memorial At the south end of St Giles'. Rather than swear allegiance to the Roman Catholic Queen Mary, Archbishop Cranmer and Protestant Bishops Latimer and Ridley were burnt at the stake - a cross in the road outside Balliol college marks the actual spot - the memorial commemorates the men.
Classical Music: Apollo Theatre, Rock, Pop, Classical, Ballet, Opera concerts, George Street. Second home to Welsh National Opera and the Glyndebourne Touring Company. Holywell Music Room, Oldest music room in Europe dating from 1748. Resident orchestra is the Oxford Pro Musica. Newman Rooms, Plays and musicals, Rose Place, St. Aldates. City of Oxford Orchestra, present concerts all year round. Music at Oxford, organise concerts, mostly at the Sheldonian Theatre. Jacqueline du Pré Building, St Hilda's College, Regular classical and jazz concerts in this specially built modern building. Oxford Festival of Contemporary Music, an annual event (usually October) with concerts throughout Oxford. The Oxford University Faculty of Music in St Aldate's hosts public concerts and lectures during term times. Concerts are regularly held at the Sheldonian Theatre.
Fully undercover on a single level, Westgate Shopping Centre is situated by the multi-storey car park in Oxford City Centre. For convenience it has Shopmobility and is easy to reach by Park & Ride buses. The Westgate Shopping Centre offers a wide range of shops including stylish clothes from men's and ladies designer fashion and the latest high street trends.
Spoil yourself with the beauty treatment, or your favourite fragrance. Create that new look for your home or choose the latest computer games and mobile telephones, this seasons sunglasses, that special birthday, Valentines Day, Mothers Day or Fathers Day present - its all here. With so much for the sports enthusiast, and a super specialist golf floor, the range of sports shops for Fashion or activity wear will have you spoilt for choice.
Need a break? Relax over a continental coffee and patisserie, treat yourself to luxury chocolates or just window shop under cover in warm dry malls with Customer Service staff to hand should you need them. The Westgate Shopping Centre has something for everyone to make your visit pleasant and memorable - young, old, students, parents - a family stopping mall".
You're spoilt for choice for music in Oxford. Not only does it have two major concert halls, the Sheldonian and the Holywell Music Room, but opera comes regularly to the Apollo Theatre. For rock fans, five pubs host live music at least once a week along with one specially built venue, and there is a healthy nightclub scene. For the visual arts, don't miss the important collection at the Ashmolean Museum. Oxford also boasts museums for modern art, science, natural history, musical instruments, and many more. Many plays preview in Oxford at The Playhouse before their London runs, and national and local groups perform at the Pegasus theatre. Oxford boasts four cinemas, as well as outdoor screenings in the summer. Enjoy live The Comedy Stage at the Comedy Stage, on Monday nights at the O.X. ONE pub.
Oxford is known throughout the world as a centre of excellence for education. It is well endowed with educational establishments: two universities with associated institutions, and plenty of schools, state and independent, to choose from. Over the summer months in particular, many international visitors choose Oxford as a base to learn English.
Oxford is very much a walking town. The traffic in Oxford is awful for the most part, since the city was built long before cars were invented, and they didn't do much to the infrastructure of the city to accommodate cars. The main streets in the city center, including the High and Cornmarket are closed off to all vehicles except for buses and taxis. And if that's not indication enough that they don't want you driving here, they have also made parking difficult and ridiculously expensive! So unless you are planning to do some excursions outside of the city, forego the rental car and invest in a good pair of walking shoes instead.
The funny thing about the weather is that although England has a reputation for always being rainy, I feel like it barely rains in Oxford! Certainly not any more often than anywhere else in the world. You should always travel with an umbrella wherever you go just in case, but I wouldn't pack my entire wardrobe around a rain coat and a pair of Wellington boots. The best time of year to visit is really a matter of opinion. The summer days are very long, with the sun not setting until 10pm at the height of July, but the winters are charming and cozy, and it rarely snows in Oxford. Packing the touring in early and nipping off to the pub to sit by the fire and sip an ale is a nice way to enjoy Oxford as well.
Oxford University's great research library stands in a complex of historic buildings which includes the 15th-century Divinity School, built in 1488 for the teaching of theology. With its elaborate vaulted ceiling and carved bosses, it is a masterpiece of English Gothic architecture. The entrance is in the Old Schools Quadrangle, built in 1617. Painted over the doors are the Latin names of the schools to which they gave access. Above it is Duke Humfrey's Library, a medieval treasure-house of rare books and manuscripts which takes its name from Humfrey Duke of Gloucester, brother of Henry V. One of only six libraries entitled to a copy of every book published in the UK, the Bodleian now houses over six million books, principally in the New Bodleian Library in Broad Street and the circular Radcliffe Camera, built by James Gibbs in 1737-1749.
The tower of the 14th-century church of St Martin, with its 'quarter boys' clock, stands at the busy crossroads known as Carfax. Climb the 99 steps for extensive views over the city from the top of the tower.
Oxford's oldest building, this 11th-century tower provides another excellent viewpoint over the city. The designer William Morris was married here.
University Church of St Mary the Virgin - Built in 1280, this historic university and parish church once housed Oxford University's reference library and was used for degree ceremonies and to conduct other university business. In 1555-56 it was also the scene of heresy trials of the bishops Latimer, Ridley and Cranmer, who were burnt at the stake in Broad Street. From the 90-foot tower an external gallery gives marvellous views over the heart of the city.
One of the best ways to see the colleges is on an official walking tour. However, many of Oxford's 39 colleges open regularly to individual visitors, mainly in the afternoons. Opening times are displayed at each college, outside the porter's lodge. The opening times given below are subject to college functions, examinations, conferences, etc. You are advised to check opening times in advance with the college you wish to visit. A leaflet giving details of opening times is available at the Information Centre. The College Guest Pass is an inclusive ticket giving admission to The Oxford Story exhibition, Magdalen College and New College. It is available from The Oxford Story.
Christ Church - One of Oxford's grandest colleges, Christ Church was founded in 1524 by Cardinal Wolsey as Cardinal College and refounded as Christ Church on his fall from grace. The Great Hall includes many features which appear in the Alice stories written by Lewis Carroll (Christ Church don Charles Dodgson) for Alice Liddell, daughter of the Dean. Generous opening hours now make Christ Church Oxford's most-visited college.
Magdalen College - Founded in 1485, Magdalen's extensive grounds include its own deer park and river walk. Oxford's famous May Morning celebrations centre on Magdalen when, carols and madrigals are relayed from the top of the tower to the crowds on Magdalen Bridge.
New College - Founded by William Wykeham in 1379 to ensure a supply of well-educated clerics and statesmen after the scourge of the Black Death, this was the first Oxford college to be built around a defined quadrangle. Its beautiful gardens are dominated by a well-preserved section of Oxford's medieval city wall.
Balliol College - Balliol College was founded in 1263 by John Balliol and given its Statutes by his widow Dervorguilla of Galloway in 1282.
Exeter College - Exeter College is one of Oxford University's oldest Colleges. Founded in 1314, it has a reputation for being a friendly College, and with the tranquility of its library and garden and the bustle of a location in the centre of Oxford, Exeter has a unique charm.
All Souls College - All Souls was founded in 1438 by Archbishop Chichele with a special emphasis on the study of Canon and Civil Law, through fellowships. There are no undergraduates at All Souls, and amongst its past fellows is T.E. Lawrence - Lawrence of Arabia.
The Queen's College - The 'hall of the Queen's scholars at Oxford' was founded in 1341 by Robert de Eglesfield, a chaplain in the household of Queen Philippa, who named it in her honour. The college has a magnificent collection of 17th and 18th century buildings, and Daniel Defoe described it as "the most beautiful college in the university".
Oxford Wildlife Walks - Oxford City Council's Countryside Service publishes a free leaflet giving details of wildlife walks in Shotover Country Park, Iffley Meadows and Chilswell Valley. Entitled Helping Oxford's Wildlife, the leaflet is available from the Oxford Tourist Information Centre in Gloucester Green.
Chilswell Valley - Reed beds, woodlands and a steep-sided grass valley are all part of the changing landscape of Chilswell Valley. Look and listen for flora and fauna which include lizards, blue tits, willow warblers, millipedes, woodlice and spiders, as well as cowslips, bee orchids, comfrey, meadowsweet, wild angelica, bluebells and wood anemones. There are magnificent views of Oxford from the top of the valley.
Grandpont Nature Park - Just a stone's-throw from the city centre, this award-winning park occupies the site of the former gas works, demolished in 1960. An ornamental rail bridge across the Thames is now the only reminder that this was once a scene of heavy coal trucks and furnaces. Grandpont today is a haven of peace. In autumn the park is colourful with maples and cherries, whilst neighbouring meadows are dotted with elder, dog rose, cowslips and other wild flowers in the spring.
Iffley Meadows and Long Bridges Nature Park - Situated beside the River Thames, Iffley Meadows is managed as a traditional meadow, cut for hay in July with cattle grazing the new growth in autumn. Its wealth of wild flowers includes snakeshead fritillaries (April and May), lady's smock (spring), oxeye daisies, meadow buttercups and ragged robin (summer). Look out too for orange tip butterflies (spring) and common blue and speckled wood (summer).
Port Meadow and Wolvercote Common - Together, the Meadow and Common make up 400 acres of grassland beside the River Thames. The Meadow has remained unchanged for centuries and grazing by cattle and horses have allowed the area to support outstanding wildlife, including some of the rarest plants in Britain. Winter flooding attracts large flocks of ducks, geese and wading birds.
The Country Park preserves a precious area of ancient Royal Forest, meadowland and heath that once provided hunting grounds for noblemen and fuel and grazing for the people of the surrounding villages. It is a place of beauty and history, which also offers magical views down to Oxford and across the country. Shotover is a haven for a rich variety of wildlife. Its rare wildflowers include wild bluebells and yellow archangel, patches of peppermint and golden saxifrage in wetland areas and summer heather and meadow flowers. The Park is also home to foxes, badgers, deer, yellowhammers, green woodpeckers, goldfinches, dragonflies and several rare species of butterflies.