- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Oxford, The City of Dreaming Spires, is famous the world over for its University and place in history. For over 800 years, it has been a home to royalty and scholars, and since the 9th century an established town, although people are known to have lived in the area for thousands of years.
Nowadays, the city is a bustling cosmopolitan town. Still with its ancient University, but home also to a growing hi-tech community. Many businesses are located in and around the town, whether on one of the Science and Business Parks or within one of a number of residential areas.
With its mix of ancient and modern, there is plenty for both the tourist and resident to do. Whether its visiting one of the many historic buildings, colleges or museums, going out for a drink or a meal, taking in a show or shopping till you drop, Oxford has it all and oxfordcity.co.uk will help you find it.
Whether you’re visiting for business or pleasure you will find a wide range of hotels, guesthouses, apartments and self-catering accommodation.
Aside from the beautiful buildings of Oxford University, there are many other buildings worth visiting while in town. Some are associated with the University, and some are not, but most of them are old and fascinating and are definitely photo-worthy.
Carfax is located at the junction of St Aldate's (south), Cornmarket Street (north), Queen Street (west) and the High Street (east) in Oxford, England. It is considered to be the centre of the city. The name "Carfax" derives from the French "carrefour", or "crossroads".
Carfax Tower is located at the north-west corner of Carfax. The Tower is all that remains of the 13th century St. Martin's Church and is now owned by the Oxford City Council. It is 23 m (74 ft) tall and still contains a ring of six bells, recast from the original five by Richard Keene of Woodstock in 1676. These chime the quarter hours and are rung on special occasions by the Oxford Society of Change Ringers.
It is possible to climb to the top of the tower for a good view of the Oxford skyline.
University Church of St. Mary the Virgin
The Tower: The tower commands some of the finest views of Oxford's famous skyline. It is worth the climb of 124 steps to make it to the top to enjoy fine uninterrupted views in all directions across Oxford and the surrounding countryside. The Church Guide Book indicates the major buildings to be seen. Entrance: adults £3, children (under 16) £2.50, Family ticket (2 adults and up to 2 children), £10.
The University Church of St Mary the Virgin is the largest of Oxford's parish churches and the centre from which the University of Oxford grew. It is situated on the north side of the High Street, and is surrounded by university and college buildings.
St Mary's has one of the most beautiful spires in England and an eccentric baroque porch, designed by Nicholas Stone, facing High Street. Radcliffe Square lies to the north and to the east is Catte Street, pedestrianised since 1973. The 13th century tower is open to the public for a fee and provides good views across the heart of the historic university city, especially Radcliffe Square, the Radcliffe Camera, Brasenose College and All Souls College.
The Martyrs' Memorial is a rather imposing stone monument positioned at the intersection of St Giles', Magdalen Street and Beaumont Street in Oxford, England just outside Balliol College. It commemorates the 16th-century Oxford Martyrs.
Designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, the monument was completed in 1843 after two years' work, having replaced "a picturesque but tottering old house". The Victorian Gothic memorial, whose design dates from 1838, has been likened to the spire of some sunken cathedral.
The inscription on the base of the Martyrs' Memorial reads as follows: "To the Glory of God, and in grateful commemoration of His servants, Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, Prelates of the Church of England, who near this spot yielded their bodies to be burned, bearing witness to the sacred truths which they had affirmed and maintained against the errors of the Church of Rome, and rejoicing that to them it was given not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for His sake; this monument was erected by public subscription in the year of our Lord God, MDCCCXLI".
Cuthbert Bede (in his novel The Adventures of Mr Verdant Green) wrote about the setting of the Martyrs' Memorial thus in 1853: "He who enters the city, as Mr Green did, from the Woodstock Road, and rolls down the shady avenue of St Giles', between St John's College and the Taylor Buildings, and past the graceful Martyrs' Memorial, will receive impressions such as probably no other city in the world could convey."
The actual site of the execution is close by in Broad Street, located just outside the location of the old city walls. The site is marked by a cross sunk in the road.
There is also an urban legend in Oxford that generations of Oxford students have duped groups of tourists into believing that the memorial is, in fact, the spire of an underground chapel or a sunken church, offering tours of it for a price, and then directing them to the stairs round the corner, which in fact lead to the public toilets.
Saxon Tower of St Michael at the North Gate
St Michael at the Northgate is a church in Cornmarket Street, at the junction with Ship Street, central Oxford, England. The church is so-called because this is the location of the original north gate of Oxford when it was surrounded by a city wall. Dating from 1040, it is Oxford's oldest building. The church tower is Saxon.
The Oxford Martyrs were imprisoned in the Bocardo Prison by the church before they were burnt at the stake in what is now Broad Street nearby, then immediately outside the city walls, in 1555 and 1556. Their cell door can be seen on display in the church's tower.
What to see: the Saxon Tower, which is the oldest building in Oxford; The15th century pulpit where John Wesley, founder of Methodism, preached the Michaelmas Day sermon on 29th September 1726; 13th Century stained glass in the East Window; 14th Century font from St Martin's Church ; Reredos of the 14th century Lady Chapel, restored in 1941; The door of Archbishop Cranmer's prison cellfrom Bocardo Prison is held in the tower.
Archbishop Cranmer and his fellow bishops Latimer and Ridley were burned at stake in Broad Street in 1556; The church treasury, which includes a Elizabethan chalice dated 1562, and a Sheela-na-gig, dating back to late 11th or 12th century.
The Saxon Tower is the oldest building in Oxford and is definitely worth a visit! Inside you can see the door to the Martyrs' cell, when they were imprisoned in the Bocardo. They have an ancient clock mechanism that you can see in action. There are six huge bells that are so heavy that if they rang them it would severely damage the tower! So they chime them instead.
The tower is the easiest climb in Oxford, with good solid stairs including a handrail. There are several places to stop and rest if you need to. From the top of the tower there is a marvellous view of the city of Oxford and its famous "dreaming spires".
Known informally as "The Bod", the Bodleian was opened in 1602 by Thomas Bodley with a collection of 2,000 books. In 1610, Bodley made an agreement with the Stationers' Company in London to put a copy of every book registered with them in the library (nowadays, each book copyrighted must be deposited). Today, there are 9 million items on 176 kilometres of shelving, and the library can accommodate 2,500 readers. Books may not be taken off the premises. The Divinity School and exhibition room are open to the public.
The Bodleian Library is a working library which forms part of the University of Oxford. It is housed in a remarkable group of buildings which form the historic heart of the University, and you can explore the quadrangles of these magnificent structures at no charge. Different ticket options allow you to visit the interior of some of the buildings, such as the University’s oldest teaching and examination room, The Divinity School (built 1427-88). Here you will discover more of the University’s fascinating history. Our guided tours go behind the scenes in the Library, including its oldest research library, The Bodleian, dating from 1602-20.