Ox-ploring the City of Dreaming Spires
It's all fun and games until you actually become an adult and have to work. During my years as a student I would often take to jetting off on random holidays (not that I actually needed a 'holiday' from anything except reading and writing about books for approximately 12 hours a week) and now that those days are over, the reality that I can't just take off on random adventures has sunk in. However, this doesn't mean that I don't have any spare time at all, and it doesn't mean that there aren't places within England that I can explore.
Oxford has been on my British bucket list for ages and you can probably understand why. Beautiful buildings, pubs in abundance and punting make this city one of the most quintessentially British cities in the country - it is the birthplace of higher education and a hub of rich history. Luckily my friend Georgia, who I met at uni, lives just outside Oxford, and so I travelled up there on Friday evening and spent Saturday exploring the city. Read on for all the things we got up to! 1. Brunch at Gee's Gee's offers Mediterranean dining in a beautiful Victorian glasshouse - totally Insta-worthy. The brunch menu is small but has all the staples - from eggs to croissants to tea and coffee (and cocktails, if you're in one of those moods.) I opted for the eggs florentine and Georgia had the avocado, smoked salmon and poached egg on toast. Gee's Restaurant & Bar 61A Banbury Road OX2 6PE
The little streets close to Gee's are also really nice and photo-worthy. We grabbed a coffee from Brew as well as a slice of their homemade ginger and honey cake, which was top knotch. Brew 75B Banbury Road OX2 6PE
2. Walk through Oxford University Parks Commonly known as University Parks, the green space bang in the centre of the city is a perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle. It's used for sports and recreation by the students at the university (including Quidditch!) but is popular with local citizens as well, and it's easy to understand why. The perfect, peaceful place for a stroll or a picnic.
3. Visit some of the university colleges As you may have guessed, Oxford is not like other universities. There is no central campus - instead the university is made up of over 30 colleges spread across the city. Every student belongs to a college as well as being a member of a particular course, and each college boasts its own dining hall, bar, common room, library and societies. The university has been around for nearly a century, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world. The buildings are famous for being charming and beautiful so getting a glimpse at some of them is a must when visiting Oxford. Unfortunately you do have to pay to see a lot of them and whilst we didn't go on any college tours, we did manage to sneak into one or two and snap a few pics!
4. Walk around Radcliffe Square and see the Bridge of Sighs This pretty much is the heart of the city, and where you are more than likely to find the majority of tourists. Named after John Radcliffe, a student of the university who eventually became a doctor to the King, the square is paved with cobblestones and is surrounded by important-looking university buildings. In the centre is the iconic Radcliffe Camera, a library which is just one part of the extensive Bodleian Library. There are books literally under your feet, because the library is so big that there are books stored below the earth's surface (I know.) The Bridge of Sighs is also near here, which is a skyway connecting the main buildings of Hertford College. It's a good mimic of the one in Venice, with a very different history (most of the sighs are probably from students in the run up to exams.)
5. Climb a tower to get some good views Whenever I arrive in a new city my top priority is finding somewhere with a view, whether that be a rooftop bar or a glorious cathedral. Georgia and I headed up Cairfax Tower but there is also a viewing platform at the top of St. Mary's Church.
6. Visit Oxford Castle Oxford boasts an 1000-year-old medieval castle, which is situated on the western side of the city. The site is famous for its prison and crypt as well as the large mound, apparently where people used to be hanged for all to see (eek.) We didn't go inside but just mooched about the grounds and attempted to use the toilet, which was locked...
7. Covered Market
Oxford boasts a covered market, which is an indoor marketplace full of so many different types of cuisine. It's great for grabbing coffee, perusing fruits and vegetables, sitting down for Korean food or swinging by for some souvlaki. I'd recommend getting lunch in here before heading down to Christ Church Meadow for a picnic.
Jericho is a laid-back, sort of bohemian neighbourhood in the city that has become quite trendy, with bars, cafés and nice restaurants. We took a walk there before heading home as we wanted a little afternoon drink. We ended up at Freud, which is a bar located in a converted church (never seen anything of the sort before!) As the sun began to set we headed back to Georgia's to get ready for a night out.
119 Walton Street
So there you have it! That was how I spent the day in Oxford. I'm determined to come and visit again and actually explore some of the places I saw in more depth. There are a few great museums including the Ashmolean and Pitts Rivers, there is a Harry Potter tour you can take, bars and pubs to experience and of course the interiors of some beautiful buildings.