Oxford Travel Information

Mother Earth Travel > United Kingdom > Oxford > History

Central Oxford is, not surprisingly, compact, but many neighbourhoods on the outskirts of the town, away from the university, are worth visiting. The most central point of Oxford is the Carfax, at the crossroads of the High Street, Cornmarket Street, St. Aldate's, and Queen Street. The first of these, along with Broad Street which runs parallel to it, are perhaps the two most typically 'Oxford' streets in the City. Both of them are lined with Oxford Colleges, among them University College, Balliol College, Trinity College, and All Souls College Other architectural splendours abound along these two central streets, including two of Oxford's most famous sights: the domes of the Radcliffe Camera and the Sheldonian Theatre, built by Sir Christopher Wren. It is not just these specific buildings which are worth looking at however; make sure you don't miss the general architecture in central Oxford, where little seems to have been built more recently than a few hundred years ago. Even the shops, restaurants and offices would seem totally out of place in any modern city. Make sure you take the odd glance skyward: Oxford is famous for its Gothic gargoyles and spires.

Towards the west end of the High Street a few shops can be found, but the principle shopping area is around Cornmarket Street and Queen Street, with the Covered Market especially suitable for all those in search of quintessentially Oxford gifts. But fanatical vegetarians be warned: there are several butchers in the Covered Market, so if you don't look where you're going, you may soon find yourself bumping into something which used to look like a cow ' before it was shaved and beheaded.

Continue up the pedestrianised Cormarket and you will come to St. Giles, which then forks into Woodstock Road and Banbury Road, both of which take you up to North Oxford and the wealthy suburbs. By taking a right off Banbury Road and down Keble Road, you can find the University Parks, where College or university sports teams can often be seen in action. In the summer, countless undergraduates may be found, lazing around and procrastinating. Continue through the Parks and you'll end up fairly near Headington, home of Oxford Brookes University in North East Oxford. West of St Giles we find the area of Jericho. As far as central Oxford goes, this is possibly the most chic residential area.

St. Aldate's has a few more shops, but exists primarily as the route South out of Oxford, though the Town Hall and Christ Church, among others, can also be found down here. Head a little way down this road and you'll come to the Isis River ' actually the Thames, though it's not called that locally. All year round you can see students training on the river, and may even catch a glimpse of Oxford's world famous (though usually beaten in recent years!) Blues rowing crew, who slog it out against Cambridge in the annual Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race.

The bulk of students who don't live in their Colleges tend to live on or just off the Cowley Road, reached by heading East along the High Street, and over Magdalen Bridge. The Cowley Road epitomises the bohemian side of Oxford, home as it is to a hotch potch of bars, restaurants, clubs and shops. From trendy cocktail bars to gloomy, empty pubs; from classy restaurants to filthy-looking greasy spoons; from bizarre shops that sell nothing in particular (and yet miraculously stay in business), to high street supermarkets, the Cowley Road has it all. Well worth a visit.

Instead of going down the Cowley Road off the Magdalen roundabout, take the next turn and head down the Iffley Road. You'll soon come to the Oxford University Sports Centre, where Roger Bannister first ran his record breaking four minute mile. On a Wednesday or Saturday afternoon between October and April, you may also see Oxford's other internationally-recognised sports team: the Blues rugby team.