Oxford is the oldest university city in the United Kingdom, located about 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of London in its own county of Oxfordshire, on the rivers Thames (the stretch of the Thames at Oxford is known as “The Isis”) and Cherwell. Oxford has long symbolized the English academic establishment and élite (“Oxbridge”), a sanctuary of tradition and achievement, alongside Cambridge (the second oldest university city and Oxford’s main competitor). Oxford’s famed “Dreaming Spires” allude to the Gothic-style medieval churches and colleges that tower above the busy contemporary town. Beautiful architecture and a dynamic contemporary life (fueled by students, light industry, and technology) located in the rolling countryside of Oxfordshire make this a wonderful vacation.
Oxford boasts a plethora of prominent tourist sites, many of which are affiliated with the university and colleges. In addition to numerous well-known institutions, the town center is home to Carfax Tower and the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, both of which give views of the city’s spires. The old Covered Market is popular with visitors. Punting on the Thames/Isis and the Cherwell is popular throughout the summer.
Oxford is home to several museums, galleries, and collections, the majority of which are open to the public and important tourist attractions. The vast majority are University of Oxford departments.
UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD
The University of Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of the most famous and prestigious higher education institutions in the world, with five applications for every available place and 40 percent of its academic staff and 15 percent of undergraduates coming from outside the country. According to QS World Rankings, it is now placed fifth in the world, behind its biggest UK competitor, Cambridge, which is ranked first.
Oxford is well-known for its tutorial-based teaching technique, with students attending one one-hour tutorial each week on average.
THE CITY CENTRE
Oxford city centre contains several shops, many theatres, and an ice rink, as well as being a key magnet for visitors (9.1 million in 2008, same in 2009). Because of the old structures, this site is a favorite choice for film and television crews.
The city center is tiny and centered on Carfax, a crossroads that connects Cornmarket Street (pedestrianised), Queen Street (semi-pedestrianised), St Aldate’s, and the High. Oxford’s major brand businesses, as well as a limited number of independent merchants, such as Boswell’s, which was founded in 1738, can be found on Cornmarket Street and Queen Street. Although St Aldate’s has few stores, it does have various local government facilities, including the town hall, the city police station, and local council offices. The High (the term street is generally removed) is the longest of the four streets and is home to a variety of independent and high-end chain retailers, as well as university and college buildings.
The Clarendon Centre and the Westgate Centre are two minor retail malls in the city center. The Westgate Centre, situated near the west end of Queen Street, is named after the old West Gate in the city wall. It’s a little town with a few chain businesses and a grocery. The Westgate Shopping Centre will be tripled in size to 750,000 square feet (70,000 square meters), with a new 1,335-space underground car park and 90 new stores and restaurants, including a 230,000 square foot (21,000 square meter) John Lewis department store. There will be a new and enhanced transportation system, as well as a thorough renovation of the present center and the neighboring Bonn Square area. The development plans include a number of new dwellings, and completion is scheduled in 2011, however this has been pushed back owing to the present economic conditions.
Blackwell’s Bookshop is a big bookstore that boasts the largest single space dedicated to book sales in Europe, the vast Norrington Room (10,000 sq ft).