The home of ARB UK, Oxford is among the oldest and most renowned university towns in Europe; for centuries it has rivalled Cambridge for England's academic pre-eminence. Its free spirit of exploration, university parks, courtyards and lots of delightful gardens plus the hectic bustle of the city's pedestrian zone and outstanding cultural facilities, all help to create a special atmosphere. Here are some tourist attractions and culture in Oxford.
Christ Church Cathedral
The building dates from the twelfth century, but Christ Church acquired the status of cathedral in 1546. The most noticeable feature in the interior of the cathedral is the double nave arcading, which creates an impression of a much greater height. The church was enlarged to the north in the 14th century; in 1500, the choir was created with fan vaulting overhanging keystones.
The Thomas Becket window (which dates from around 1320) and 5 glass windows that Edward Burne-Jones designed and William Morris made in 1871 are in the south transept. There is also the St. Frideswide window, dating from 1858 and 3 fourteenth-century tombs of John de Nowers, Prior Sutton and Lady Montacute plus Frideswide's shrine remains, dating from 1289. Also, the George Berkeley grave, a philosopher who gave Berkeley town in California his name, is located at the cathedral.
Oxford City Center
There are lots of things that visitors can do in the centre of Oxford. The four principal streets of the city meet at the intersection called Carfax, which is a great point for starting a tour. The fourteenth-century Carfax Tower, which is a St. Martin's Church relic, has great views. Worth visiting are also Town Hall: Pembroke College, which was founded in 1624 but has origins that date back to 1446 and St. Aldate's Church (1318).
The Modern Art Oxford, which is nearby, is a visual art gallery that focuses on modern and contemporary art exhibitions and regularly offers movies, music and talks. The splendid High Street in Oxford is lined with many magnificent buildings (including many numerous colleges), and it was described by Nathaniel Hawthorne, an American writer, as England's finest street.
While sightseeing, visitors can also visit University Church of St Mary the Virgin (SMV), with its beautifully decorated tower (1280) that offers excellent views of Oxford. Of interest also are the choir, which was rebuilt in 1462; the stalls, which date from 1466; and the nave plus Lady Chapel, which dates from 1490.
Visitors get to see the very best in the University of Oxford amateur dramatic talent at the OUDS (Oxford University Dramatic Society). The OUDS is the principal funding body as well as the provider of theatrical services to most of the independent student productions that are put on by students in the city. OUDS puts on musicals, plays and more throughout Oxford.
The Sheldonian Theatre was built from 1664-1669 after Christopher Wren designed it for the University of Oxford. The Grade I listed building was named after Gilbert Sheldon, who was the University chancellor at the time. He was also the main financial backer of the project. Sheldonian Theatre is used for University ceremonies, lectures, music concerts, talks and meetings.
The ceremonial activities that are held in the building include Congregation, graduation ceremonies and matriculation. When not in use, the Theatre always remains open to the public to visit.
The Ashmolean Museum is the first university museum in the world. Its first building was built in 1678 to 1683 so that it could house the cabinet of curiosities that the University of Oxford received from Elias Ashmole in 1677. The existing building was built in 1841 to 1845. In 2009, the museum reopened after a major redevelopment.
New galleries focusing on Nubia and Egypt were unveiled in November 2011. The Ashmolean museum opened other galleries of nineteenth-century art. The Neoclassical building contains a great collection of antiquities and art, including a valuable huge collection of jewellery, Greek and Roman pottery, Far Eastern art and classical sculpture. Other Oxford museums that can be included in travel itineraries are:
• Museum of Oxford - A history museum that covers the history of the University of Oxford and the City. The displays include treasures from Oxford colleges, original artefacts plus period room reconstructions, which are all from prehistoric times onwards.
• Pitt Rivers Museum - A museum that displays anthropological and archaeological collections of the England-based University of Oxford.
• The Story Museum - The museum aims to encourage education as well as support community engagement by exploration of all forms of stories.
Since 1071, this building was acting as a place of incarceration. This continued until the closure of HM Prison Oxford in the year 1996. Today, travellers can learn about these real events and people from the turbulent past of the site through fascinating re-enactments and displays.
Also, other highlights are the opportunity of climbing the Saxon St George's Tower, which is the oldest building in Oxford, where you can enjoy amazing 360-degree views. After this, you can descend deep underground into a crypt that is 900 years old. Other areas that visitors can explore include a motte-and-bailey castle from the eleventh century and the confines of the eighteenth-century Debtors' Tower.
Oxford Literary Festival
The Oxford Literary Festival is popular and sees more than 350 writers flocking to the academic city every year in March. The activities include dinner parties, lunches, walks and more.
It's a monumental 200-roomed country house and the principal Dukes of Marlborough residence. It's the only non-episcopal, non-royal country house located in England to ever hold the palace title. The palace, one of the largest houses in England, was built between the year 1705 and 1722; in 1987, it was designated a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site. The building is named for the Battle of Blenheim (fought on 13 August 1704), and thus finally after Blindheim (also called Blenheim) in Bavaria.
Visitors can visit the beautiful palace with its splendid Neoclassical columned entrance-hall plus quadrantal annexes with colonnades and crowned corner-towers. They can also explore the vast main courtyard and the adjoining wings, with the large courtyards. Another highlight is the opportunity of exploring the majestic gardens, together with their magnificent French Rococo borders plus the parklands designed by the landscape architect called Capability Brown.