Oxford, England – City of Dreaming Spires

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With a 2007 population of 151,000, Oxford is located on the Cherwell and Isis Rivers in southeast England (Actually, Isis is a different name given to a 10 mile stretch of the Thames River). Oxford is a major university town, and is the home of the world’s oldest university in the English-speaking world, the University of Oxford.

Oxford University, and thus the city has been in existence since at least the 12th century, and there are buildings in Oxford that feature every British architectural period since then. The best description of the look of Oxford’s university buildings was by the 19th-century English poet Matthew Arnold, who referred to Oxford as “city of dreaming spires”.

Oxford is also a city of rivers, as there are many beautiful and scenic river bank walks, and a very popular pastime here is to hire a punt (a small flat-bottomed boat propelled by a pole) and spend a lazy afternoon on the river.

There are many famous buildings in Oxford, and Radcliffe Camera is one of the most distinctive. This 18th-century drum-shaped building with a dome was built to house the Radcliffe Science Library. It is used today as the main reading room of the Bodleian Library. The college buildings are the main draw for tourists however, as there are many besides the ones in Oxford University. In fact, Magdalen College with its distinctive Magdalen Tower and beautiful grounds and Christ Church, which includes a fabulous collection of buildings around a vast courtyard are arguably the most interesting to visit.

Oxford also is home to some of the most famous museums in the world, including the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology and the Pitt Rivers Museum with its renowned anthropological and archaeological collections.

The city center, although small, is also an attractive and extraordinary tourist pleasure with its great shopping and social interaction. Be sure to visit Blackwell Bookshop with its Norrington Room, which at 10,000 sq ft claims to be the largest single room devoted exclusively to book sales in all of Europe.

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