Oxford, located in Oxfordshire, UK, is a city of beauty and brains. It is famous for its prestigious institution—The University of Oxford. At first glance, you will notice the archaic quality imminent in this city. Look again. You’ll see its charm, and timeless, rustic beauty.
I spent a summer term abroad there for a few weeks and fell in love with this city. Reasons to Visit Oxford is a three-part travel series composed of tours, tips, shops, restaurants, and excursions that will make you want to visit this quaint city full of history. As one of my tour guide’s quipped, “You move one step in Oxford, and something historic has already happened.”
- An abundance of walking tours
This is the best way to learn what’s around you and familiarize yourself with the city. I did Blackwell’s afternoon tour. It was very history-rich. My first week relied on the information and sense of direction I had acquired during this tour. If you’re fans of Tolkien or Lewis, they also have separate walking tours for that.
- CitySightseeing Oxford
This is for those who prefer to learn about the city as they sit comfortably from the top, open-deck of the bus. I did this one too; just to experience it, and gain more info about the city I was to call my home for a few weeks. It’s valid for 24 hours upon purchase, and has 2 different routes. There’s one with a live audio tour, and the other, recorded on their system, which you can listen to with headphones on as you pass each stop. It’s also useful in the sense that you can use this bus service as your mode of transportation for the whole day. The best part is that you can get off and rejoin the tour in any of the stops—whether it’s the green or red route.
- Harry Potter tour
For Potterheads and Harry Potter aficionados, this one is at the top of your tours’ list. Oxford is the best location—next to the Warner Brother’s London Studio Tour—to experience the books come to life! You’ll visit a number of on-site locations such as Christ Church—the staircase before Harry enters the Great Hall for the first time, the Bodleian Library where the Restricted Section of the Hogwarts Library was filmed, Divinity School a.k.a. Hogwarts infirmary, and the tree where Draco Malfoy was turned into a ferret. Need I say more?
- College Tours
Oxford houses more than 35 different colleges around the city. Each one has a unique history and its personal charm. Some Colleges charge a small door fee, but others welcome visitors in for free! Don’t be shy to walk in. They normally leave their doors open when visiting time is allowed. If you’re not sure, just ask whoever is around at the reception—or as they call it the Porter’s Lodge.
5. Night tour
This one is something you’ll have to organize on your own unless you can find a local willing to take you around at night or a legit night tour. There is a magical quality about Oxford at night and there’s no better way to take it in but to walk around when the sun goes down. Make sure that if you explore Oxford at night you have companions with you. You wouldn’t want to put yourself in unsafe situations.
- Not really a tour, but this for me is the best: Walk, walk, walk!!
Walk with no particular end in mind! As much as it took me a while to love walking around, this is definitely the best way to experience any city. You stumble upon hidden treasures and you can go at your own pace. Be sure to always be alert and aware of your surroundings if you are traveling alone. Use your common sense and instinct if you feel like you are in an uncomfortable situation or are approached by sketchy people.
- Flaggs College Store
While there are a number of College stores around the city, this one’s my favorite. Aside from the stylish jackets and hoodies, they also sell Harry Potter merchandise: wands, maps, etc! They little store is also adorned with broomsticks and other Harry Potter themed items.
BONUS: If you take a Citysightseeing Oxford tour, don’t throw your ticket/brochure away. You can claim 10% off in this store.
- Oxford Official College Store
For their official merchandise of course! You can get t-shirts at reasonable prices or if you want to splurge go get yourself a college-themed hoodie or a varsity jacket!
- Blackwell’s Art & Poster Shop
This shop is for art lovers. They have a selection of posters, paintings and art books! It’s along Broad Street.
- Fudge Kitchen
Also along Broad Street, the Fudge Kitchen gives free taste! Let your sense of taste indulge in the delicious chocolate selection they have. My friend bought a whole chunk! It was just that good.
- Covered Market
For those who want to explore the culinary side of Oxford, the Covered Market is the place to go. With a wide selection of food and non-food items, it’s definitely a place to go. There’s a cookie shop called Ben’s Cookies and a milkshake stall–Moo Moos–where the line is always long.
- Blackwell’s Bookshop
Blackwell’s is a book lover’s dream. Aside from carrying popular titles, they also have anunderground level bursting with books. UK editions of titles have nicer and artsier covers. It’s a temptation to buy a book all over again because the cover art is better. An added bonus is the music shop adjacent to it, also owned by Blackwell.
These are just some of the many stores that you should explore when you visit this beautiful city! Stay tuned for the next instalment for a list of experiences/excursions and places to see!