Synopsis: Selection of places to see and things to do on a day trip from London to Oxford including the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
While you're visiting London, sometimes it's nice to get out of the multicultural metropolis and see some of the smaller towns/cities where you can get a truer taste of English society. One excellent edifice of culture is the city of Oxford located not far from London.
What's to see in Oxford
Oxford, known as the City of Dreaming Spires, is an excellent city for viewing many of English architectural styles, some dating back to the Saxon era.
The most famous part of Oxford is undoubtedly Oxford University. It's the oldest university in the English speaking world having being founded in the 12th century. It is also consistently ranked in the top 10 universities of the world.
Unlike some other stately institutions around the world there doesn't exist a single central university building or campus, instead the University is split into about 30 colleges and associated buildings dotted throughout the city. Some of these buildings aren't open to the public, and the ones that are have very different opening times especially during term times.
Other landmarks in the city include the Bodleian Library which is the main research library of the University of Oxford. This library is one of the oldest libraries in Europe, founded in 1602 with the collection of Thomas Bodley; and is the 2nd biggest in England though, like the University, is split throughout the city.
The Radcliffe Camera building was built in 1737-1749 to house the Radcliffe Science Library. The science library has since been moved but the building is now used as a reading room for a branch of the Bodleian Library. The interior is not always accessible but the exterior is well worth checking out.
The Sheldonian Theater was one of Sir Christopher Wren's first architectural works and he later went on to become one of the great English architects in history. The ceiling fresco has been recently restored and is certainly a masterpiece of its era.
The University Church of St Mary the Virgin, called St Mary's or SMV for short, is Oxford's largest church. The original church was built on this site in the 11th century but it was rebuilt to its current state in the 15th century. The oldest remaining part is the tower which dates back to the 13th century. This tower is open to the public and offers spectacular views of the rest of the city.
The Taylor Institute, founded in 1845, is the University's center for the study of modern European languages and literature. Located in an attached building is the Ashmolean Museum, which was the world's first university museum and houses the collection of Elias Ashmole who was a collector of many great antiquities and curiosities from Egypt, Rome, Greece and the Near East.
The Oxford University Museum of Natural History is home to the university's collection of zoological, entomological, geological, palaeontological and mineralogical specimens accrued over 3 centuries! A popular example includes the Oxford Dodo. Located close by is the Pitt Rivers Museum, which covers anthropology and ethnology. And of note is that the museum still more or less appears as it did during the Victorian Era.
How to get to Oxford
Oxford is located some 80kms west and a little north of London City.
If you're heading out from Heathrow Airport, then you'll want to get onto the M25 heading north. At junction 16 you will need to exit onto the M40 toward Oxford/Birmingham. After about 45kms you can exit onto the A40 which will take you from the motorway, through the Oxford bypass, and into the heart of the city.
From London city center, you will want to head west along the A4. When you get onto the M25, you can head north and follow the same directions given above.
Reference: Mairead Foley writes for www.Novacarhire.com where you can book car hire at airports, ferry ports, rail stations, cities and towns all over the world.