I am a medievalist in the process of completing a PhD (involving medieval medicine). I travel as much as possible at home (UK) and abroad. I'm always ready for new experiences!
Published November 12th 2012
The City of Dreaming Spires
The term 'City of Dreaming Spires' was first used by the 19th century poet Matthew Arnold to describe the spirals and towers of Oxford's medieval university buildings. The beautiful setting and long history of Oxford have served as a source of inspiration for authors, academics, and regular citizens for centuries. Only about 1.5 hours from London, Oxford is a delightful escape from the city.
Although the university is on the cutting-edge of academia, touring the ancient college buildings is like taking a step back in time to a place where lives were ordered by curfews, walled dwellings, gated entrances, and tradition. In fact, the bell in Christ Church still chimes 101 times at 9.05pm every night to represent the time when the university's original 101 students were called back for curfew before the gates were barred for the night.
There are close to 40 distinct colleges that comprise Oxford University and all of them have different opening times and policies about visiting. The Oxford City Guide provides a useful list of the 10 most visited colleges at Oxford along with admissions and opening times.
The Bodleian Library is one of the most well-known landmarks in the city. Located in the historic original section of the university, the exterior quadrangles are free to explore. The interior of the Bodleian, including its oldest section, is also open for guided tours at specific times, as noted on the library's website.
The Eagle and Child pub (or Bird and Baby as it's known locally) is another iconic Oxford landmark. This was the meeting place of the Inklings, a literary discussion group, which consisted of several Oxford academics, including J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. In the pub, you can see C.S. Lewis' armchair and enjoy traditional English dining.
Oxford is situated near the River Cherwell and in nice weather you can go punting on the river or see university rowing crews practicing. The area around the river is particularly scenic in the spring when daffodils cover the grassy banks.