50 Ways to Know You’ve Fallen in Love with Oxford

Oxford captures the minds and hearts of so many people, whether they are born there, study there, or are simply visiting.

Can you relate to many of the things on this list? If so, then its official, you are head over heels in love with Oxford.

1. You’ve been punting at least once

Punting is the quintessential Oxford activity. Pick up a punnet of strawberries, stroll down to the river, and admire the beautiful architecture of the colleges as well as the delights of nature around the river as you glide peacefully down the Cherwell in the summer sunshine. Bliss.

2. You have a favourite place to enjoy afternoon tea

If the weather isn’t quite good enough for punting (or maybe you’re a little wary after seeing someone fall in!), enjoying an afternoon tea is another quintessential Oxford activity. Feast on scones, jam, clotted cream, finger sandwiches and cake, and wash it all down with a cup of tea.

3. You have a favourite college

The University of Oxford has 44 colleges and Permanent Private Halls (PPHs, which are essentially like colleges but with stronger religious connections). If you’ve really fallen for the city, you must have a favourite – do you like the towering proportions of Keble? The striking Functionalist lines of St Catherine’s? Or perhaps the majestic neoclassical architecture of Queen’s?

4. You know the best place to get lunch in the Covered Market

Whether it’s sandwiches, salads or a delicious hot pie, you’re the Covered Market expert – and you know when to go to beat the queues too.

5. You’ve spent an afternoon in the sunshine in University Parks

Generations of Oxford students and residents have found that the University Parks are the perfect place to go to play cricket or rounders, or relax in the sunshine with a good book.

6. You’ve got lost in the Ashmolean

The world’s first university museum houses a huge collection of arts and antiquities, including the Alfred Jewel, works of art by Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Cézanne and Rubens, Oliver Cromwell’s death mask and a wide variety of other things over several floors.

7. You’ve taken a selfie from the tower of the university church of St Mary the Virgin

127 steps take you to the viewing level of the tower of St Mary the Virgin, with its spire soaring behind you. It’s the best publically accessible place to get a photo of Radcliffe Square.

8. … or from the top of the Saxon Tower of St Michael at the North Gate

The tower of the church of St Michael at the North Gate is the oldest building in Oxford, dating from Saxon times – it was built in 1040, and offers an excellent view over the city as well.

9. You’ve bought a book from Blackwell’s (or several)

Featuring 5km of shelving in its vast Norrington room, Blackwell’s is the ultimate bookshop to spend an hour or three browsing from textbooks to novels to poetry.

10. You’ve spotted an Oxford celebrity doing their shopping

The broadcaster and journalist Jeremy Paxman, the scientist Richard Dawkins and the doctor and science writer Ben Goldacre all live in or near Oxford.

11. You have a favourite view of the city

Do you favour the ‘dreaming spires’ panorama from Boars Hill, or is it the nearer view from South Park in the south east of the city that you prefer?

12. You’ve pretended to be at Hogwarts on a visit to Christ Church

Much of Hogwarts was filmed in the Oxford University college of Christ Church, and it doesn’t take much to imagine that you might be a nervous young witch or wizard about to be Sorted when you see the inside of the college.

13. You’ve read everything you can find from Oxford writers

Whether that’s Evelyn Waugh, Oscar Wilde, Dorothy Sayers, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Philip Pullman, WH Auden, Colin Dexter, Lewis Carroll, Iris Murdoch or dozens more; there are enough writers associated with Oxford to fill a library in their own right.

14. You’ve watched old episodes of Morse to see what the city used to be like

The ITV adaptation of Colin Dexter’s novels started in 1987 and the city of Oxford is effectively a third starring character, so offers an interesting insight into the Oxford of nearly 30 years ago.

15. You’ve indulged in a lot of ice cream from G&Ds

Whether it’s Oxford Blue, St Clement’s (an ‘oranges and lemons’ flavour) or a classic like belgian chocolate that takes your fancy, an ice cream from G&Ds is a must in summer or in winter.

16. You’ve ventured out into the Cotswolds

Oxford itself is beautiful, but anyone who’s really settled in will have explored the wonderful countryside that is right on the city’s doorstep.

17. You’ve been on a ghost tour of the city, and told your friends some spooky stories

With all its medieval buildings and narrow alleyways, Oxford is a great place for a spooky story or two, and the city has some excellent storytellers to do it.

>18. You’ve visited Blenheim Palace

While not technically in Oxford, a visit to the stunning English Baroque country house that was the birthplace of Winston Churchill is definitely part of the Oxford experience.

19. You feel more attached to people if they spent time in Oxford

Did your opinion of Kate Beckinsale’s acting ability change when you learned she studied at New College, Oxford?

20. You’ve argued over which college has the nicest scarf

Magdalen is straightforward and stylish. Lincoln is quite elegant. Pembroke is a bit more jazzy. And Somerville is eye-catching. It’s so hard to choose!

21. You’ve strolled through the beautiful gardens of St Hugh’s

With lavish gardens covering ten and a half acres, St Hugh’s arguably has the most beautiful setting of any Oxford college – but since it’s a 15-20 minute walk from the city centre, only true Oxford devotees end up exploring it properly.

22. You’ve seen the Pitt Rivers Museum by torchlight

Under normal lighting, the Pitt Rivers’ frail-looking Victorian display cases are striking enough. But their occasional evenings when visitors are invited to explore the museum with torches in hand are even more of a spark to the imagination.

23. You’ve read up on 16th century history after admiring the Martyrs’ Memorial

The Martyrs’ Memorial remembers Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer who were burned at the stake nearby in 1555. The events that led up to their execution represent a fascinating part of English history.

24. In fact, you’re becoming an expert in any period of history where Oxford was particularly significant

And you’re feeling increasingly well-prepared for a history degree, since that amounts to most of the past thousand years.

25. You’re developing a dislike of Cambridge, even if you’ve never been there

You have a vague impression of it as a city that’s probably quite nice, but that could never be as wonderful as Oxford.

26. You enjoy all of the local speciality food

Oxford Blue and Oxford Isis cheeses, Oxford marmalade, Oxford sauce (excellent with a full English breakfast), locally made apple juice – you’ve tried and loved it all.

27. Every sunny day makes you wish you were walking along the river

Because what would be a better way to spend a sunny day than strolling along the Isis from Folly Bridge to Iffley, especially if there are rowers to cheer on the way?

28. You’ve enjoyed a picnic in South Park

Doing the walk from the opposite direction could lead pleasantly to South Park, where Oxford’s annual fireworks display is held and where countless picnickers gather on any summer’s day.

29. You’ve either already applied to study at Oxford University, or are determined to do so in future

Because if you’re in love with Oxford, what could be better that studying there?

30. You can quote the whole Matthew Arnold poem about Oxford’s dreaming spires

Even as you wonder what exactly differs a dreaming spire from a regular one.

31. No dictionary but the Oxford English Dictionary will do for you

It describes itself as “the definitive record of the English language, featuring 600000 words, 3 million quotations, and over 1000 years of English”, and you’re determined to use it, even if you usually write in American English.

32. You feel quietly pleased when you use an Oxford comma

And learning about Oxford commas has taught you a whole lot about the world of English grammar that you wouldn’t have known otherwise.

33. You’d sooner get an Oxford acceptance letter than a Hogwarts acceptance letter

After all, you’d feel a bit out of place if you were trying to learn magic with a lot of 11-year-olds. But you know you’d feel at home at Oxford.

34. You definitely think it’s worth queuing to get Ben’s cookies fresh out of the oven

Freshly baked warm cookies with chocolate that’s liquid when you bite into it – the best way to cheer yourself up if the English weather has ruined your punting trip.

35. You think that Radcliffe Square might be one of the most beautiful places in the world

The University Church of St Mary the Virgin, All Souls College, the Radcliffe Camera, Brasenose College, Exeter College all contribute their wonderful architecture to this cobbled square.

36. Especially in summer

When the golden brown of Headington Stone looks wonderful against a cloudless blue sky and the grass is a bright, fresh green.

37. And winter

When it has a fairytale dusting of snow to make you feel like you’ve walked straight into Narnia.

38. And at sunrise

When the light first catches the dome of the Radcliffe Camera and then slowly fills the square.

39. You see every movie filmed in Oxford, no matter if it’s a genre you like

X-Men: First Class? Yes. An Education? Definitely? The Harry Potter films? Unmissable.

40. And you get annoyed if the geography doesn’t make sense

Like The Golden Compass, filmed in Exeter College, Radcliffe Square, Queen’s College, Christ Church Meadow and Christ Church itself – but connecting them together in a way that is a little disorientating if you know what Oxford looks like in real life.

41. You can’t pass the Fudge Kitchen without getting a free sample

You feel guilty about taking a free sample without buying any fudge, but it’s so delicious. And then you inevitably do end up buying fudge.

42. You can’t wait until you can spend a year in the city so you can take part in every one of its traditions

From Nepotists’ carols in Balliol to May Day celebrations at Magdalen, the Oxford calendar is packed with traditions – though it may take you a little longer to have the chance to experience All Souls’ Mallard Ceremony, which occurs only once every hundred years.

43. You surround yourself with pictures of Oxford wherever you are

You might be hundreds or even thousands of miles away from the city, but it’ll be there on posters, postcards, tea towels, mugs and even your mobile phone background.

44. You think real tennis is vastly superior to what we call tennis now

Real tennis is the original form of modern tennis, dates back to the 11th century, and is still played on courts in Oxford. Its cork-based balls bounce in unpredictable ways and make the game very challenging – but that’s the fun of it.

45. You’re considering taking up rowing

Yes, it might involve getting up at dawn to spend time doing exercise on a freezing cold river in a damp boat – but is there any sport more integral to Oxford life?

46. You’ve been to a concert in the Sheldonian

Designed by Christopher Wren, the Sheldonian hosts various Oxford University ceremonies and is a wonderful location for concerts.

47. You’ve said hello to the deer in Magdalen College deer park

Walking through Magdalen’s lovely grounds is all the better when the deer come up and say hello.

48. You can contribute to debates about which college is the oldest

University College, Balliol College and Merton College were all established between 1249 and 1264, but with so few reliable records still existing from that time, which came first is hotly disputed.

49. When you pass tour guides showing people around the city, you think you could do just as good a job

Even worse is when you find yourself tempted to correct the tour guide, such as when they disagree with you about which college was founded first.

50. You know no other city in the world can compare

Beauty, history, culture, scholarship – whatever you’re looking for, you can find it in the wonderful city of Oxford.