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The City of Oxford

The City of Oxford

The city of Oxford, home to the world's top university, is one of the most prestigious and beautiful cities in the world.

The city of dreaming spires…

In the heart of the English countryside lies a serene and magical city that has captivated the imagination of visitors for centuries. Renowned throughout the world as a centre of academic excellence, the ‘city of dreaming spires’ is the alma mater of many famous writers, scientists, musicians and politicians.

Nowadays, academic, historical, commercial and industrial interests flourish alongside each other in this vibrant, cosmopolitan metropolis. With its medieval chapels and cloisters, cobbled streets and narrow passageways, world-class museums and galleries, charming markets and quaint English pubs: this is the City of Oxford.

View of the 'dreaming spires' of Oxford

Oxford University and the colleges

During your stay in Oxford, you will have the opportunity to explore the famous colleges comprising the University of Oxford. In the centre of the city there are around 20 colleges laid out in traditional style, with limestone buildings arranged around beautifully kept quadrangles. Outside the city centre, there are another 20 Colleges and Permanent Private Halls.

For an interactive online tour you can visit

The statue of Sir Thomas Bodley outside of the Bodleian Library Oxford

The Bodleian Library

Founded in 1602 and regarded as a masterpiece of English Gothic architecture, the Bodleian is one of the oldest libraries in Europe, and today serves as the main research library of the University of Oxford. The two most famous sections of the library are Duke Humfrey’s Library: the oldest section of the library (it was also used in the Harry Potter films as the library!); and the Radcliffe Camera, a domed classical building.

two girls smiling on grass

The University Parks

The Oxford University Parks, more normally referred to as the ‘University Parks’ or just ‘The Parks’, is one large parkland area slightly northeast of the city centre, approximately a 10-minute walk from the High Street. It is open to the public during the day, and boasts beautiful gardens, large sports fields and a cricket pavilion.

A lily floating on a pond

The Botanic Gardens

The University of Oxford Botanic Gardens, the oldest Botanic Gardens in Great Britain, and the third oldest scientific garden in the world, was founded in 1621 as a physic (medicine) garden growing plants for medicinal research. Today, it contains over 8,000 different plant species on 1.8 hectares (4.5 acres). It is one of the most diverse yet compact collections of plants in the world, and includes representatives from over 90% of the higher plant families.

A group of students walks under the Bridge of sighs in Oxford

The Bridge of Sighs

The main buildings at Hertford College are linked together by a corridor called the “Bridge of Sighs”, built in 1913-14 by Thomas Graham Jackson. The bridge was named after the Ponte dei Sospiri, a famous bridge in Venice, however the designs of the two bridges actually have very little in common.

This is a very popular site to take photos, with the Sheldonian Theatre serving an impressive backdrop.

Ashmolean Museum frontage, Oxford

Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology

The Ashmolean Museum on Beaumont Street, is the world’s first university museum. Its first building was built in 1678-1683 to house the collection, or cabinet of curiosities, that Elias Ashmole gave to Oxford University in 1677. It included pieces he had collected himself, as well as those he had acquired from the gardeners, travellers and collectors John Tradescant the Elder, and his son of the same name. The collection included antique coins, books, engravings, geological specimens, and zoological specimens. One of these was the stuffed body of the last Dodo ever seen in Europe, but by 1755 it was so moth-eaten it was destroyed, except for its head and one claw. The museum opened on 6 June 1683, with naturalist Robert Plot as the first keeper.

Pitt Rivers Museum interior view

Pitt Rivers Museum

The Pitt Rivers Museum displays the archaeological and anthropological collections of the University of Oxford. The museum is located to the east of Oxford, on South Parks Road, by the Radcliffe Science Library and University Museum of Natural History, and can only be accessed through that building.

The museum was founded in 1884 by General Augustus Pitt Rivers, who donated his collection to the University of Oxford with the condition that a permanent lecturer in Anthropology must be appointed. Museum staff are involved in Anthropology teaching at the University even today.

The original donation consisted of approximately 20,000 items, which has now grown to 500,000 items, many of which have been donated by travellers, scholars and missionaries.

Students in front of Oxford Castle

Oxford Castle

Built in 1071, Oxford Castle served as a court and gaol until 1770. The site again became a prison in 1878, eventually closing in 1996. Now the Castle and Prison are open to visitors. The Castle Story takes visitors on a journey through 600 years of history, and includes a Saxon Tower, the Crypt of St George’s Chapel, and the original motte (mound) which formed the basis of the Castle’s motte and bailey structure. Visitors can relive the events of the Castle’s history. The Prison Story tells the tale of Oxford’s gaol from the 17th-20th Century.

Map of Oxford

Learn more about the excursions and trips that form part of the summer school experience.


Oxford residential colleges

Merton College

Founded in 1264, this beautiful college is known for its academic calibre and is located just off the Oxford High Street in the town centre.


Oxford College Accommodation

Some of the most well known alumni of the University of Oxford, lived, studied and dined in these world-renowned colleges.  


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