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What to See and Do in Oxford – a guide to notable landmarks and attractions

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Oxford is historic Britain at its most beguiling. Home of the oldest university in the English-speaking world, the area is packed to bursting with medieval churches, ramshackle wood-panelled pubs, and immaculately manicured college lawns. But while the university may cling proudly to its eccentric, old school traditions, the city is vibrant, cosmopolitan, and forward-thinking. Scratch beneath its cobblestoned surface, and you’ll find sleek bars, designer shops, and a surprisingly rich live music scene.
Bodleian Library

 

 

Oxford University’s famous library is a must-see attraction in its own right. One of the world’s oldest public libraries, it remains an integral part of university life, but is partially open to visitors. Excellent guided tours include access to the medieval Duke Humfrey’s library, in which studied the likes of JRR Tolkein, CS Lewis and Oscar Wilde. You can also explore the Divinity School, which dates back to 1488 and boasts an awesome vaulted ceiling. The exhibition room plays host to ever-rotating displays of treasures from the library’s collection.

 

Museum of Natural History

 

 

A sparkling jewel in Oxford’s cultural crown, the University Museum of Natural History houses a mind-expanding collection of zoological and geological artefacts. It’s one of the city’s most family-friendly attractions, with fascinating displays devoted to dinosaurs and dodos, and fantastic trails through the museum designed specifically for younger visitors. The museum is worth a visit just to marvel at its ornate neo-Gothic exterior.

 

The Ashmolean

 

 

Britain’s oldest public museum is another essential stop for any Oxford visitor. Step through its imposing pillared entrance and lose yourself in rooms packed with astounding art and archaeology. Among its countless treasures, you’ll find the world’s largest collection of Raphael drawings, as well as masterpieces by Botticelli, Turner, and Picasso. History buffs will be delighted by curiosities such as Guy Fawkes’ lantern, Oliver Cromwell’s death mask, and a ceremonial dress worn by Lawrence of Arabia.

 

Blenheim Palace

 

 

Just 10 miles from the centre of Oxford, Blenheim Palace makes for a perfect day trip once you’ve explored the city. This 18th century stately home is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture, often described as England’s answer to the Palace of Versailles. Inside you’ll find an amazing collection of paintings, tapestries, and antique furniture, as well as an exhibition devoted to perhaps its most famous former resident, Sir Winston Churchill. The palace sits in over 2,000 acres of lush parkland, offering the quintessential English countryside experience.