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Discover the stunning historic buildings of Oxford

Oxford is often voted one of the most beautiful cities in England and is known as the City of Dreaming Spires. It is home to a whole host of beautiful and historic buildings and there are an elite few that never fail to dazzle visitors. Here we’ve picked some of our favourites.


The University Colleges
Christ Church College, Oxford

Christ Church is one of the largest colleges in Oxford

Oxford’s biggest cultural treat is its absolutely superb architecture including the University’s 39 colleges much of it dating back to the 13th century. The most beautiful features are often tucked away behind the high walls of the colleges but many are happy for you to wander in, take a look around and admire their ‘secret’ quads and gardens.

The best way to see the city and its historic buildings is through one of the many walking tours, ranging from those themed around the civil war, gardens or gargoyles and grotesques to film sites, Harry Potter and night-time ghost story rambles. That said, there are plenty of treasures spotted easily from the city’s narrow and often cobbled streets with evocative names such as Dead Man’s Walk, Turn Again Lane and Magpie Lane – such as the Bridge of Sighs over New College Lane.

The best way to see the city and its historic buildings is through one of the many walking tours, ranging from those themed around the civil war, gardens or gargoyles and grotesques to film sites, Harry Potter and night-time ghost story rambles

Iconic bridge

This iconic bridge, which joins two parts of Hertford College, is thought to have acquired its moniker due to the sighs of students anxious about exams or love in centuries past.

Another architectural gem is the University Church of St Mary the Virgin on the High Street. This stunning building backs onto Radcliffe Square, where you can enjoy a drink or bite to eat in or on the garden terrace of its Vaults and Garden Café.

The Bodleian Library
Bodleian Library, Oxford

The Bodleian Libraries form the largest UK university library system

The Bodleian Library holds more than 12 million printed items, including rare books and manuscripts. Tradition, still zealously guarded, is that no books are lent to readers and even King Charles I was refused permission to borrow a book in 1645. Guided tours include both The Bodleian’s Weston Library building in Broad Street and the original Library across the street, where visitors are allowed to see inside those historic rooms. These include the 15th-century Divinity School, medieval Duke Humfrey’s Library, and distinctive dome-shaped Radcliffe Camera, which dominates Radcliffe Square.

The darker side of history
The crypt in Oxford Castle and Prison

Step back in time with a trip to Oxford Castle and Prison

Make sure you leave enough time for Oxford Castle and Prison, which reveals a darker side to the city’s history. A guided tour tells of how the castle was a prison from the 18th century to the mid-1990s and gives access to the foreboding St George’s Tower and castle mound where unfortunates were hanged.

There’s loads to see in the beautiful city of Oxford, and thanks to vast variety of historic buildings, it makes for a brilliant day out.


Explore the Bodleian Library

Read more about Oxfordshire

Image credits: ©Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford/John Cairns; Michael D Beckwith/Pixabay; Oxford Castle and Prison; Paul Cowan/Will/stock.adobe.com; Video: Bodleian Libraries/YouTube

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