The city of Oxford is about an hour from London, but shares none of the busy, hectic atmosphere of its much larger brother. Oxford is a centre of study, history and calm spaces, and I absolutely loved wandering the little old streets, seeing the gardens and the university buildings. Oxford is one of those classically 'English' cities, where everything is quiet and polite and tea is a focal point of commerce. Of course there are still the ever-present chain coffee shops, but if you are looking for a place to see a real piece of English history that has not changed much for hundreds of years, this is the place!
The city really does seem to be arranged around the university, and the 38 different colleges that make it up. Students have been learning here since at least the 11th Century, and continue to nowadays too. The city seems to be made of university buildings, libraries, museums, cute little tea shops and British souvenir shops!
The Ashmolean Museum is the oldest museum in the UK, founded in the 1680's, and is well worth visiting for the amazing Victorian art collection, drawings by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo as well as the death mask of Oliver Cromwell (among many others). You can also see the Abingdon Sword which dates from the 9th Century Anglo-Saxons who are many Brits ancestors.
But apart from the university side of the city, there are also some amazing open spaces and carefully cared-for parks in the city. The Botanic Garden is well worth a visit, as is the Christ Church Meadow (a huge open green area with rivers on either side. There is also an impressive natural history museum within the University that I definitely recommend if you enjoy that kind of thing (I do).
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