Just like Cambridge, Oxford is dominated by colleges of the University of Oxford. The university is made up of 38 colleges, and although there is no known date for when the university is founded, there is evidence for teaching as far back to 1096. This makes it the oldest university in the English-speaking world. Our day trip out to Oxford was filled with learning a little history of the town, as well as touring some of its colleges.
After an hour train ride from London Paddington, we arrived to Oxford at 10 am. Our first stop was a breakfast of porridge and smoothies at the Organic Cafe Deli before getting a guided tour of the Oxford Castle.
Oxford was first settled in Saxon times and when the Vikings damaged the town with their burnings, the Saxons appointed a governor who then ordered the construction of Oxford Castle for military purposes. The castle was never used for that purpose, but instead for prison. We were able to tour the remaining tower of the castle and the crypt that were both used for confinement. There isn’t much to see of the castle as it is more like a prison than a normal fairytale-style castle, but we did enjoy learning the history and stories of the townspeople and prisoners.
After touring the castle, we began our college tour. We started with the University of St. Mary Church, but unfortunately they were closed that day for a meeting.
New College is one of the more unusual colleges of Oxford because it was built around a section of the old city walls, giving it a castle-like appearance. Another interesting fact is that there is a large mound right on campus. This is off-limits to the public, and we learned that this was once a burial ground during the time of the Black Death.
Some notable famous people who attended New College are the author Virginia Woolf and actor Hugh Grant. And some scenes of Harry Potter were filmed here as well.
Christ Church was the last college we toured, and there was a long line to get in as well. The main attraction of the school was The Great Hall, or the dining hall. For Harry Potter fans, this should look familiar to you. The set of Hogwarts was inspired by The Great Hall at Christ Church. And some scenes from the movie were also filmed here as well.
Some notable famous people who attended Christ Church are Albert Einstein, Charles Dodgson a.k.a. Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland, and William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania.
We relished in our time in Oxford. I think I may have enjoyed it just a little more than Cambridge, but both places adorned in its medieval facade makes it worth visiting for the history and architecture. If you have time to visit Oxford while visiting London, I’d say do it. And Harry Potter fans cannot miss seeing some of the locations of where the scenes were filmed, especially at Christ Church.