Oxford and Cambridge are two of the leading and most prestigious university towns in the United Kingdom. Visiting both cities were inspirational- walking the grounds where many of the world’s leaders, intellectuals, scientists, and entertainers spent their youth was unforgettable.
The architecture of both university towns was another reason for my two visits, although Oxford and Cambridge’s building styles are different, they were both astounding locations.
The University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, or collectively Oxbridge, are the two oldest universities in England, and both were founded over 800 years ago. The universities are actually a collection of many colleges, and not just two. The University of Oxford has 39 colleges and six private permanent private halls of religious foundation. While the University of Cambridge has 31 colleges.
There are also several significant differences between the universities, which distinguish them apart:
- Oxford is bigger and livelier, while Cambridge is smaller and quieter
- Each of the universities offers different courses of studies and subjects
- Oxford is slightly more traditional
- The locations of the universities are different- Oxford is in an area of rolling hills, with small villages. Cambridge has the Gog Magog Downs and is good for cyclists.
- The architecture- Oxford’s architecture is more uniform and is mostly built from the same Headington stone. Cambridge has no local stone, its buildings are more diverse.
Even with the differences of both universities, Oxbridge offers an unforgettable experience when strolling through the campuses. There are many historical buildings and landmarks, as well as familiar movie settings.
A few popular sites to visit are:
- Chiltern Hills
- Christ Church College
- Bodleian Library
- Chapel of Kings College
- Bridge of Sighs
Christ Church College in Oxford has become a popular tourist site over the years due to its Harry Potter connection. The college was founded in 1546 and has served as architectural inspiration for a number of films, including some of the Harry Potter series.
The Tudor Great Dining Hall was used as inspiration for the great Hogwarts Dining Hall. The staircases and hallways of Christ Church were also used to film various famous scenes of the Harry Potter movies.
The population of Oxford and Cambridge is a mixture of students, faculty, professors, city residents, and tourists. Both times I have visited, I came with small day tours from London, which I enjoyed. There were no good reasons for me to wander these universities with a map, and trying to locate buildings.
There are wonderful walking tours that will guide you through the colleges. You can even join a Harry Potter tour if that is your jam. Either way you do it, visiting Oxford and Cambridge can be a fun and enlightening experience while exploring England- Enjoy your trip!
The journey is part of the experience…– Anthony Bourdain
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