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To most, the city of Oxford is synonymous with the university it is home to: the University of Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world, and one of the best. A university of some sort already existed by around 1100, but in 1167 King Henry II banned English students from attending the university of Paris, and attendance at Oxford took off. It was nicknamed the "city of dreaming spires" by Matthew Arnold, referring to the university buildings' harmonious architecture. Many of the older buildings are built of limestone from the nearby Cotswolds: as a result, much of the city has a pleasantly creamy-yellow tint.
Aside from the university, Oxford is a real city. Indeed, King Charles I based himself here during the Civil War.
Almost everything of interest to the tourist is either part of the university itself, or related to it. The university, which has expanded in recent years to about 20,000 students, is split into 39 colleges (as well as departments). Students are all members of one of the colleges, which are the basis of social life and undergraduate teaching. However, lectures are given and degrees are awarded by the university. Many of Oxford's colleges are well worth a visit, including:
If you do visit, do bear in mind that they are not museums: people actually live and work in them and will not appreciate you peering into their bedrooms.
Interesting locations that are not part of a college include:
Not surprisingly for a university town, Oxford also has some excellent museums. Chief among these is the Ashmolean Museum, founded in 1683 and one of the oldest in the world. The Pitt Rivers Museum of archaeology and anthropology is popular, as is the Museum of Natural History. On the edge of the town centre, opposite Magdalen College and on the banks of the Cherwell, is the Botanic Garden, the oldest in Great Britain.
One popular pastime in the summer, for students and tourists alike, is punting on the river. It isn't as easy as it looks, and a proportion of the tourists fall in. Being punted is very agreeable, particularly if you have a bottle of something cool and bubbly.
For decades cars have been manufactured at the Morris's factory in Cowley, just outside the city. The site is now owned by BMW.
|Central Backpackers||13 Park End Street||Hostel||84|
|Oxford Backpackers Hostel||9A Hythe Bridge Street||Hostel||79|
|YHA Oxford||2a Botley Road Oxfordshire, OX2 0AB||Hostel||80|
|Athena Guesthouse||255 Cowley Road||Guesthouse||-|
|The Galaxie Hotel||180 Banbury Road||Hotel||-|
|Hawkwell House Hotel||Church Way Iffley Village||Guesthouse||-|
|The Ridings Guest House||280 Abingdon Road||Guesthouse||-|
|Heythrop Park Hotel||Enstone||Hotel||-|
|Foxcombe Lodge Hotel||Fox Lane Boars Hill||Hostel||-|
|All Seasons Guesthouse Oxford||63 Windmill Road Headington,Oxford OX3 7BP||Guesthouse||-|
|Nanford Guest House||137 Iffley Road||Guesthouse||-|
|The Westgate Hotel||1 Botley Road||GUESTHOUSE||79|
Internet cafés can be found in many cities and towns. All UK public libraries provide access, often branded as "People's Network", usually at no or little charge, though there is usually a time limit. Some hotels/hostels also offer internet access, including wifi, but most times at a cost. Using the internet on your personal phone can become expensive very quickly, with carriers charging 100's of times the local rate for data. To avoid these expensive roaming charges, you can hunt for wifi at a local cafe or hotel, or rent a mobile hotspot via several providers including DATAPiXY, and XCOM Global.
See also: International Telephone Calls
The country calling code to the United Kingdom is: 44. To make an international call from the United Kingdom, the code is: 00
In case of emergency, call 999 or 112 from any phone. Such calls are free and will be answered by an emergency services operator who will ask you for your location, and the service(s) you need (police, fire, ambulance, coastguard or mountain rescue). You can call this number from any mobile telephone as well, even if you do not have roaming.
Although the number is declining, you can still find payphones in many public areas, especially stations, airports etc. You can usually pay with cash and sometimes by creditcard or, for international calls, special phonecards are still available.
Mobile phones are heavily used. The main networks are T-Mobile, Vodafone, Orange and O2. 3G data services are available, usually priced per megabyte and coverage is usually very good in the UK, however it may lack in rural areas. Roaming on your personal phone plan can be expensive. To manage costs, consider purchasing a local UK SIM card for your phone. Several companies offer local SIM cards including Telestial, and CellularAbroad.
The Royal Mail provides postal services in the United Kingdom. The Royal Mail's store fronts are called Post Office and offer services ranging from sending letters and packages to foreign currency exchange. Use the branch locator to find the nearest Post Office branch. There will be at least one post office in any town/city and there are quite often post offices in larger villages. It's common for a post office to be incorporated into a grocery store, where there will be a small counter located at the back of the store for dealing with post related matters. All post offices are marked with signs that say 'post office' in red lettering. Post boxes can be found at any post office and standalone large red post boxes on the streets or red boxes in the sides of public buildings.
For sending packages overseas, it might be a good idea to check prices and services with international companies like TNT, UPS or DHL.
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