Oxford – A Perfect Mixture of the Past and Future


Taken from Wikimedia Commons

When people think of Oxford, they usually think of the world-famous university, not the city itself. Located only 92 kilometers northwest of London, Oxford is an extremely popular destination for tourists traveling from the capital city for a day trip. With a population of about 170,000, it is one of the most rapidly expanding and racially diverse cities in the entire country. Traveling there to attend a 4-week summer course at the university, I was expecting a somewhat average city with nothing compelling apart from its academic history. However, I was proven completely wrong.

Radcliffe Square

Being home to royalty and scholars for hundreds of years, the city of Oxford has grand, beautiful architectural masterpieces all over the city. The second tallest building, St. Mary’s Church tower, is one of the oldest university structures in the world, dating back to the 13th century. A 127-step staircase leads you to the viewing level, where there is a breathtaking view over the stunning city. Other landmarks include the Radcliffe square, the Sheldonian Theatre, and the Ashmolean Museum.

The 38 colleges that belong to the university are all beautiful, and many of them allow visitors to tour them during student holidays. My personal favorite would be the Magdalen college. The college tower is a great representation of the English Gothic style of architecture that is most commonly found in the city. Magdalen College was founded in 1456 and is one of the largest colleges out of all of them. I would definitely recommend stopping by if you have the opportunity.

During my summer course, I stayed in a dorm room in Oriel college. It is one of the older colleges and was founded in 1326. Compared to a college like Magdalen, it is relatively small, creating a homely and welcoming atmosphere. Despite the buildings being old, the insides are very modern and bright and are very well equipped with the technology fit for a top-class university. The high walls allow for a very quiet and settled environment, despite the city’s main road being right outside the college. This road, which is often known as High Street, also considered as the heart of the city, is a quick 50-meter walk from the college gate. This allows students to easily go in and out between studies and to sit down at a restaurant or go shopping. Overall, I found it extremely fascinating to see how an Oxford student would live their daily life.


New Biochemistry Building

However, Oxford does not only have ancient buildings. Being a hub of intellectuals, the city and the university are beginning to construct new, modern buildings to house the cutting-edge technology that the students use. Since I did a physics course, my instructor, who is currently doing a Ph.D. in condensed matter physics at the university, allowed my class to see the new physics building, which is currently under construction. This building, nicknamed “The Beecroft Building” will provide a state-of-the-art workspace for students and professors alike. The recently completed biochemistry facility is also extremely modern, allowing for over 300 researchers and professors to work within its colored glass walls.


“The city of dreaming spires” is an absolutely fantastic mixture of the old and new, with buildings ranging from medieval architectural gems to iconic structures of the future. I was astounded with just how much was actually happening in the city, from its festivals to its university graduations. The city has tons to do for tourists and residents- be it a historical tour or shopping on High Street. It also has a great location, allowing people to get to many popular destinations such as London, Warwick Castle, and Stonehenge in only one or two hours. All in all, the city is a synergistic beauty that I would suggest anyone visit.