Oxford, 56 miles northwest of London, is a typical English market town at heart. It is located within a hollow amid low hills
at the gentle confluence of the River Thames and River Cherwell. What makes Oxford exceptional is its university, the oldest
in the English-speaking world, an institution that is represented not by a single campus but by 39 independent colleges that
are scattered throughout the city. They represent elegant seats of learning, but are also blessed with beautiful buildings.
The history of Oxford is said to have begun with the founding of a priory by the Saxon St. Frideswide, near where the River
Thames and River Cherwell meet. Christ Church Cathedral supplanted the priory, and in time wealth from the medieval wool trade
led to the founding of other religious houses, where learning was revered. Scholars were drawn to Oxford, and from these beginnings
the university evolved.
Unless you're a student, Oxford is more of a journey through history and great architecture than through academia. For the
visitor, the experience may seem faintly voyeuristic. You visit the colleges, picking your way through elegant quadrangles,
chapels, arched passageways, gardens and libraries, and at times you may feel you are intruding on a select world of academic
privilege and of cultural paradigms.
Yet the physical integration of Oxford's colleges with the realities of Oxford as a city dispel any sense of intrusion. This
is a living, working city that retains its own identity and commercial life. Take a ride on a Guide Friday open-top bus to
see the principal sights, leaving the bus where and when you like, or take a guided walking tour of historic Oxford or of
the colleges. Stroll by the Thames or take a river cruise.