People & Communities
CASE City Guide: Oxford, UK


Oxford is a charming and compact city of about 150,000 people.  It is an hour by train northwest of London and easily accessible as a day trip.  The city is most famous for the University of Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world. It has also provided inspiration for Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia!

Meet your guide

Krista Slade, director of development, The Rhodes Trust (Rhodes Scholarships)

Interesting or unusual event venues

Oxford boasts incredible venues with historic ambience and cache. You can't go wrong with events at the following locations:

The Ashmolean Museum - The museum dates back to 1683 and is one of the finest university museums in the world with terrific exhibits-most of them free.  The rooftop Ashmolean Dining Room provides a sparkling backdrop for the city of 'dreaming spires.'

Divinity School, the Bodleian Library -This library offers a stunning venue with incredible atmosphere, for very special occasions. The Divinity School, which is one of three rooms of the Bodleian Library available for special occasions, was built in 1488 to teach theology and is a masterpiece of English Gothic architecture.

Headington Hill Hall - Managed by Oxford Brookes University, this 19th-century mansion has 14 acres of grounds and can host special dinners and corporate meetings.

Rhodes House - Built in the 1920s as a headquarters for the Rhodes Scholarships, it has a range of stunning space suitable for alumni events, dinners and meetings. Its lush gardens just won the gold medal in the highly coveted 'Oxford in Bloom' competition.

Favorite hotels

Accommodation options are limited in Oxford, especially during term time (there are three: Michaelmas, Hilary and Trinity).

Out of term, you can normally book a stay at an Oxford college room by booking via this central website, Oxford Rooms. Standards vary considerably but you can normally find something reasonably comfortable and suitable.

The Old Bank has a prime location on High Street (locals call it 'The High'), just down the road from University College where former U.S. President Bill Clinton lived during his time as a Rhodes Scholar. The restaurant, Quod, is a good value at lunch. Ask for a table on the terrace out back if the weather permits.

If budget is no problem, the grand dame of all Oxford hotels is The Randolph on Beaumont Street.  You may enjoy having a beverage in the 'Morse Bar' on the ground floor, named after Oxford's favourite detective, Inspector Morse (English actor John Thaw was a regular and much missed).

Best times to visit

Oxford is charming year-round and absorbs an incredible number of tourists-nearly 9 million a year.  During term time, you will jostle for space with students while summer months are busy with day trippers on package tours.  The winter is less busy but magical, especially with the carolers in college at Christmas.

Easiest way to get around

Oxford is compact and most easily navigated on foot.  Leave the car at home (or in one of the cities 'Park and Ride' lots, which circle the main part of town).  The brave may also rent a cycle or hire a punt or boat for a lazy day on the Cherwell or Isis.

Local customs

Mind your English and pronunciation! Magdalen is pronounced 'Mah-da-lin' and Balliol is 'Bay-lee-ole'. Oxford is quite formal and fussy about certain conventions. For example, never, ever refer to it as a campus; it is always known as the 'collegiate university.' There is a strong emphasis on collegiate life and the autonomy of the 38 different colleges, which comprise the University of Oxford.

Gift suggestions for hosts

College-branded items from your home institution are always welcome.

Final words of advice, welcome

Bring a portable umbrella as the weather is unpredictable and comfortable shoes to navigate on foot as there is so much to see. You will find yourself enchanted and hooked to return.