There is more to Oxford and Cambridge than just the universities. Although visiting and studying amongst the stunning historic college buildings is a major draw in its own right, there are plenty of other things to see and do in both cities. Here’s a list of some of the places you’ll be able to enjoy as a student living in Oxford or Cambridge.
Ashmolean museum Opened in 1683, the Ashmolean is the world’s first university museum, though the building which it occupies today was built in the mid 19th century. The museum’s huge collection includes everything from ancient Egyptian mummies to modern paintings, spanning ten thousand years of human history. Admission is free so there really is no reason to miss out. Visit their website to find out more.
Christ Church Meadow and the riverside A huge open space in the heart of Oxford, Christ Church Meadow is open to the public year round and is a tranquil place to walk, with fantastic views of Christ Church and other Oxford colleges. During the warmer months the shallow Cherwell river is a popular punting spot, while the Thames to the south of the meadow is home to the college rowing teams, who use the stretch of water from Folly Bridge to train. You may also spot some of the meadows’ rare English Longhorn cows wandering around.
Botanical gardens Founded in 1621, the Oxford University Botanic Garden sits opposite Magdalen Chapel by the Cherwell. The garden features plants from around the world, and has several greenhouses filled with exotic tropical and desert flora. This is a wonderful place to relax and it’s free for Oxford students.
Pitt Rivers & Natural History museums These two museums share a building near the Oxford University parks. The Pitt Rivers museum features one of the finest collections of archaeological finds and anthropological artefacts in the word. With so many objects on display in a relatively small area, there is certainly a lot to take in. You’ll find wonders from places and peoples you had never even heard of here in abundance. The Museum of Natural History, on the other hand, features a number of impressive dinosaur skeletons, along with a host of other prehistoric creatures, rare minerals and zoological displays, all viewed in the context of a stunning neo-Gothic building.
Cowley Road Just beyond Magdalen bridge, Cowley road stretches through one of Oxfords most diverse neighbourhoods. It is host to a wide variety of restaurants, cafes and bars which reflect the ethnic diversity of the area’s residents. It’s also home to the O2 Academy, a live music venue, and hosts a carnival during the summer.
Punting on the CamGliding along the river Cam is undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist pastimes in Cambridge. While private and group tours are available, some people opt to pilot themselves along the river, which inevitably leads to lots of bumps and the occasional dip in the water. Despite its popularity, however, punting along the Cam is one of the best ways of experiencing Cambridge, offering scenic views of several historic university buildings as well as taking you under the city’s iconic bridges.
Kings College ChapelConsidered to be one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in England, and featuring the largest fan vault ceiling in the world, this spectacular building is an iconic symbol of Cambridge. Although it is usually open to sightseers, the chapel also hosts choir concerts and broadcasts, including a recorded programme called Carols from King’s which is broadcast by the BBC every year on Christmas Eve.
Fitzwilliam MuseumFounded in 1816, this free museum contains a large collection of famous paintings as well as antiquities, manuscripts, traditional East Asian art, arms, armour and more. Whether you’re passionate about art or fascinated by ancient civilisations, you’ll find something to capture your imagination here.
Cambridge marketSituated in a square in the centre of the city, this outdoor market, open from 10am to 4pm every day, sells everything from garden plants to CDs and second hand bikes. On Sunday it hosts a local food, arts and crafts market, providing visitors with an excellent opportunity to buy something truly unique. This is a great place to buy presents for friends and family!
Scott Polar Research InstituteWhile Cambridge features museums about art, history, geology and science, how about something a little more niche? The Scott Polar Research Instituteoperates a museum about Arctic and Antarctic exploration. Learn about the brave pioneers who risked their lives to push the boundaries of science and venture where nobody had stepped foot before. The museum also features exhibits about the people who inhabit the Arctic, and the scientific and environmental importance of the Polar Regions.
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