Known by the rest of the world for its University, Oxford is perhaps not the first place that springs to mind as a place to visit within the UK to those who live nearby. Having grown up in Gloucester, I admittedly, had the somewhat narrow-minded perspective that the options for an interesting lifestyle in a new city were limited to London, Bristol or at a push, Cardiff. Other than the occasional day trip as a child, or using Oxford as a mid-point for meeting friends that lived further east, I had never considered it as a place I would live.
That all changed when I got a job in Witney; a sleepy Cotswold town with a lot of sandy cottages, countless fields to wander around and a handful of very expensive pubs. I lived in one of the cute cottages for a year and started off of loving it, before becoming bored of small-town life. By the end of my rental agreement my partner and I couldn’t wait to move to Oxford, craving energy, youthfulness and variety.
While living in Witney I visited Oxford many times and already loved the city, as an architecture lover, being surrounded by such beautiful buildings at every turn was perfect. But it wasn’t until I actually moved there that I fully fell in love with it.
Here are some of the things I love about living in Oxford:
As with most cities, the surrounding areas are often the best bits and Oxford is no exception. Although it’s a relatively small city, it manages to cram in all the best features of much larger ones. Outside of the centre, there are many areas which offer completely different experiences, both for living or visiting.
I live in Summertown in North Oxford which we chose because we have friends that live in, and love the area, it’s also really easy to get back to Witney for work. Most of the houses in this area are incredible, on a stroll down Woodstock Road or Banbury Road (these are parallel to each other) you’ll pass dream houses all the way to Oxford city centre at the bottom. To walk the entire road length could take you a full hour, or around 15 minutes on a bike. If you have a mountain bike, you can take a walking or cycling route along the Oxford Canal which is also parallel, here you’ll pass the backs of the gigantic houses, pretty narrow boats, swans and ducks. If you head into actual Summertown instead of Oxford, you’ll find plenty of locally-run cute cafes and restaurants. Although of all the borough’s Summertown is the least bohemian and one of the most expensive, it offers a peaceful retreat to live close to the bustling centre.
Jericho is also north Oxford but around a 10-minute walk from the city centre. The area is packed with independent shops and attracts a more bohemian crowd. The area is also home to beautiful architecture and is actually a conservation area which helps to retain the character. In addition to the more grand architecture found throughout Oxfordshire, Jericho features rows of much more humble houses painted in bright blues, pinks, yellows and green making even the simpler areas photogenic.
Cowley sits in southern Oxford and has a lot more character than the other suburbs. This area is comparatively cheaper to rent and buy (although still very expensive in comparison to the rest of the UK). And therefore attracts a younger crowd including a lot of students. The neighbourhood is also a lot more ethnically diverse which manifests in the variety of restaurants and food shops in the area.
Alice in Wonderland
The original story of Alice in Wonderland was inspired by 10-year-old Alice Liddell – the daughter of Henry George Liddell who was the dean of Christ Church. Encouraged by Alice the author (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) wrote the story down and eventually published it. You can follow in the footsteps of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland throughout the centre of Oxford such as Christ Church Meadow and Alice’s Shop – where Alice Liddell used to buy barley sugar sweets. Today, Alice’s Shop is full of themed mugs, tea towels and other objects with delicate sketches of white rabbits and other characters.
Between Gloucester and Oxfordshire you’ll be hard pressed to find an ugly town or village along the way, this whole area of England is fairly affluent and the houses reflect that with Burford being of particular note. Whether they’re crooked cottages with thatched roofs or sprawling mansions, the buildings all have their own appeal. The historic city of Oxford itself doesn’t disappoint, each of the college buildings have their own charm, but Christ Church is arguably the most impressive. Designed by the same English architect responsible for St Paul’s Cathedral it stands surrounded by Christ Church meadow which is fantastic in the summer. In the heart of the city you’ll find Radcliffe Camera which is part of the Bodleian Library housing mainly English, History and Theology books. There are so many more notable buildings to mention, but I’ll stop before this becomes an architectural guide to Oxford!
However if you are interested in architecture of Oxford, check out my YouTube video below!