Oxford, England holds a special place in my heart. If you happened to catch my Instagram stories from when I was in Oxford, you would have learned that I not only studied abroad once, but twice. Once here and once in Rome, Italy. My first experience was at Magdalen College at Oxford University. I was just 17 years old and it was my first trip abroad and really my first time being away from home for an extended period. I think the reason this city is so special to me is because I feel like I did a lot of growing up here.
It’s an amazing thing studying abroad, especially when you're underage. You really have to grow up quick. I was going to the grocery store, making decisions for myself and generally just learning how to be alone and self-sufficient, all in a foreign country.
It had been 12 years since I spent the summer wondering these streets. When I returned, it seemed like nothing had changed. I’m sharing my top 6 things to see and do here - the same 6 things I would’ve chosen all those years ago.
This building is one of my favorite buildings in the whole world. It is so beautiful. I think I have dreams about how beautiful its architecture is. Maybe its the symmetry of it since I love balance, but this place just takes my breathe away. The Radcliffe Camera is one of the most iconic places in Oxford.
I’d say no trip to Oxford would be fully complete without a ride down the River Cherwell. Punting is much like the gondolas you see in Venice, Italy, but there is a distinct difference. The punt is propelling by pushing a pole against the bottom of the riverbed. A gondola is propelled more like a canoe or kayak with no contact with the ground.
UNIVERSITY CHURCH OF ST MARY THE VIRGIN
This beautiful church sits directly across from Radcliffe Camera. Yes, you can visit the church or sit outside at a table enjoying the scene, but the main attraction is a hike up to the top of the church. After you walk up 127 steps, you can walk around the tower to see 360 degrees of views of Oxford. The best part is the view of Radcliffe Camera from above. It is 4 pounds to access the tower. Further info can be found, here.
BRIDGE OF SIGHS
Just around the corner from Radcliffe Camera and St. Mary’s church, this one is a quick stop. It’s definitely a good photo op stop. You may think that it was resembled after the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, but in fact its actually more similar to the Rialto Bridge in Venice.
Christ Church is actually one of the colleges that make up Oxford University. A visit to this campus is an experience in its own right. The grounds here are simply beautiful, the details and architecture embody the feel of Oxford. You can take a walking tour through Christ Church that leads you through the dining hall, chapel and meadow. The Christ Church dining hall is a big selling point here. It’s what Harry Potter’s dining hall was inspired after. Entrance tickets range between 6 to 9 pounds. Check out Christ Church, here.
COVERED MARKET/BEN’S COOKIES
My absolute favorite place, besides Radcliffe Camera, in Oxford is Ben’s cookies. They might be a toss up. I don’t think I can accurately convey how delicious these cookies are. They are baked fresh throughout the day so that when you order, you are served a giant cookie still warm from the oven. I’ve since learned Ben’s Cookies is in London, as well. Please Ben come to the US! Also, the Covered Market, which Ben’s Cookies lives in, is a great stop for a bite to eat and browsing through cute stores and produce stands.
If you do have time, check out the school I attended while at Oxford, Magdalen College. In my opinion it's one of the prettiest campuses in Oxford. Although, they do all sort of look alike with the same bricks and architecture. Magdalen is great though because it has a bell tower and a deer park. Fun fact: Magdalen is actually pronounced Mod-lin not Mag-da-len. Seems way more British that way, right?
I am a huge advocate for studying abroad. So, if you are still in school and have the chance, snatch it up with zero hesitation. It will change your life and will probably give you a travel addiction. It sure gave me one.
Hope you fall just as in love with Oxford as I did.
Yours Truly // Shannon