As a traveler arriving into Oxford, clamouring to catch a glimpse of the soaring spires, domes and gothic gargoyles that give the city its characteristic architectural aesthetic, don't be disheartened by your arrival into the not so dreamy train or bus station areas. A brisk walk into Oxford centre will lift your spirits as you take in the beauty of many of the buildings that make up the centre of the city.
The city centre expands out from two crossroads, one of which is named 'Carfax', and is considered to be the centre of the city. From Carfax extend four roads; High Street, Cornmarket, St Aldate's and Queen's. Oxford University has a collegiate format and is made of up of 38 colleges that are dotted around the city, with the majority of them lining these four central roads. Some colleges are smaller than others, some old, some modern, some famous (such as Christchurch where Harry Potter was filmed) and some less well-known. All of the colleges have their own unique character and charm so it is advisable not just to stick to a walk around those that are must-sees: take time for a stroll around a couple of smaller colleges and enjoy their originality and atmosphere.
High Street reaches East towards Magdalen Bridge and is bordered by colleges that include Queen's and University. Continuing up this street brings you to The Plain, a roundabout where three roads branch off, heading towards Headington and the Oxford Brookes University campus, Cowley, with its ethnic , studenty vibe and funky cafes and restaurants, and Iffley. Cornmarket Street leads North towards the second crossroads ,St Giles, and out to the wealthy, leafy suburbs of North Oxford. This street is lined with non-descript chain shops but it boasts a great variety of architectural styles and the roads and alleys leading off it are home to some great pubs and clubs. St Aldate's leads South from Carfax, Christchurch College faces this road and it extends down to the atmospheric Head of the River pub and on to Abingdon. Finally, Queen's Street leads West towards Oxford Castle and is lined with more chain shops, head down here and take the first left to reach the vibrant Modern Art Oxford.
Having got your bearings, walk down High Street and take a left into the Covered Market. Inside is a treasure trove of independent retailers, cafés, traditional butchers and fishmongers and, of course, the infamous Ben's Cookies. Walking straight through the market you will hit Market Street. Take a right down Brasenose Lane and be prepared for a spectacular sight. The Radcliffe Camera library stands in the centre of a cobbled square that houses All Souls College, Brasenose, the Bodleian Library entrance and the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, in the vaults of which hides a delicious organic restaurant. From here head North through the Old Schools Quad and into a square where lies the Sheldonian Theatre built in the 17th century by Sir Christopher Wren. Continuing on down Parks Road you will see Wadham College on your right and eventually the Pitt Rivers Museum and the lovely University Parks.
Walk West along Broadstreet and have a nose around Trinity and Balliol Colleges, the latter being one of Oxford's oldest colleges founded in 1263. You will then arrive at the crossroads with Cornmarket Street and will have walked the majority of Oxford's centre, although, of course, your exploration has only just begun…
3 Oxford Castle
Avenue 3, Covered Market
32 Walton Street