Living in Oxford


• University Life • Museums • Theatres • Cinemas
• Art • Music • Food and Drink • Shopping
• Sport • Transport    

The Wall of 100 Faces provides an overview of Oxford from the student perspective. Directions and maps are available on the University website. Useful sources of information on the city for residents are Daily Info, InOxford and Oxford City Guides.

Oxford is a beautiful city in the southeast of England about 60 miles from London. It was established in the 8th century as a fortified town, surrounded on three sides by the rivers Thames (known here as the Isis) and Cherwell. Although scholars lived here in the 11th century, the first major concentration arrived when King Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris in 1167. Oxford University was established formally in 1231. It is the oldest university in the English-speaking world.

The climate in Oxford is mild and the surrounding countryside and small towns are some of the most picturesque in England. Outside of the city, the land to the south and east is rolling farmland of the Thames Valley, bounded by chalk downs; in the north and west lie the small valleys and historic villages of the Cotswolds. Nearer to home, there are many walks and open spaces within the city and on its boundary, including University and Country Parks.

The population of Oxford was 153,700 in 2011, and due to a large number of overseas and immigrant workers it has a very cosmopolitan feel. Many people in the city are involved in technology industries, and Oxford is also the home of the Mini, which is manufactured in a BMW plant in Cowley. The city is much more than just a university centre.

Here are some notes that we have put together for our students.

Photography by Bence Melykuti, submitted to the Graduate Photography Competition 2010

Life within the University

Graduate Student activities in Colleges are organized through Middle Common Rooms (MCRs), to which all Graduate Students belong. Useful links to University activities are provided by the Oxford Student Union and the lists of Clubs and Societies.


Oxford Museums and Collections include the world-famous Ashmolean, Britain's oldest museum that houses Anglo-Saxon jewellery, Ancient Egyptian artefacts and treasures of Eastern and Western art.
The University Museum of Natural History and the Pitt Rivers Museum have impressive natural history and anthropology collections.

Photography by Anna Veprinska, submitted to the Graduate Photography Competition 2010


There are two large theatres in Central Oxford, the Oxford Playhouse, which specializes in drama and shows the principal Oxford University productions, and the New Theatre, which shows touring operas and musicals, as well as stand-up comedians and some live bands. The Old Fire Station and Burton-Taylor Studio theatres provide venues for smaller-scale student plays and professional companies out of University term time. For more details check out Daily Info.


Oxford has three multiplex cinemas, the Odeon on George St. the Odeon on Magdalen St, which are in the centre of the city, and Vue at the Kassam Football Stadium, which is about 3 miles from the city centre in Greater Leys. Oxford has two independent cinemas, the Phoenix in Jericho (North-West Oxford) and the Ultimate Picture Palace on Cowley Road (East Oxford). Check out Daily Info.


Exhibitions are frequently advertised. Modern Art Oxford on Pembroke St. shows some of the best contemporary art.


Oxford is particularly rich in music, and Daily InfoInOxford and Oxford City Guides are good sources of music listings. The Sheldonian Theatre, next door to the Bodleian, houses classical music performances by professional ensembles and the Oxford University Orchestra. For classical music see Music at Oxford. There are plenty of opportunities to hear live music. Oxford's most famous music venue is the O2 Academy Oxford on the Cowley Road; other independent venues such as the Jericho Tavern continue to thrive.

Food and Drink

Photography by Joseph Caruana, submitted to the Graduate Photography Competition 2010

The town centre and North Oxford offers Indian, Chinese and Italian restaurants as well as many very high quality venues. The Cowley Road area presents further choice with Japanese, Polish, Middle Eastern and Jamaican cuisine as well. Sandwich shops are abundant in the centre of town.

Oxford's pubs are numerous and many are ancient and have historical connections: for example, the Turf Tavern, the Bear and the Eagle and Child, which was the meeting place of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. There are Irish pubs (Rosie O'Grady's), vegetarian pubs (Gardener's Arms), Rock pubs (Gloucester Arms and Jericho Tavern).

Graduate students may also use the University Club, which has a bar, a small gym, and provides rooms for guests at a reasonable rate.


Food shopping is reasonably easy in Oxford. There are several small supermarkets close to the centre of town, including two Sainsburys, Tesco, Tesco Metros on the Cowley Road and in Jericho. There are Waitrose, Iceland, and Co-op supermarkets in Headington. Larger superstores are outside the Ring Road. Specialist independent shops are scattered around, particularly in the Covered Market, where you'll find traditional butchers, fishmongers, bakers and greengrocers alongside florists, clothes and shoe shops.

Oxford has excellent bookstores. The best known is Blackwells, which is an independent bookseller and publisher on Broad Street. All members of the University are entitled to a discount on books from Oxford University Press, which is based in Jericho, but has its retail store on the High Street.

Photography by Jessica Singh, submitted to the Graduate Photography Competition 2010


The best way to become involved in sport is through your College or University Sports Clubs. You can also join the University gym and swimming pool at the University's sport complex on Iffley Road.


The easiest way to get around is by bicycle. It is best to use the Park and Ride if you are a visitor to the city from outside by car. The Oxford Tube and Oxford Express provide a bus service to London several times an hour and all through the night and there are services directly to Gatwick and Heathrow. There are rail links to Birmingham, Bristol, London Paddington and the North.

More details on transport links are available on the maps and directions pages of the University website.