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Oxford Area Guide

Radcliffe Camera, Oxford. Image courtesy of Flickr user Tejvan Pettinger

Oxford is a university city that, though heavily influenced by its namesake university, is not reliant solely upon it for its identity. The county town of Oxfordshire, Oxford has an varied economic base with many contributing sectors, including manufacturing, publishing, IT and science, in addition to education and research. The suburb of Cowley is home to BMW's Mini production factory, and science and technology businesses like Oxford Instruments, Sharp Laboratories Europe, Sophos and Oxford Photovoltaics are based in the city and in areas like the Oxford Science Park and the Begbroke Science Park. It is also home to the Oxford University Press, of course.

Oxford University does shape the skyline of the city, and the university's buildings inspired Matthew Arnold to describe it as the "city of dreaming spires" in his poem Thyrsis. Still, the university is not the whole reason the city is so compelling as a place to live; Oxford has examples of every English architectural period since Saxon times.


According to the 2011 census, Oxford has a population of 151,900, and its demographics are highly influenced by Oxford University. It has fewer young people, fewer older people and more young adults than England as a whole. In Oxford, over 16% of the population is aged 15 and younger, compared to almost 19% in England. The percentage of Oxford residents aged 65 and over is almost 11%, whilst over 16% of England's residents are that age. When it comes to people aged between 18 and 29, about one-third of Oxford's population are that age, and only 16% of England's population is.

Oxford has quite an ethnically diverse population. Over 77% of Oxford's population describe their ethnic background as white and white British, which is just under the nearly 80% of England's population who describe their ethnic background as only white British. Over 85% of England's population describe their ethnicity as white and white British. Oxford's second largest group describe their ethnic background as Asian and Asian British, with over 12% describing themselves as such. Comparatively, over 7% of England's population describe their background as Asian and Asian British.

Oxford has a relatively low unemployment rate: only 3.2% of Oxford is unemployed, compared to 4.4% in England.


Oxford has a large number of independent primary schools with good reputations, including Headington School. Most of the state-run primary schools are rated "good" by Ofsted, and those with good exam scores include New Hinksey Church of England Primary School, West Oxford Community Primary School and St Michael's Church of England Primary School. The one primary school rated "outstanding" is the Grandpont Nursery School, which teaches children aged three to five.

The state of secondary schools is similar. Independent secondary schools with good reputations include Magdalen College School and d'Overbroeck's College. The Cherwell School is an academy that was rated "outstanding" by Ofsted. Matthew Arnold School is rated "good" and has excellent A-Level results.

Further education institutes include Ruskin College and Oxford Brookes University. Of course, the major tertiary institution is the University of Oxford. In 2012-2013 Oxford was tied for second place by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, along with Stanford University in the United States.


Oxford is very accessible by road. There are several major routes into and out of the city. The M40 connects Oxford to London and Birmingham. The A34 goes from Winchester to Salford, running through Oxford. The A40 goes to Wales and London. The A44 starts in Oxford and ends in Aberystwyth, whilst the A420 begins in Oxford and ends in Bristol. There are bus routes throughout the city and into surrounding towns and villages.

Oxford railway station is just to the west of the city centre, and it is along six lines. Chiltern Railways runs a Birmingham-Oxford service and an Oxford-Bicester service. The CrossCountry Manchester-Bournemouth and Newcastle-Reading and beyond lines both go through Oxford. First Great Western's Cotswold Line links Oxford with Hereford, and its Cherwell Valley Line connects Didcot with Banbury, through Oxford.

Seven miles away from the city is the London Oxford Airport, with regularly scheduled flights to Edinburgh and Dublin.

Amenities and Shopping

As a city that attracts international students and workers, Oxford has a wide range of amenities.

Museums and Galleries

Unsurprisingly, Oxford is absolutely stuffed with museums. The Ashmolean Museum has a huge collection of art and artefacts, from ancient times to today. The Oxford Museum have exhibitions on the city's history and galleries featuring art and artists related to the area. The Bate Collection of Musical Instruments has 1500 exhibits on European instruments, and the Museum at Oxford University Press looks at the history and influence of the world-famous printing press. The Pitt Rivers Museum is Oxford university's museum of anthropology and archaeology, whilst University Museum of Natural History holds the artefacts and other materials the university has collected over the years. Science Oxford Live is an interactive museum that allows visitors to discover how science fits into everyday life, and the University Museum of the History of Science explores early scientific thought and instruments.

Theatres and Venues

New Theatre Oxford puts on cabaret, musicals, bands, tribute shows, magic shows and comedy. The Pegasus Theatre is where young people can collaborate with professional artists from around the world. Oxford Playhouse is an independent theatre that puts on student and professional shows, musicals and plays, family shows and dance performances, stand-up and lectures, and much more.

Like others in the chain, the O2 Academy Oxford hosts a range of indie and rock concerts and club nights. The Holywell Music Room is Oxford University's chamber music hall. Arts at the Old Fire Station is an arts centre with a theatre for plays and concerts, a studio for dance and workshops and spaces for classes and other events. The North Wall Arts Centre is dedicated to promoting up-and-coming artists across a range of media.


Year-round, Oxford has a full schedule of events and festivals. Quite a few of the festivals focus on the exchange of ideas. The Oxford International Women's Festival highlights the local, national and international issues that women face, and the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival sees more than 350 writers come to Christ Church College to participate in lectures, discussions and more. The Oxfordshire Science Festival features lectures and hands-on activities for people of all ages.

There are also several music, dance and art festivals. Dancin' Oxford is the city's celebration of all forms of dance, whilst the Oxford May Music Festival tries to bring together the arts, science and music. In May, the artists in Oxford and the surrounding county open their studios to the public during the Oxfordshire Art Weeks. Oxfringe is a festival of comedy, music, art and literature. The Philomusica International Piano Festival sees exceptional young pianists come to Oxford to have masterclasses with leading teachers and performers, with concerts in the evening. The Oxford Lieder simply celebrates song, and the Oxford Chamber Music Festival highlights the intimate style of playing music. St Giles Fair is Oxford's traditional street fair.


The city's premier football team, Oxford United, play in League Two, and Oxford Rugby League Football Club are in Championship 1. In rugby union, Oxford Harlequins Rugby Football Club are in the National League 3 South West, and London Welsh RFC play in the Aviva Premiership.

Oxford is home to several hockey clubs, including the Oxford Hockey Club and the Oxford Hawks Hockey Club. The Oxford City Stars are an ice hockey team in the English National League South.

There are also several rowing clubs. The City of Oxford Rowing Club is Oxford's largest rowing club, and the Oxford University Rowing Clubs is a collection of the many rowing clubs at the university, including the men and women's lightweight rowing teams, the Oxford University Boat Club and the Oxford University Women's Boat Club, who compete against Cambridge University Boat Club at the annual Boat Race in London. The Oxford Academicals Rowing Club is open to anyone aged 18 or over, and the Falcon Rowing and Canoeing Club is open to people of all ages.


In the heart of the city, Westgate Shopping Centre has more than 40 shops, including Primark, Build-a-Bear Workshop and New Look. A couple of streets over, the Clarendon Centre is home to around 20 shops like Zara, French Connection and Gap. The Covered Market is to the east of both of those centres, and it is filled with local traders selling produce, breads and cakes, meats and cheeses, seafood, leather goods, flowers, clothing, gifts and more.

Oxford has independent shops dotted throughout the city, though there are some streets with more shops than others. Broad Street is said to be the most high-end street in Oxford. There, Broadwells department store has been trading for almost 300 years and now sits near Blackwell's music and art shops, Oxford Campus Stores and Cath Kidston. Turl Street, also called The Turl, is home to several traditional outfitters, including gentlemen's tailors, a bespoke shoe shop, Oxford's oldest jewellery shop and a whisky outlet.

Cowley Road has several accessories and clothes shops. In the suburb of Jericho, Little Clarendon Street has fashion boutiques, a gallery, a gift shop and several cafés and restaurants, and Walton Street has independent food shops, a florist, an interior design store and clothes shops.

Oxford's high street is not lined with the common chain shops. Instead, the Oxford University Press Shop is nestled between antiques shops, a specialist tobacconist, traditional English clothiers and jewellery stores.

Whilst every effort has been taken to ensure the above information is up to date, some inaccuracies may occur. If you notice any inaccuracies please contact

All information was correct at time of publication and is provided in good faith.

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