8 Fun Facts About Oxford

Oxford is a favorite for tourists looking for a day trip from London, or a quiet alternative to the busy metropolis. The famous university town draws thousands of tourists a year, for its quaintness as well as its associations with modern western mythology, particularly Alice in Wonderland and the Harry Potter movies.

Here are eight magical facts about Oxford:

  • Oxford University was established in or around the 11th century, making it the second-oldest known university in the world behind the University of Bologna.
  • The town was named around AD 900, as a river crossing (or “ford”) for oxen. It was later damaged during the 1066 invasion, in which William the Conqueror took over England.
  • Oxford was largely spared during the bombings of World War II, making it an especially fun city for lovers of old architecture. 
  • The buildings will likely be familiar to fans of the Harry Potter movies, which used Oxford as filming locations for many scenes.
  • Lewis Carroll told the beginnings of Alice in Wonderland to Dean Henry Liddell’s daughters—one of whom was named Alice—in Oxford in 1862.
  • The bookstore chain Blackwell’s Bookstore began in Oxford, where its flagship store still stands. The store has the world’s largest room devoted to book sales, with three miles of shelving.
  • Punting is a popular activity among Oxford tourists, who sit in a wooden boat on the river while a guide pushes it along with a pole.
    Oxford Punts CBL
  • The University Museum of Natural History has the most complete specimens of the dodo, a flightless bird that went extinct in the 17th century. The museum has the bird’s mummified skull, and bones from the foot and leg.

Heading to the UK with your students? Take a detour to Oxford on one of our in-depth tours of the Sceptered Isle.

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