20 Interesting And Fun Facts About Oxford, UK [Explained]

Please note that some posts may contain affiliate links. We may earn a commission should you choose to purchase using these links but at absolutely no extra cost to you.

Oxford is renowned worldwide as an illustrious university town steeped in history and culture. But beyond its world-famous university, there are so many interesting facts about Oxford waiting to be uncovered.

Oxford has played a prominent role through the centuries, from the Middle Ages to the modern era. It has produced some of history’s greatest minds, from scientist Stephen Hawking to fantasy author JRR Tolkien and several world leaders. 

Though a small city, Oxford has had a strong impact on the world, and it is one of the many places England is known for.

Historical Facts About Oxford

Oxford has witnessed many major events through the ages. Here are some historical facts about Oxford.

World’s Second Oldest Surviving University


Oxford University is the world’s second-oldest university after the University of Bologna. It is one of the most popular landmarks in the UK. Education at Oxford existed since 1096, but it developed into a proper university around 1167 when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris. 

Since then, the University of Oxford has produced many renowned graduates, including British Prime Ministers, novelists, scientists, philosophers, and many other world leaders. 

It Wasn’t Bombed During World War II

One of the most fascinating facts about Oxford is that it wasn’t bombed during World War II although nearby cities suffered heavy bombings.

It is believed that Hitler planned to make Oxford the capital of his empire once Germany occupied Britain. This could be why Oxford was spared. However, some parts of the city did suffer minor damage, mostly due to stray bombs. 

Oxford Was Once The Capital Of England 


For a brief period during the English Civil War in the 17th century, Oxford served as the capital of England. When the conflict between the Royalists and Parliamentarians broke out in 1642, King Charles I shifted his court from London to Oxford. 

The city remained the Royalist headquarters and seat of government until 1646 when the city was surrendered to the Parliamentarians. 

The Town And Gown Riots

One of the more unfortunate UK facts is the historic feuding between Oxford townsfolk and students that turned violent, resulting in Town and Gown riots. In 1354, the tensions escalated into a riot, with townspeople killing several students. 

The riots started when students from Oxford complained at a local tavern that they were given a different wine than the one that was served to other customers. 

There was always animosity between the townsfolk and Oxford University, as the townsfolk didn’t like that the university had a legal precedence over the town. 

Cultural Facts About Oxford 

In addition to its university, Oxford also has a thriving cultural scene that attracts tourists and scholars.

The Oldest Coffee House In Oxford

The Queen’s Lane Coffee House, established in 1654, is Oxford’s oldest coffeehouse. Located near the famous Bodleian Library, the heritage cafe has been popular with Oxford students and professors for over 360 years. It continues to retain its traditional charm and heritage.

Punting Is Very Popular  

If you are looking for fun and interesting things to do in Oxford, then look no further than punting. Punting along the River Thames and other waterways is a beloved leisure tradition in Oxford. 

Punts are flat-bottomed boats propelled by punters using a long pole to push against the riverbed. Many companies offer punts for hire. 

Floating slowly down the river, you get to enjoy beautiful views of the colleges. There are also punting competitions in Oxford.

Oldest Music Performance Hall In Europe 

Built in 1742, the Holywell Music Room in Oxford is the oldest purpose-built music hall in Europe. The hall has a very beautiful interior, perfect for music events. 

For over 275 years, it has hosted concerts, recitals, gatherings, and academic events. Today, it is considered an important cultural venue in Oxford.

The Tradition Of Tortoise Race

Here’s a quirky fact about Oxford that you are going to enjoy.

There is a tradition of a tortoise race in Oxford which has been going on for many years. Students train their tortoises and bring them on race day. 

It has become rather competitive, so much so that there have been several scandals relating to the event, like teams stealing the opponent’s winning tortoise so they wouldn’t be able to bring it to the next event.

Simple Facts About Oxford For Kids

Here are some fun Oxford facts for the younger minds to learn about this historic city.

The Origin Of Oxford Comma 

The somewhat controversial practice of putting a comma before ‘and’ in a sentence where a list is being mentioned originated at Oxford University Press. Oxford editors favored inserting the comma consistently to remove ambiguity.

Using the Oxford comma is now the standard style in British English. However, it is not as commonly used in American English.

Stephen Hawking Was Born In Oxford

Out of all the Oxford facts, this one might interest the scientific community the most. World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking was born in Oxford in 1942. He attended Oxford University as a doctoral student and went on to become a cosmology professor there. 

He was one of the university’s longest-serving professors. Hawking’s groundbreaking research on black holes made him one of the world’s best-known scientists.

Location For The Harry Potter Movies

Another exciting Oxford University fact for kids and potterheads is that it was the location of several Harry Potter sets. The University’s Christ Church College and other Oxford landmarks were used in specific scenes in the Harry Potter movies. 

The Great Hall dining room became Hogwarts’ Great Hall. Hogwarts courtyard location was also set up in Oxford. Potterheads can visit the spectacular buildings that appeared in the wizarding world.

Where Does The Name Oxford Come From?  

The name Oxford comes from ox and forda in Old English which means ‘cattle ford.’ This refers to a river crossing that allowed cattle to walk across the River Thames at Oxford. The cattle brought carts filled with goods to trade in the town.

Useful Oxford Facts For Travelers

This classic English city has so much for visitors to see and do. Here are some essential Oxford facts for travelers.

Bodleian Library Is An Academic Marvel 


The Bodleian Library at Oxford University is one of the oldest and largest libraries in Europe. Founded in 1602, it comprises several buildings holding priceless rare books and manuscripts. 

Over 13 million items are housed in its collections. The Bodleian Library gets a free copy of all the books printed in Great Britain. 

Beautiful And Historic Botanical Garden  


Oxford Botanic Garden, established in 1621, is Britain’s oldest botanic garden. It contains over 5,000 different plant species. The garden’s elegant gates leading to its central fountain add to the beauty of the entire landscape. 

The Botanic Garden isn’t just a beautiful place to visit, but it also remains an important center for botanical research.

Protest Art: Headington Shark 

On a rooftop above a house in central Oxford perches you can see a giant shark sculpture emerging out of the roof. The story behind it has to be one of the most interesting facts about Oxford. 

The structure was designed by John Buckley and commissioned as a protest art piece by a local radio presenter by the name of Bill Heine. He was protesting against wars and nuclear weapons. 

Heine wanted the shark to be a metaphor for dropping bombs. The unusual ‘Headington Shark’ has since become a local landmark.  

You Can Find The Most Complete Dodo Specimen Here At The Museum Of National History

At Oxford University’s Museum of Natural History, you can find one of the most complete Dodo specimens in the world. The extinct flightless bird has been reconstructed from real Dodo skeletal remains. This is a great exhibit, not only for scientists but for the general public as a whole. 

Common Facts About Oxford

Beyond its university, Oxford has other interesting claims to fame. Here are some general facts about Oxford.

Oxford’s Electric Bell Has Lasted Almost 200 Years  

The Oxford Electric Bell in the Clarendon Laboratory has rung almost continuously since 1840. The battery-powered bell was built as an early experiment in electricity. The bell has rung for over 10 billion times. 

However, don’t be surprised if you don’t hear anything when you are looking at the bell, as it l is almost inaudible due to its low circulating charge. 

Christ Church Oxford Retains Its Old Time Zone


Christ Church in Oxford follows its own unique time zone. Clocks at the college remain five minutes and two seconds behind the rest of the country. This is because the college did not change its time when the time in Britain was standardized. 

Other Interesting Facts About Oxford

Here are some other fascinating facts about Oxford.

Secret Door Between Christ Church And Merton College  

A secret door connects Christ Church’s dining hall with neighboring Merton College. King Charles used it during the English Civil War to move secretly from one building to the other. The door has been there for hundreds of years, but it is no longer in use today. 

Oxford University Had Its Own Police  

The city of Oxford is famous for its namesake university; however, what many people may not know is that Oxford University used to have its own police force. 

The Oxford University Police existed to keep order among the student population. They had full police powers like their city counterparts. However, in 2003, the Oxford University Police Department was disbanded. 

Discovering More Fun Facts About Oxford

The city of Oxford was founded over a thousand years ago. Over the years, it has amassed an extraordinary history. Visiting the city allows you to walk in the footsteps of history’s greatest thinkers while also enjoying its vibrant present-day culture. You are sure to uncover more interesting facts about Oxford when exploring around.



Book Your Flight

I usually use a combination of 2-3 of the following search engines to find cheap flights: Skyscanner, Momondo, Google Flights

Find Your Accommodation

Booking.com is my usual platform for finding accommodation options as they have one of the largest selections. Hostelworld is great for booking hostels. For more private or long term accommodation, Airbnb is my go-to platform.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is important for to protect yourself against unforeseen circumstances. I usually look at a few insurance companies depending on my travel needs.
  • SafetyWings for Travel Health Insurance
  • IMG Global for added Insurance when doing activities outside of usual coverage
Packing for your trip? Check out the packing list for ideas on what to bring

For more travel resources, check out my resources page for best platforms and companies to use when you travel.

More Adventures


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Welcome To NomadsUnveiled
This is Rax. For over a decade, I have traveled to over 60 countries - from a budget backpacker to a business traveler, expat and then a digital nomad. You can find insights and perspectives from myself and other world travelers that will inspire your journey of discovery.


other stories