15 Amazing Things Oxford Is Known And Famous For

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Oxford is the only city in Oxfordshire, England. It is bound by other counties in all directions, with the Cherwell River and the Thames flowing through it. If you are wondering what is Oxford famous for, the prestigious university and grandiose buildings are only some of its most magical landmarks.

What Is Oxford Known For? 

Oxford is known for its internationally acclaimed Oxford University and high-quality education, giving rise to some of the most popular authors in history. A combination of colleges, libraries, and museums inspires its people to lead extraordinary lives. 

Additionally, Oxford is famous for being the City Of Spires, an ode to its architecture. The city is also a hub for cultural events, hosting the annual Oxford Literary Festival and providing a vibrant arts scene with theaters, museums, and galleries.

History, Culture, And Traditions Oxford Is Known For

The City Of Spires

Oxford is famous for being nicknamed The City Of Spires. It was first described by Matthew Arnold, a prominent poet in the Victorian era, who portrayed them as dreamy. The phrase caught on, and Oxford became known for its intricate architecture.

Many historical landmarks reflect these sharp towers. Much of the architecture is of Gothic origin, such as The Christ Church Cathedral’s towering spire. Similarly, the classical Sheldonian Theatre and the historic Town Hall all have related structures.


It is no surprise that literature is one of the main elements that Oxford is famous for. There is copious evidence to back this, as the city has more published authors relative to its size in the whole UK. 

Ranging from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland to CS Lewis’ Harry Potter, the creativity is endless. If you are a fan, The Harry Potter Walking Tour is something you should not miss as it also gives you access to Divinity School.

An interesting England fact is that the first coffee house was in Oxford, at The Grand Café in 1650. Perhaps the caffeine was a prelude to the genius works to come! J.K. Rowling famously conjured most of her first Harry Potter book in a charming cafe in Edinburgh as well.

May Day

Every year on May 1st, the city of Oxford gets filled with melancholy singing. Latin hymns are performed by the Magdalen College choir on top of the tower. This tradition goes as far back as the 17th century, as the public gathers from the early morning to listen. 

Afterward, several festivities take up the whole day. Morris dances dominate Radcliffe Square, and alumni jump from the bridge. The aim is to celebrate spring and revival.

Districts And Areas Oxford Is Known For

Oxfordshire is one of the six English counties making up The Cotswolds. Many beautiful countryside tours can take you here, admiring the quaint villages and limestone houses. They usually also cover the university, cathedral, and more historic attractions.

The City Centre

In the City Centre, you will find the most visited hotspots that Oxford is famous for. These include the colleges of Oxford University as well as the Bodleian Library, one of the first in Europe. The history these landmarks holds are invaluable, and the ornate architecture is certainly worth seeing. 

The first museum in Britain, The Ashmolean Museum, is also a notable attraction. The archaeological collections include The Jericho Skull, a human skull thought to be over 9,000 years old!

Flowing on the edge of the city center, the River Thames is a great spot for a relaxing river cruise to check out the city views and maybe even an afternoon tea.


Jericho is found just north of the City Centre. Because of its proximity, it is close enough to the hubbub, but just far enough to exhibit some peace. 

Some of the best landmarks in Jericho include historical attractions, such as the Museum of History. This was established in 1860 and has an impressive collection of geology and zoology.

In contrast, Jericho is also home to vibrant cafes and opulent restaurants where you can dig into some traditional English food.


Summertown is a breath of fresh air, truly considered to be the hidden gem that Oxford is famous for. It is green and well-maintained, with welcoming residents and plenty of friendly locals. 

Along the River Cherwell, you will find a promenade and restaurant, serving traditional British food. This is the perfect day out during the summer, enjoying a delicious meal along the waterfront. 

During the evening, be sure to visit the North Wall Arts Centre, and relish in a night of live music.

Central North Oxford

Central North Oxford is considered to be the best suburb because of its ultimate mix of attractions. It is also in a prime location between Summertown and the City Centre, giving you lots of choices. 

The area is home to North Parade Avenue, a busy street lined with designer stores, boutiques, and cafes. If you prefer more affordable options, the markets are open each month on designated days. Here, you can find rare trinkets and bargains.

Landmarks And Architecture Oxford Is Known For

Oxford University 

Whenever you ask a person not from England, “What is Oxford famous for?”, they will undoubtedly state “The University.” The impressive statistics, along with the brilliant alumni, make it a must-see attraction. The college is often ranked number one in the world.

It is worth visiting the colossal libraries that are filled with manuscripts, and perfectly organised gardens. Even if you don’t study there, you can still buy one of those iconic college t-shirts at the university store as a souvenir.

A fun fact about Oxford is that the rivalry was often debilitating; there are over 40 colleges within the university. As a result, tortoise wars broke up among students, to create a lighter atmosphere.

> Join the Walking Tour Of Oxford University With Alumni Guide

Oxford Castle And Prison

Oxford Castle is a Medieval fortification, originally built as a motte-and-bailey for the protection of the land during the civil war. After being destroyed, it became repurposed as a prison and operated this way for over a century. Eventually, it closed down and can now be visited by the public.

Apart from the history, there are often events being held here. They are the perfect family-friendly activities during the summer, with interesting things to do such as Knight School and Shakespeare Theatre.

> Visit Oxford Castle And Prison

Bridge Of Sighs

Colloquially known as the Bridge Of Signs, Hertford Bridge connects two colleges in Oxford. Established in 1914, the unique structure is intricately carved and has elaborate patterned windows.

It is so-called for two reasons: it mimics the same bridge in Venice and is associated with mythical connotations. On a Haunted Oxford Tour, you can learn about this, along with other intriguing legends.

An interesting fact about this UK landmark is that it was featured in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Fans of the franchise will undoubtedly recognize it as the setting Harry had a duel with Malfoy. The bridge has become increasingly popular since then.

Food Oxford Is Known For


Most traditional English food includes sausages, or as Brits call them, bangers. Oxford sausages are a distinct variety of sausages consisting of the perfect ratio of pork and veal. Often they are seasoned with sage, giving them a strong earthy flavor.

They are used in typical hearty meals such as bangers and mash, which is a sausage served with a creamy Maris Piper puree. Similarly, Toad in a Hole is made from a Yorkshire pastry topped with sausage.


Frank Cooper’s is a brand of marmalade, known for its most popular Oxford Marmalade. The original factory opened in Oxford in the early 19th century and later became a grocery. However, the recipe was adapted from Sarah Jane Cooper in 1874. 

The fruit preserve is made from Seville oranges, giving the sweet treat its characteristic tangy flavor. Its strong taste means that it can be eaten alone, yet pairing it with a fruity scone is also popular.


Oxford sauce is considered a supreme condiment, commonly used for venison meat. Additionally, it is used for marinating meat or dressing up a burger, adding extra depth to the flavor.

The unique combination of redcurrant jelly, orange, lemon, and sweet port wine may sound bizarre, but each ingredient is complemented. Creating a spicy yet sweet profile can be enjoyed with every meal. It is runny in consistency and robust thanks to the ginger seasoning.

Famous People From Oxford

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking was without a doubt the most recognized theoretical physicist; he is not only famous in England, but the world. 

He graduated from University College in Oxford with a first-class degree, and later a Ph.D. During his student years, Hawking was tragically diagnosed with a motor neuron disease that led to him being known as a genius despite his paralysis. 

Among Hawking’s biggest contributions to science is his discovery that radiation is emitted from black holes. He published both independent and co-authored books, as well as countless movies made about his life story.

Theo James 

Theodore Taptiklis, known in the media as Theo James, is an actor of Greek descent. One of the famous personalities from Oxford today, his career began with the British series A Passionate Woman, and the better-known Downton Abbey. Eventually, James earnt his globally-acclaimed role as Four in the futuristic Divergent movies.

Impressive awards include Outstanding Performance in The White Lotus and Favorite Movie Duo with co-star Shailene Woodley in Divergent. Additionally, he is one of the top highest-paid actors worldwide.

Discovering More Things Oxford Is Known For

More than just a city; Oxford is a collection of stories, a place of knowledge, and a treasure chest of cultural riches. 

While Oxford is most famous for its top university, innovation, and renowned students, every corner of the city promises a new adventure. It is a lively town with great food and leafy suburbs.

The eloquent libraries, cone-centric architecture, and attractions of historical value are just some of its best landmarks. From its inspiring architecture to its delectable cuisine, there’s always more to discover in Oxford. Every trip to this city is a page turned in the rich book of life’s experiences.



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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.


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