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Oxford, United Kingdom

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Once having a short stint as the capital of the United Kingdom, today Oxford is better known as the ‘Birthplace of Western Education’. Home to the second oldest university in the world, Oxford University is an umbrella for over 30 colleges in the small city.  As a town dedicated to education, it is a common sight to see students clad in graduation garb running off to dinners and exams. Among the traditions and histories of the institutions there are plenty of studious stories to be shared – from dueling coffee houses that both claim to be England’s first, to sharks that appear to have fallen straight from the sky, and even the most intact dodo bird specimen – it is no wonder this town has served as inspiration for so many characters.

For much of its history, The Randolph was the lone five-star hotel in the storied university town. With that reputation came a multitude of famous guests from King Edward VII to Jimmy Carter. For many decades, afternoon tea at The Randolph has been a prestigious tradition, welcoming guests to a lavish multi-tiered festival of foods in grand quarters. 

Today’s Randolph seeks to showcase the many talents and gifted alumni that have walked through Oxford’s halls. Along with Mr Wilde, another Oxford grad, Lewis Carroll, is honored in the hotel’s spaces. Alice in Wonderland decor permeates throughout the property, from punctual bedside rabbits to its contemporary restaurant, The Alice.

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Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology

At the exact moment the century turned and revelers cheersed champagne in the streets, a band of thieves was removing glass panes from the roof of the Ashmolean Museum. Their prize as the world ushered in the millennium? A famed Cézanne and the perfect art heist.

Beaumont St, Oxford OX1 2PH, United Kingdom

Keble College

In a consortium where Oxford education was met with lavish traditions reserved for high society, Keble’s founders sought to bring education to those who could not traditionally afford it. The budget conscious college built their institution with an intricate brick design – saving costs on the expensive stone facades that many of the other colleges boast. But they quickly received backlash for their economical design, and one college even started a secret “Destroy Keble” society where they sought to take down the College’s edifice “one brick at a time”. Luckily that society failed at their task, and Kebel is very proud of their bricks – even gifting a foam brick replica to their graduates.

12 Parks Rd, Oxford OX1 3PR, UK

Pitt Rivers Museum

This museum is more like a community project. Since its founding in 1884, its collection has grown twenty-five-fold. Consisting mostly of items donated by travelers, scholars, and missionaries eager to contribute their part of history, it has become a true hodge-podge of worldly collections.

S Parks Rd, Oxford OX1 3PP, United Kingdom

Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Step inside the site of the Great Debate, a dramatic clash of ideologies in 1860. Two famed scientists duked it out in the Museum, debating the theory of evolution and shaping the development of modern evolutionary science.

Parks Rd, Oxford OX1 3PW, United Kingdom

Wadham College

Known as one of the most progressive colleges under the Oxford University umbrella, Wadham was the first to proudly fly a rainbow flag in support of their LGBTQ community.

Parks Rd, Oxford OX1 3PN, United Kingdom

New College

Founded by an influential Bishop, the school was originally christened as St. Mary’s College. The Bishop must not have done his research, because there was already an Oxford college by the same name. Being a wise man, he came up with the perfect plan to distinguish his foundation and renamed it to “New St. Mary’s”. This too seemed to prove confusing for the folks in Oxford, as the name was eventually simplified to “New College”.

Holywell St, Oxford OX1 3BN, United Kingdom

Bodleian Library

A book worm’s mecca, this stately space is home to a vast literary collection that is the second-largest in all of Britain. The fairly plain facade belies the endless floor-to-ceiling shelving of leather-bound books found within. For those in the know, it’s called “The Bod”.

Broad St, Oxford OX1 3BG, United Kingdom

The Divinity School

For a construction project that broke ground before anyone had ever heard of Joan of Arc, it’s no surprise that the Divinity School is the oldest surviving purpose-built building for university use.

Oxford OX1 3AZ, UK

Radcliffe Camera

Topped by a spectacular dome (the third-largest in all of Britain, to be exact), marks the spot of the first circular library in England. Step inside, and you’ll be seeing double: the 300-year-old scale wooden model of the original designs is still on display.

Radcliffe Sq, Oxford OX1 3BG, United Kingdom

Welcome to the most exclusive college in the world, where candidates will only be considered if they can pass the hardest exam in the world with the most flying of colors — all for the once-in-a-century chance to parade around, carrying a duck on a stick…

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University Church

First established at this site in 1086, this ornate chapel became the center point of Oxford University. Some come for the sermons, while others climb the 127 steps up past the Old Library, over the historic bell ringing chamber and into the tower to get the perfect view of the Radcliffe Camera.

The, High St, Oxford OX1 4BJ, United Kingdom

University College

Legend has it that King Alfred founded this college in 872. Thing is, legend has it wrong and the title is now awarded to William of Durham who started the college in the late 13th century with just four fellows. Luckily the rumor hasn’t stripped the school of its title as the oldest college at the oldest university in the world.

Oxford OX1 4BH, United Kingdom

Lincoln Library

You won’t be hearing the deafening sound of an organ or the melodic chirp of a choir at this church. Since 1976 the abandoned chapel has been converted into the main library for Lincoln College students.

3 Turl St, Oxford OX1 3DQ, United Kingdom

Oxford Union Library

With walls adorned by the artistry of talented craftsmen including the hand of the grandfather of the famed Arts and Crafts Movement it’s no wonder the Oxford Union Library has been dubbed one of the most striking in the world. Although it’s run by students, this old debate hall has been completely independent of Oxford University since its beginnings in 1857.

Oxford Union Library, Frewin Ct, Oxford OX1 3JB, United Kingdom

Christ Church College

Founded by King Henry VIII in 1546, the first 101 students to attend the college are honored every night at 9:05pm by the one and only Tom Tower bell struck once for each student. But history can also be found throughout the halls and walls – quite literally. Just walk into the grand dining hall and you’ll find a whole cast of characters from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, who Carroll based his main character on the daughter of the school’s dean.

St Aldate's, Oxford OX1 1DP, United Kingdom

Alice's Shop

In the Victorian era, a woman named Alice frequented this shop to buy sweets. Little did she know, but her charm had enchanted a young writer, providing the inspiration for a story he called Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

83 St Aldate's, Oxford OX1 1RA, United Kingdom

Queen’s Lane Coffee House

Dating back to 1654, Queen’s Lane opened just after The Grand Cafe — but they’ve only ever served coffee! Nearly 400 years later, it’s  the oldest continually serving coffee house in Europe.

40 High St, Oxford OX1 4AP, United Kingdom

The Grand Café

In 1650, a Jewish entrepreneur opened what he claimed to be the very first English coffee house. Nearly four centuries later, the Grand Cafe stands at the same site — even if it hasn’t always sold coffee. Just don’t tell their rivals across the street at Queen’s Lane!

84 High St, Oxford OX1 4BG, United Kingdom

St. Hilda’s College

Located on the bank of River River Cherwell is St. Hilda’s College. Founded in 1893 as a women’s hall it remained so until 2008 – making it the last of the Oxford University Colleges to admit both men and women. Their dining hall is also special among the other colleges for being the only to host meals at round tables – boasting that it makes for more enticing conversations.

Cowley Pl, Oxford OX4 1DY, United Kingdom

The Ultimate Picture Palace

Through closings, name changes and squatter rights, this cinema has seen more than just the silver screen. A small but mighty team keeps one of the UK’s oldest cinemas up and running, all through the same box office window that graced its opening night over a century ago.

Jeune St, Cowley Rd, Oxford OX4 1BN, United Kingdom

Headington Shark

In the quaint suburban setting of Headington, it is difficult to miss a giant shark diving head first into your neighbor’s roof.  But this toothy fish came with a story… about a world at war, a society under censorship, and nuclear disarmament.

2 New High St, Headington, Oxford OX3 7AQ, United Kingdom

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