Labelled as the ‘city of dreaming spires’ by Victorian poet Matthew Arnold after the stunning architecture of its university buildings, Oxford continues to draw passing visitors and those looking to settle and make the city their permanent home. Perhaps best known globally for its university and academic excellence, Oxford is a bustling and vibrant city, rich in architecture, that somehow manages to balance and celebrate its significant history with a modern cosmopolitan feel.
Edward Sainter, our Oxford and Northern Home Counties Advisor, provides his expertise as he takes us on a virtual walk around the city and surrounding areas.
Education in Oxford has long been synonymous with world-renowned educational excellence thanks to Oxford University. Dating back as early as 1096, the university is the second oldest in continuous operation and attracts thousands of students and visitors from around the world.
For those not quite of university age, Oxford still provides prestigious and highly regarded education options.
St Edward’s School, informally known as Teddies, is a co-educational boarding and day school for students aged 13-18. Affiliated with The Church of England, the school dates back to 1863. Welcoming students from the UK and abroad, the school offers the IB alongside A-Levels, making it a great option for global citizens.
Teddies states their mission is ‘to prepare their pupils for the rest of their lives by encouraging their passions and talents, enabling them to discover new ones and supporting them to achieve their own potential.’
For those younger still, The Dragon School is perhaps one of the best-known co-educational day and boarding prep and pre-prep schools in the area, educating students aged 4-13. Founded in 1877, the school was previously known as the Oxford Preparatory School and is now set across two sites, one for pre-prep and another for prep. The school boasts a progressive outlook, built on a legacy of intellectual curiosity, keeping its aims and ethos true to its founding tenets that school should be a place of inspiration, wonder and, above all, fun.
Oxford is placed perfectly for those wishing to remain connected to city life and the countryside. Access to the open countryside which borders the city is a quick and easy car journey with the pretty villages and long views of the Cotswolds close by. Those working in or wishing to visit London can easily do so by road or rail; expect a 50-minute train journey to Paddington or an hour-and-a-half car journey via the M40. International travel is also simple with Heathrow Airport less than an hour and a half away.
In part due to its global audience, Oxford has a thriving food and drink scene with award-winning pubs, bars, and restaurants lining the city centre and its suburbs. Those with a taste for European cuisine can head to Michelin-recommended restaurant Arbequina, for an authentic Spanish tapas experience, or Gees, a popular spot enclosed in the unique setting of a Victorian Glasshouse and offering a rustic Mediterranean dining experience.
Its historic roots, mean that Oxford doesn’t lack cultural activities. From museums to the theatre and opera, Oxford has something for everyone to enjoy. The Pitt Rivers Natural History Museum and The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology make for the perfect family day out, whilst Oxford Opera Company provides top-class productions featuring the best UK-based professionals.
Oxford also offers vibrant shopping with a great blend of high street chains and niche independent stores; Bicester Village Outlet is also only a short drive away for those with a penchant for designer labels.
If you prefer a slower pace of life outside of the city, head for a walk in hidden gem, Wytham Woods. A flora and fauna-rich nature conservation review site, these woods are the subject of continuous ecological research programs and are home to 500 species of plants, a wealth of woodland habitats, and 800 species of butterflies and moths.
For those looking to escape the city, Soho Farmhouse and Daylesford Organic Farm, are a short distance away, both idyllically placed in the Cotswolds. Soho Farmhouse is set in 100 acres of Oxfordshire countryside, whilst Daylesford Organic Farm is a working organic farm, both providing a destination for food and drink, wellness, and outdoor.
Those planning a visit to Oxford won’t want to miss May Day Morning Celebrations, which take over the city and attract thousands. To celebrate the start of May, a choir performance begins at 6 a.m. from Magdalen Tower, followed by 20 minutes of bellringing and parades and celebrations that fill the streets. Origins of the event date back to 1250 when the Chancellor of Oxford University forbade ‘alike in churches, all dancing in masks or with disorderly noises, and all processions of men wearing wreaths and garlands made of leaves of trees or flowers or what not.’
Throughout the festive season, Oxford plays host to a range of festive activities, such as the Oxford Christmas Lights Festival, featuring light displays, parades, and choir performances across the city throughout November and December.
Those looking for a Christmas market full of festive fun and an opportunity to get all their presents under one ‘roof’ can make the journey to Evenlode Grounds Farm for The Christmas Cotswold Fair. The annual Christmas Fair, which supports the WellChild charity (10% of proceeds going to the charity), has 200 stalls in three magnificent marquees and a wonderful array of products. Held at the start of November, this is a Christmas day out not to be missed!
With their own distinct identity and great connections to the heart of the city, prime hotspots spread across Oxford and its surrounding areas. The architecture across these different areas spans multiple different eras, with Edwardian, Victorian, and Georgian homes all highly sought after due to their historic beauty.
Of note are the suburbs of North Central Oxford, Summertown in particular. Summertown provides homeowners with fine examples of Victorian and Edwardian architecture on wonderfully wide tree-lined roads with fabulous gardens. Summertown is popular with families offering large family homes and proximity to highly regarded St Edward’s School and The Dragon School, yet still providing a bustling cafe and restaurant scene.
Jericho is also popular. Highly sought after by young professionals and families, the area is part of a conservation zone, protecting its character. Colourful streets lined with Georgian and Victorian architecture, Jericho boasts a strong yet relaxed community spirit as well as lively nightlife, with award-winning restaurants, pubs, and cafes.
Price points tend to be around £1-3m for a family house in Oxford but vary depending on area, architecture, and style. Large family homes slightly further out of the city in areas such as Chilswell and Boars Hill provide more outdoor space and the country lifestyle but are still only 20-25 minutes to Oxford train station. These homes tend to be £3 million+, but again, depending on area, style, and size.
If you’re interested in a property search within the Northern Home Counties and Oxford, click here to speak to Edward directly.