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Many of the world’s most famous achievers have studied in Oxford or Cambridge – but there’s more to these historic towns than academia

Oxford and Cambridge, homes to England’s oldest, most prestigious universities, are only few hours’ drive from London. As such, they’re perfect for a daytrip and both are packed with history, dramatic architecture and some decent pubs.

Oxford

It might be famous for its pursuit of academic excellence but also take a look at Oxford’s outstanding architecture, world-class museums, chic bars, trendy restaurants and elegant shops.

Christ Church College  
Pay a visit to the biggest college at Oxford University, Christ Church. Feast your eyes on the 12th-century cathedral; the dining hall, which featured in the Harry Potter movies; and an art gallery full of works by the old masters. You’ll also discover where the inspiration for Alice In Wonderland came from; its author Lewis Carroll, wrote the much-loved children’s book while he was a maths professor here.explore the city

The best way to get about in Oxford is to take a stroll through the small city. Begin on Broad Street and absorb the impressive architecture of the Sheldonian Theatre, designed by Sir Christopher Wren and erected in 1664-8; and the Clarendon Building, with its Greek-like columns and towering roof statues. From here, head to the Covered Market, where you can shop or relax with a coffee.

Foodie finds
For a superior curry, try award-winning Aziz in Cowley Road. Branca in Walton Street is a good Italian bar and restaurant serving stone-baked pizzas. If you want to splash out, Le Manoir is a two Michelin-star restaurant owned by Raymond Blanc in Church Road.

There’s no shortage of boozers in which to sup a decent pint of ale. A literary pub both CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien used to frequent, the Eagle & Child in St Giles is a great place to start. The Turf Tavern has had a slew of famous visitors in its day including Elizabeth Taylor, Stephen Hawking, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Alicia Silverstone.


Cambridge

Cambridge has much in common with rival Oxford, most notably a town centre filled with elegant colleges, busy students and a surfeit of cafés and bars. However, it is considered the prettier of the two cities. Historic pubs reverberate with the mix of intellectual banter and alcohol-fuelled merrymaking that has become tradition over hundreds of years. 

Headline attraction
The university consists of several colleges, many housed in beautiful old buildings centred around neat lawns known as quads. The most famous is King’s College, with its gothic masterpiece King’s College Chapel. Head there at 5.30pm Monday-Saturday (Sunday times vary) to hear the famous choir belting out some top notes.

Take a punt
Head to the banks of the River Cam, an area known as the Backs. In summer, you’ll be able to watch the river teaming with punts – get involved by hiring a vessel from Scudamore’s Boatyard (scudamores.com). Or try a spot of stand-up paddle-boarding (fenpaddle.co.uk). In winter take a brisk walk along the Cam before heading back over one of the many pretty bridges. 

Foodie finds
You’ll find an array of cuisines on offer. However, if you’re just after a snack, join the queues of students at bakery Fitzbillies – they’re lining up for a reason. Cambridge has its fair share of trendy bars, but it’s the old-man pubs that will win you over. Try
the Pickerel Inn or The Eagle, which has graffiti by World War II pilots.

Getting there
Catch a train to Cambridge from Liverpool Street or King’s Cross, which takes 60-90 minutes (from £20). For Oxford, National Express (nationalexpress.com) runs a coach from Victoria station (from £12). The journey is nearly two hours.

When to go: Summer’s obviously ideal but it’s nice to nestle down in an old pub, drinking in front of a roaring fire in winter.
Currency: GBP
Accomodation: Dorm beds from £13.95 at the YHA (yha.org.uk). Doubles from £20.
See: visiteastofengland.comvisitoxfordandoxfordshire.com


The Antipodeans' guide to Oxford and Cambridge
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