Travel Focus: Oxbridge

I was beyond ecstatic to visit two of the UK’s oldest and most famous universities. Nevertheless I pondered, if a tourist were in the UK for a short time and had to choose between the two places to visit, which would they select? How would you decide between the two universities of Oxford and Cambridge, which have a legendary rivalry, and possess a historical significance dating back more than 800 years?

Cambridge is a town and Oxford is technically a city but in fact both are considerably compact and small to see in a day or two. From London, it is approximately an hour by train to Oxford and less to Cambridge. The ride by the train is equally scenic and well worth flaunting your camera skills for the entire expedition. In terms of similarities Cambridge and Oxford consist of stunning views, picturesque settings and historic architecture. The rivers running through the city centers offer a serene impression and can be navigated by foot or even by the most popular method, which is cycling. They both have modest sized but enjoyable art museums that include the Fitzwilliam at Cambridge and the Ashmolean at Oxford. Cambridge is more interesting if science remains your interest and examples include the discovery of the structure of DNA, Charles Darwin at Christ’s College and Polar science museum whereas Oxford is embedded in literature and prodigious authors like Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll and JRR Tolkien. Both have conversely produced their fair share of artists and scientists, so it would be imprudent to base your resolution specially on this as Oxford and Cambridge are equally renowned for science and humanities subjects.

During my trips to Oxford and Cambridge I discovered immense similarities, include well-regarded publishing houses, botanical gardens, debating societies, science parks, business schools, and more museums than you can poke a Medieval sword at. There is a profusion of fields and meadows, and both can boast a love of punting during springtime.

One of the sightseeing events I preferred at Cambridge was the Botanical Garden that consists of more than 8,000 different plant species displayed in 40 acres of beautiful landscape in the city centre. The attraction includes a lake, glasshouses, chronological bed, rock gardens and a collection of mature trees. During my visit to Oxford I learnt that Oxford University is featured more in literature and cinema. For instance, Oxford University’s famous Bodleian Library starred in three of the Harry Potter films. The Medieval Duke Humfrey’s Library was used as the Hogwarts library, and the elaborately vaulted Divinity School became Hogwart’s infirmary. Christ Church College inspired two film sets familiar to Potter fans.

Oxford and Cambridge, despite both having stunning architecture and hordes of tourists, are also different cities. Oxford is livelier, busier and often clogged with traffic, whereas Cambridge is a town dominated by its university. During my travels to Oxford, the sentiment was echoed that Oxford has more bars and clubs while Cambridge is slightly more green, laid back, and its high street was voted one of the most generic in the country. Regarding architecture, Cambridge is the clear winner with King’s, Queens, Trinity, and St. John’s, which are magnificent. There are unique curiosities such as the Caius sundial and the Corpus Christi clock. Then for something different, you can pay homage to Pink Floyd by visiting Grantchester Meadows. Oxford University has the delightful Christ Church, which is a main highlight.

As a relative outsider, I could take the high road and say that the answer is both. Both cities and universities are special in their own way, and excel in uniquely different ways. Nevertheless whatever you decide both Oxford and Cambridge have preserved an amazing heritage of prestigious secular and religious buildings from Mediaeval times onwards.

This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of

About the author

Lisa Vas

Writer, Journalist, foodie, bonvivant & everything in between. Creative by nature & always seeking new adventures. Based on real life events.