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Notable Architecture

Top Rated Attractions in Oxford

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The Queen's College

The Queen's College is probably the finest example of classical architecture in Oxford. The college was founded in 1340, but the original buildings have gone, and a rebuilding program in the 17th and 18th Centuries resulted in the quadrangles we see today. The architecture of the front quadrangle is particularly noteworthy, and was heavily influenced by the architect Nicholas Hawksmoor. The screen wall that fronts the High Street also owes much to Hawksmoor, though it is attributed to a local Oxford mason William Townesend. This college is only open to the public on official city tours.

Merton College

Merton isn't one of the best known Oxford colleges, but it is one of the largest, and one of three colleges claiming to be the oldest in Oxford (the others are Balliol and University). Founded in 1264 by Walter de Merton, the college has the oldest buildings in the entire university and the oldest surviving medieval library.

Christ Church

Christ Church is the most famous Oxford college, probably the grandest and certainly the most photographed. Founded as Cardinal College in 1525 by Cardinal Wolsey, the college became Christ Church in 1545. The college chapel, which is also the cathedral of the Oxford diocese, contains the reconstructed shrine of St. Frideswide, the patron saint of Oxford, a rich variety of stained and painted glass including works by Abraham van Linge and Edward Burns-Jones and a rare panel depicting the martyrdom of St. Thomas A. Becket.

Bodleian Library

In the heart of Oxford, just off Broad Street, lies one of the oldest libraries in all of Europe, the Bodleian Library, which was established in 1602. As an Oxford library, the Bodleian Library boasts of a splendid collection of over 11 million volumes of books, journals, magazines, audio recordings, manuscripts and more and the library is amongst the largest in all of the United Kingdom. Functioning primarily as a reference library, visitors or members cannot rent out most of the material and usually must be kept within the reading rooms. Nonetheless, a visit to this library is truly a treat for a visitor, as, besides the marvelous architecture and the collection, the library also plays host to exhibitions and other events.

Radcliffe Camera

Turn the corner into Radcliffe Square and you'll see why the Radcliffe Camera is one of the most admired buildings in Oxford. This was the first round library to be built in Britain by John Radcliffe, who studied at Oxford and left much of his wealth and all of his medical books to the university. Building work started in 1737 and in 1860 it became part of the Bodleian Library. It is now used as reading rooms and is not open to the public, but the exterior view is more than enough to make this building worth visiting.

Tom Tower

Standing over the entrance to the most famous Oxford college, Tom Tower is a landmark in itself. This imposing octagonal tower with a lead-covered cupola was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and completed in 1682. It was constructed on top of an archway and turrets dating from the 16th Century and houses Great Tom - the loudest bell in Oxford. Weighing more than seven tons, the bell chimes 101 times at 9.05p every evening to recall not only the 101 students residing in Christ Church when the tower was completed, but also the time by which they were supposed to be in bed.

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