City of Books

Five reasons for book lovers to visit Oxford, England.

Image of the Radcliffe Camera, one of the Bodleian libraries.
Photo by Lina Kivaka on

There are two things I’m passionate about: books and travel. So a trip to Oxford ticked all the boxes for me. If you love books, travel, or history, this is a city I can highly recommend visiting.

The Bodleian Libraries

Although known collectively as ‘The Bodleian’, this is actually a group of several separate libraries. The Radcliffe Camera, pictured, is one of these gorgeous historical buildings that contain a wealth of knowledge. 

The Bodleian libraries are not public libraries so you can’t just stroll in. You can see some parts of some of the libraries on a pre-booked tour. But these enigmatic treasures are primarily for use by academics. They may be old but they are still working libraries.

Don’t let this put you off visiting, though. The buildings are beautiful, steeped in history, and bathed in an aura of knowledge passed down through the centuries. These are places where you can just soak up the atmosphere.

Blackwell’s bookshop

Now this is a place you can just wander into, although you might not come out for some time! A traditional bookshop, this caters for visitors to Oxford looking for guide books or novels set here, as well as everyday readers. The secret of this landmark’s longevity is that it supplies books to the university students. So it’s always in demand!

Famous authors’ university colleges

Several famous authors studied at Oxford University. T. S. Eliot resided at Merton College for the year he was at Oxford. Oscar Wilde studied at Magdalen College (which is pronounced Maudlin). J. R. R. Tolkien studied at Exeter College. And Lewis Carroll was at Christ Church.

The colleges are still in use by students during term time so entry to the public is limited, usually has a small cost, and may require advance booking. But you can see the outside for free anytime.

Christ Church’s dining hall was the inspiration for Hogwarts’ Great Hall in the Harry Potter series. A lot of bookish activities in Oxford are quite grown up but this one is more child-friendly. You can visit Christ Church but you’ll need to buy a ticket in advance.

If you are a fan of A Discovery of Witches, you’ll know much of it takes place in Oxford. Wandering around the centre, you can easily find several key places from the story. With history all around you, you might feel a little inspired yourself!

Places to read

Oxford has some lovely spots to relax and read. There are plenty of parks, including Christ Church Meadow and the University Parks. Or find a spot by the canal, or one of the two rivers.

This activity is weather dependent, and we don’t generally have the best weather in England. So check the forecast before planning any outdoor reading here!

What is your favourite bookish town or city?

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