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Oxford or Cambridge?

I'm sure this question has been asked a million times here, but I thought I'd bring it up. We have four days in London next summer and plan to make a day trip of it to one of the other. Rick seems to have preferred Cambridge in the past, but I think I read somewhere he leans more towards Oxford these days. Oxford seems to have a bit more to do and I am a bit of a Tolkien and Lewis fan. My mother (also accompanying us on the trip) votes for Cambridge. We have an ancestor who taught there several hundred years ago and I think that is her pull for Cambridge. Any thoughts or insights?

Posted by
5142 posts

I think you've already answered your own question. But as a long time Inspector Morse/Lewis/Endeavour fan, I loved visiting Oxford.

Posted by
3392 posts

My husband is an academic and we have spent quite a bit of time in both towns. I FAR prefer Oxford.

Posted by
1446 posts

I've been to both and I far preferred Cambridge. I don't think you can go wrong with either.

Posted by
33339 posts

I live just about exactly half way between them.

I used to go to Oxford when I was a bit closer and we had a business there. They have good milk shakes (MooMoo in the Covered Market) and some world famous colleges and buildings.

I now never go to Oxford at all - once or twice in the past 5 years or so - and I go to Cambridge frequently. It is an hour each to Oxford and Cambridge so there must be a distinction for me.

What I do in Cambridge:
Great shopping, including at the Grand Arcade, the large open market, several excellent musical instrument shops, great and varied food shops and restaurants, and neat quirky specialist shops.

The Fitzwilliam museum has both top notch permanent exhibits and excellent visiting ones, and several of the college libraries.

A lot of the colleges are easy and free (some are not) and have beautiful gardens.

There are always plenty of concerts around - check the Round Church and the Cornmarket among others.

While Oxford has the colleges and the town, I think that Cambridge does a much better job of blending them and creating a unified whole.

The Backs along the Cam are wonderful, with views of Kings College Chapel and lots more, and then the walk along the river to Grantchester.

The Cambridge University Botanic Gardens are special, and right in the town.

Just out of Cambridge is the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial, beautiful and respectful of all those patriotic boys from WW-2.

Duxford has the Imperial War Museum Duxford, which, as they say, "IWM Duxford stands apart from other aviation museums because the site is an exhibit itself. Get up close to gigantic aircraft and objects from our collection and uncover hundreds of personal stories of the many lives impacted by conflict."

And Cambridge has the Pepys Library, donated by the man himself, where the books are - and have always been - ordered by size.

To each their own though. Oxford is a nice place too.

Oh, and Cambridge are better rowers.

later EDIT: and whilst Oxford may have MooMoos, nothing can beat the buns at Fitzbillies in Cambridge (2 locations, one by the Fitz museum and one near the Pepys Library on Bridge Street). And Oxford has nothing like Cambridge's Mill Road.

Mill Road is lovely and quirky. The link here has a great cache of tempting info (and a lot of ads, perhaps view with an ad blocker - virtual newspapers have to make money somehow).

Posted by
3823 posts

Thank you, Nigel, for your wonderful post, full of information. I will make use of this Cambridge list during out spring trip to England. Plus, we will spend a couple of days in Oxford, too. MooMoo's is on the list of "must do's" for Oxford! As well as the Ashmolean Museum.

To the OP (andrew): Try to work in both Oxford and Cambridge during your trip, if you can. I know you may be squeezed for time, but I think it would be well worth doing both.

Posted by
1078 posts


Off topic, but curious. Where in Northamptonshire do you live? We spent many weeks in Northamptonshire on a narrowboat cruising the Grand Union Canal. Lovely part of the country.

Posted by
33339 posts

I'm about 15 miles from the Grand Union Canal, about the same to the Northampton Branch. About half an hour to the Foxton Locks, my fav staircase, and tomorrow I'll be walking around the junction of the Grand Union and Oxford canals in my fav canalside town Braunston.

Posted by
470 posts

Whilst Americans may describe Braunston as a city it can't be called a town. Its only a fair sized village

Ps when in Oxford don't miss the Pitt Rivers Museum much more interesting than the Ashmolean in my opinion

Posted by
631 posts

Very very useful comparisons between Oxford and Cambridge above, especially for those of us who've never been. Btw, the Cotswold village 'Burford' is also near Oxford, and Cambridge can be reached from London's Liverpool Station train.
I am done. the two towns

Posted by
33339 posts

While some trains from Liverpool Street station (watch the spelling, the Street part is important) do go to Cambridge (operated by Greater Anglia) they are much slower (and to a degree less reliable) than the trains from Kings Cross/St Pancras operated by Great Northern and Thameslink.

In fact it is faster to take a tube from Liverpool Street station to Kings Cross St Pancras and then a train from there - as much as 45 minutes faster doing that.

Posted by
1078 posts

Nigel, nice to hear about your interest in canals. In Northamptonshire, we have moored in Cosgrove (just on the Northants side of Milton Keynes), Grafton Regis (close enough to Silverstone we could hear the engines on Grand Prix weekend), Stoke Bruerne (good canal museum), Braunston (of course), and a lovely village called Welton (just north of the canal near Daventry). It really is a nice part of the country.

Sorry to hijack this thread with my love for narrowboats and Northamptonshire.