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Oxford vs Cambridge….

Now that’s something I have heard many times before… Whether it’s which university is better, who is going to win the boat race, or which city is superior, people have their opinions.

Until recently I had always been pro Cambridge, pretty normal I think as I grew up on the Northamptonshire/Cambridgeshire border and went to school in Cambridgeshire. But I had never actually been to Oxford… So I thought I would put it to the test and see if I was right.

Now this is just for a bit of fun, both are world class cities and I would recommend each to those visiting the UK, everyone has their own opinion on the subject, this is mine.

Getting There:

It depends what direction you are coming from, but neither city is the easiest to reach. Often with Cambridge you have to tackle the dreaded A14, with Oxford the M40, neither road is desirable. Both are a nightmare to park in. In fact, don’t do it, don’t even try. Both Oxford and Cambridge have very efficient park and ride services, both at a similar price. I give them both a big tick for their bus services.

Oxford is definitely better connected however, whilst both have fast trains into London, Cambridge seems a little more isolated.

Shopping:

I am going to get this out of the way quickly, both cities have so much more to offer than shopping and I would visit neither city solely for this purpose (unless I lived 20 minutes down the road…). But I would have to say, I prefer the shops in Cambridge, there is a big John Lewis, something Oxford is missing. Both cities have many independent stores which is nice, but if we are judging solely on shopping, Cambridge wins for me. I also think the market in Cambridge is superior.

Architecture:

This is where I struggle… both cities are stunning, beautifully built, with fabulous buildings all round. But for me, I must say Oxford is the winner.  I absolutely loved Radcliffe Square and the Radcliffe Camera, I have never seen a building like it. Whilst Cambridge is surrounded with magnificent architecture, Oxford seemed a little more grand and unique.

University Colleges:

Oxford and Cambridge are most famous for their world class universities. Each college has its own buildings, walkways, architectures, gardens, you get my drift. But whose are better? Again, I wouldn’t say one is better than the other, they are equal, but something I did notice is that I found it MUCH easier to explore the colleges of Cambridge and this made a big difference to my experience in each city.

Sometimes the colleges are closed to visitors. It can be easy to forget they are not really a tourist attraction, they are educational facilities that are in use for much of the year. That being said, I have been able to sneak into a few in Cambridge when they have been closed and no one has ever tried stopping me, I also found they are usually pretty easy to explore. Unfortunately when I was in Oxford, every single one of the colleges I couldn’t gain entry to. Sometimes they are open but luck was not on my side, and they were closed the day I visited. I actually got told off by a security guard for just looking over the gate at one. For this reason, Cambridge wins for me.

St John’s College, Cambridge is my favourite of them all…

Places To Eat

Cambridge has around 50 more listed places to eat than Oxford on Tripadvisor, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they are better. What I like about Cambridge are the food stalls dotted around, especially the crepe stall by the market square… I did struggle in Oxford to find a sandwich shop where I could just sit down and not feel like people were staring at me for being by myself. Their cafes seemed more upmarket which wasn’t what I was looking for, but of course I found the covered market once I had already eaten! This has some great places to eat if you want something light.

There were some fantastic gems in Oxford I would have tried had I had some company, but for me the restaurants in Cambridge were more accessible.

Atmosphere:

Oxford is a bigger city, and I found this apparent, the city centre did seem a little more commercial. I am a small town girl (actually mostly village), so it is natural for me to feel more comfortable in Cambridge.

Both cities are easily covered on foot, they are much smaller than what you think a city might be like. I love how each place seems to be connected, whether by bridges, alleyways or roads, each city has a heart. If you are looking for a place to people watch, both cities are great.

For this reason, both cities are tied – there is a strong sense of community in each.

Conclusion:

Like I said, Cambridge will always be my favourite, but that is mostly because I lived over that way for so long.

However, I prefer the countryside and villages surrounding Oxford (sorry Cambridge…). Each city can be visited in a day, that’s not saying you have done is justice, but it is possible. If it’s a day trip you are looking for then Cambridge is so easy to visit from London. If you are looking for a weekend away then why not combine Oxford with the Cotswolds?

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