Though part of the same country, Oxford and London are uniquely different. Oxford is very much a university city. London has a hustle and bustle kind of attitude from the different people who travel to visit it. It is the site of much history and the birth of many thoughts and ideas—not that the same couldn’t be said for Oxford, but it is shown in a different way.
Oxford is built of colleges scattered around. Shops line streets and are often neighbored by colleges. At the heart of the city, this might be the case, but around the outskirts and the Bodleian the atmosphere is very different. The noise isn’t the same as it is in London. There are more ambulances screeching at every hour of the day and Oxford feels a little less tailored towards tourists.
Of course there still is a tourist vibe, but it’s a little different. Walking throughout Oxford, besides from the name, it’s clear that this is a student driven area. While London did have a university campus nearby, it’s not to the scale of Oxford. The city is the university. Everywhere you look, there are reminders that before being a city, it is a university. The best way to describe it, in my opinion, is that while Oxford has both a city and university mixed together, it is the city growing out from the university.
There are pockets of the educational setting everywhere. London seems much more scattered. It’s building have been bombed and redeveloped, modernized and as a mix of different eras. For the most part, Oxford is just oxford. The buildings are old and built of stone. Sight of modern redevelopment seems far off, or not as easily to find as in London. People are living inside the city like London—where there were narrow passageways. Everywhere in Oxford, the streets are wide and the sense of area is different.
London has high walls as living complexes. Those don’t seem to exist as clearly in Oxford—or perhaps I just missed them. Here in Oxford, the buildings seem to be set shorter unless it’s a tower or something else meant to be tall. Otherwise, most of the buildings are short and stocky stone buildings. Oxford doesn’t seem like it was built for workers to be working within the area. Parks and other public spaces are set as large, green areas. Finding a place to sit seems more difficult than it was in London.
At least in London, the parks provided seating area whereas, if the seating at a café or restaurant is full, there is a lack of places to sit other than the occasional bench or empty doorstep (that you hope the door it belongs to is both locked and in no fear of being opened). But Oxford in itself is like a large public space. While the colleges themselves might not be open to visitors, people are welcome to walk around and enjoy the same spaces that students and educators enjoy.
Oxford and London both limit what is public and private through the use of space. Oxford doesn’t specifically designate “true” public spaces like parks, but it gives public space in the aspect of shops and areas that allow “free” entry. Colleges create private areas much like one would do for a residential area where the colleges themselves are houses of knowledge where most individuals are not allowed to pass through unless they belong to it.
As a city, London seems much more structured than Oxford. In Oxford, the buildings just seem like they’ve been tossed together and scattered about. Oxford contains the thinkers, while London the builders. It seems that both Oxford and London were built on different concepts, which can be seen through what both appear to value most—discussion or intellectuals and education.