Oxford looks like a fantasy film set, with domes, spires and towers at every angle. It has a population that’s among the most educated, diverse and international in England and is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country.

So what makes Oxford so special? Its central streets are dominated by the college buildings, each one a part of the city’s famed university. The rivers Thames and Cherwell, and Oxford canal, make rowing, punting and canoeing excellent ways to get the best views, while cycling enables you to beat the one-way traffic system. Don’t miss Jericho, originally Oxford’s artisan quarter, which is packed full of the locals’ favourite independent shops and cafés.

Most noted for… Being the inspiration for vivid imaginations. From Harry Potter to Alice in Wonderland, Lyra Belacqua to Sebastian Flyte, there’s character on every corner.

While you’re here… Step into the Westgate centre. Re-opened in 2017 after a £500million development, its up-market stores, restaurants and cinema have put the city’s shopping experience firmly into the 21st century.

But try not to… Stay stuck in the city centre. A stone’s throw from Jericho lies Port Meadow, which has barely changed since the 10th century. It’s where Bronze Age and Iron Age people grazed animals and buried their dead, and a favourite place for a modern-day picnic.

Who’s who:

Each decade adds to the long line of notable people who have spent time at the university or lived and worked in Oxford. The proliferation of Nobel prize winners, prime ministers and presidents, award-winning actors, writers, scientists and Olympians whose deeds have helped shape world history include Bill Clinton, Edmund Halley, Dorothy Hodgkin, Philip Pullman, Jacqueline du Pré and Oscar Wilde.

The Ashmolean

No trip to Oxford is complete without a visit to the Ashmolean museum, where the collections originated from the eccentric scientist and scholar, Elias Ashmole. Now, Chinese porcelain, Anglo-Saxon treasures, Raphael’s drawings, and thousands of other artefacts and curiosities are displayed in the buildings, which were refurbished and extended a decade ago. (ashmolean.org)

The Christ Church picture collection

A purpose-built gallery in the grounds of Christ Church college (where you’ll also find Oxford’s cathedral) houses one of the finest private collections of drawings and Old Masters in Britain. It’s possible to visit the gallery without going through the college by entering via Canterbury Gate off Oriel Square. (chch.ox.ac.uk/picture-gallery)

Population: 162,100

Eat at: Edamamé (01865 246916)

Why? You can’t book, and you’ll almost certainly have to queue to get in, but the authentic Japanese home-cooked food is unforgettable.

Drink at: The Varsity Club (01865 248777)

Why? Go straight to the rooftop terrace and you’ll find yourself with a bird’s-eye view of the city, all for the price of a pint.

Stay at: The Randolph Hotel (0344 879 9132)

Why? A Gothic-style building in the centre of the city, The Randolph was one of Morse author Colin Dexter’s favourite spots.