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Radcliffe Camera

This splendid 18th-century building was the first rotunda library in Britain and is one of the most recognizable Oxford landmarks.

Radcliffe Camera is an impressive neo-Gothic structure that currently houses the reading rooms for the Bodleian Library. It stands out from the surrounding architecture with its unusual cylindrical shape and its eye-catching dome.

The word camera derives from the Latin term for “room.” Since architect James Gibbs completed it in 1747, the building has had several uses, including as an independent library, although it is now part of the university.

From the outside, inspect the structure’s impressive architectural features, which make it a design icon. This is one of the University of Oxford’s most photographed buildings and is the earliest example of a circular library in the United Kingdom. 

This part of the library can only be accessed by students or by those taking guided tours. Take the Upstairs, Downstairs at the Bodleian Library tour to access the interior. Upon entry, you’ll find that the interior is as majestic as the façade, with its Corinthian columns and pedimented windows adding to the grandeur. Note the balconies full of books that run along the circular walls of the library. The tour also leads through the subterranean tunnel running between the Radcliffe Camera and the Old Bodleian Library.

Climb up the nearby tower of the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin to see the fascinating dome at eye level. Be sure to bring your camera along so you can take photos of the building from this excellent vantage point.

Radcliffe Camera is between the university colleges of Brasenose, All Souls and Exeter in the heart of the city. It is in an area full of intriguing attractions, including the Bodleian Library, the Sheldonian Theatre and the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin. Take a bus to the city center and walk east along the main high street for a few minutes to reach the site.


Guide to Exploring Radcliffe Camera


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