A vast library, the domed Radcliffe Camera is Oxford's most spectacular building, built in 1737–49 by James Gibbs in Italian baroque style. It's usually surrounded by tourists with cameras trained at its golden-stone walls. The Camera contains part of the Bodleian Library's enormous collection, begun in 1602. Much like the Library of Congress in the United States, the Bodleian contains a copy of every book printed in Great Britain and grows by 5,000 items a week. Tours reveal the magnificent Duke Humfrey's Library, which was the original chained library and completed in 1488. (The ancient tomes are dusted once a decade.) Guides will show you the spots used for Hogwarts School in the Harry Potter films. Arrive early to secure tickets for the three to six daily tours. These are sold on a first-come, first-served basis (except for the extended tour on Wednesday and Saturday, which can be prebooked). Audio tours, the only tours open to kids under 11, don't require reservations. Call ahead to confirm tour times.
Dec 14, 2009
Corrections to prior review: "The Radcliffe Camera is not open to visitors, and you hardly see any of the Old Bodleian Library unless you take one of their not-so-frequent tours." There are tours offered every day including Sundays now. The Radcliffe Camera can be visited on the longer "extended" tour. The shorter tour is 60 minutes and the longer 90 minutes. Great experience! "The tour guide will refuse a tip (and embarrass you in the process)
if you offer one at the end of the tour, so don't do that." I think it depends on the guide. I saw a guide happily accept a tip. The visit was very worthwhile, touring the 15th century part of the library and the 17th century additions. The extended tour went into the Camera AND into the tunnels connecting the Old and New libraries!!!
Apr 22, 2008
The Radcliffe Camera is not open to visitors, and you hardly see any of the Old Bodleian Library unless you take one of their not-so-frequent tours. But it's well worth visiting if you take the tour, which is extensive and informative. The tour guide will refuse a tip (and embarrass you in the process) if you offer one at the end of the tour, so don't do that.