Oxford is the oldest university city in the United Kingdom, some 50 miles (80 km) to the west of the capital London in its own county of Oxfordshire, on the rivers Thames and Cherwell. Together with Cambridge (the second oldest university city and Oxford's great rival), Oxford has long represented the English academic establishment and elite ("Oxbridge"), a haven of tradition and endeavour. Oxford's famous "Dreaming Spires" refer to the medieval churches and colleges that dominate the bustling modern town in all their Gothic splendour. Picturesque architecture and a vibrant modern life, driven by students, light industry and technology, all set in the rolling countryside of Oxfordshire, make this a great destination.
Oxford was first occupied in Saxon times, and was known as "Oxanforda". The settlement began with the foundations of St Frideswide's nunnery in the 8th century, and was first mentioned in written records in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 912. By the 10th century Oxford had become an important military frontier town between the kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex and was on several occasions raided by the Danes.