Are you looking to visit Oxford with kids? If yes, then visiting Oxford in England with kids is one of the best choices you can make. Oxford is a charming city located in the heart of England, known for its prestigious university, rich history, and stunning architecture. The city has a lot to offer to visitors of all ages, including families with children. In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive guide to help you plan your trip to Oxford with kids.
Introduction to Oxford
Oxford is a city located in the south-east of England, approximately 60 miles from London. It is known for its world-renowned university, which was founded in the 12th century and is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world. The city is also famous for its beautiful architecture, charming streets, and a rich history dating back to the Saxon period.
Here are some interesting facts about Oxford:
- Oxford is known as the “City of Dreaming Spires” due to its stunning spires and towers that dominate the city’s skyline.
- The University of Oxford has produced 30 British prime ministers, 26 Nobel laureates, and countless other notable alumni.
- Oxford is home to the world-famous Bodleian Library, which contains over 13 million printed items.
- The city has been used as a filming location for several popular movies, including the Harry Potter series.
- Introduction to Oxford
- The Radcliffe Camera
- Christ Church College
- The Ashmolean Museum
- The Oxford Canal
- Visiting the Oxford Castle and Prison
- The Pitt Rivers Museum
- The Museum of Natural History
- The Covered Market
- Oxford Official Walking Tour
- The oldest pub in Oxford: The Bear Inn
- The oldest coffee house in Europe: The Grand Café
- The traditional English afternoon tea
- Getting to Oxford
The Radcliffe Camera
The Radcliffe Camera is one of the most iconic and must-see monuments in Oxford. Built in 1737, the Radcliffe Camera is a beautiful neoclassical structure designed by architect James Gibbs.
The Radcliffe Camera is currently part of the Bodleian Library, one of the oldest and most important libraries in the UK, and houses a vast collection of books and manuscripts. The building is open to visitors, and if you are a lover of culture and literature, you cannot miss the opportunity to visit this extraordinary library. This structure is also one of the most photographed attractions in Oxford, thanks to its architectural beauty and central location. You can admire the Radcliffe Camera from afar or get closer and appreciate its intricate structure and detailed decorations.
Entry to the Radcliffe Camera is included in the Bodleian Library visit, which offers several paid guided tours. The cost of the ticket for a guided tour varies depending on the type of visit chosen, the duration of the tour, and the number of sites visited. For example, the standard Bodleian Library tour, which also includes a visit to the Radcliffe Camera, costs £15 for adults and £10 for children.
It is important to note that the visit to the Radcliffe Camera may be limited on certain days or times due to events or maintenance. It is therefore recommended to check the information on the official Bodleian Library website before visiting the Radcliffe Camera.
Christ Church College
Christ Church College is one of the most famous colleges and things to see in Oxford, known for its beautiful architecture and Christ Church Cathedral, which houses the largest organ in the city. Christ Church College has also been used as a location for Harry Potter films, and visiting it will be a unique experience for fans of the saga.
The cost of admission to the college depends on the type of visit and the time of year. Personally, I recommend a private tour of the college because it allows you to see areas not accessible to the public, in addition to the fact that you learn much more from a guided tour than from a do-it-yourself one. I suggest purchasing a guided tour by going to this link.
For visitors who only wish to visit the chapel and garden, the ticket price is £8.50 for adults and £7.50 for students and visitors over 65. Admission is free for children under 5 years old.
If you want to visit the entire college, which also includes the dining hall, library, and art gallery, the ticket price is £16 for adults and £15 for students and visitors over 65 (if you purchase the ticket online and before your visit, otherwise it is £2 more per ticket). Again, admission is free for children under 5 years old.
For families, the ticket price is £50 for two adults and two children. You can buy admission tickets at the college ticket office or at a more advantageous price here>. It is recommended to book in advance, especially during peak periods, to avoid long queues and ensure your visit.
The Ashmolean Museum
The Ashmolean Museum is one of the oldest and most prestigious museums in the world. It was founded in 1683 and is located in the heart of Oxford, just a few steps from the city center. The museum is home to a vast collection of art and artifacts, spanning 5,000 years of human history. The collection includes everything from ancient Egyptian mummies and Greek sculptures to contemporary art and modern photography.
One of the most impressive parts of the museum is the collection of paintings, which includes works by some of the most famous artists in history, such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Vincent van Gogh. The museum also has a significant collection of Chinese ceramics, Japanese art, and Islamic art.
The Ashmolean Museum is open seven days a week, and admission is free. Guided tours are available for those who want a more in-depth experience of the museum. The museum also has a café and a gift shop where visitors can buy souvenirs and gifts.
Whether you’re a history buff, an art lover, or simply looking for a unique and enriching experience in Oxford, the Ashmolean Museum is definitely worth a visit.
The Oxford Canal
The Oxford Canal is one of the most picturesque attractions to see in Oxford, with its rural landscapes, rowing boats, and floating houses. Along the canal, you can also visit the picturesque village of Jericho, which offers characteristic shops and several restaurants. But a visit to the canal cannot be complete without a boat trip on the river.
If you like traditional English afternoon tea, why not book a river cruise with afternoon tea included at the Folly Restaurant? Located along the river, this restaurant offers a wide selection of sweet and savoury treats, accompanied by tea or champagne, and organizes boat trips on the river with afternoon tea tasting.
Unfortunately, during my visit, the river boat tours were suspended due to the previous days’ rains and therefore, we had to settle, so to speak, for tea in the restaurant’s indoor room.
Do you know what the traditional English afternoon tea consists of? I’ll explain briefly at the end of the post.
Visiting the Oxford Castle and Prison
If you are interested in the history of the prison system, do not miss the visit to the Oxford Castle and Prison.
Located inside the Oxford Castle, the prisons were in operation from 1785 to 1996. During the guided tour, you can discover the life of the prisoners, the conditions in which they were detained, and the penal justice system of the time.
The ticket cost for the visit to the prison and castle varies depending on the type of visit and the age of the visitor. For example, the standard price for a guided tour entrance ticket is £17.50 for an adult, and £11.50 for a child (ages 5-15). The price of a student ticket is £16.50. Children under 5 years old enter for free. Family and group discounts are also available.
The guided tour lasts about 45 minutes, and I recommend it because it explains in detail the history of the prisons and the castle.
The Pitt Rivers Museum
The Pitt Rivers Museum houses one of the world’s most extraordinary collections of ethnological and anthropological artifacts, collected by the English explorer and anthropologist Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers. The collection includes more than 500,000 objects, including weapons, costumes, musical instruments, toys, and ritual artifacts from all over the world. Definitely a museum to see in Oxford.
The Museum of Natural History
The Oxford Museum of Natural History is one of the most important museums in the United Kingdom, famous for its exhibitions on animal life, plants, and geology. The museum also houses the largest collection of dinosaurs outside London, with the famous skeleton of Tyrannosaurus rex towering in the center of the main hall.
The Covered Market
The Covered Market is one of the most popular places to see in Oxford, especially for shopping and gastronomy enthusiasts. Located in the heart of the city, the covered market offers a wide selection of shops, stands, and stalls, where you can find local products, souvenirs, clothing, and much more. Don’t miss the famous Oxford pastry shop, Ben’s Cookies, or a coffee break in the historic and picturesque Grand Café.
Admission is, of course, free.
Oxford Official Walking Tour
To get to know the city in a complete and detailed way, book the Oxford Official Walking Tour. This guided tour will take you to discover the main attractions of Oxford, from the historic High Street to the famous Bridge of Sighs, passing through the main colleges, squares and streets of the historic center. During the visit, the tour guide will also provide anecdotes and curiosities about the history of Oxford and its university.
The oldest pub in Oxford: The Bear Inn
If you are a lover of British traditions, you cannot miss The Bear Inn, the oldest pub in Oxford, located in the Alfred Street district. This pub has been around since 1242 and has maintained its authentic and rustic atmosphere over the centuries.
Inside the pub, you will find a wide selection of English beers, including the famous ale, and traditional cuisine with dishes such as Scottish haggis, fish and chips, and beef pie. But what really makes The Bear Inn special is its chocolate ceiling: a ceiling covered with chocolates, which are offered to customers as a sign of welcome.
The pub also has a long history of associations with writers and poets, including J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Lewis Carroll, who often met here to discuss literature and culture. So, if you are a fan of English literature, The Bear Inn might be the perfect place for you.
The oldest coffee house in Europe: The Grand Café
If you are a coffee lover, you cannot miss the opportunity to visit The Grand Café, the oldest coffee house in Europe. Located in the heart of Oxford, The Grand Café has existed since 1650 and is a historic place, rich in charm and tradition. Inside the coffee house, you will find a wide selection of coffee, tea, and sweets, such as scones, cakes, and pastries, served on silver plates and accompanied by a refined selection of teas. Here you can taste coffee as it was done in the seventeenth century, when the first coffee houses began to open in England.
But The Grand Café is not just a place for coffee and tea. It is also a tourist attraction, thanks to its architectural beauty and history. The Grand Café was the meeting place of many famous intellectuals and writers, including C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Oscar Wilde.
Furthermore, The Grand Café has a prominent place in the history of cinema, having been the set for some scenes from the film Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, where it was the place where the protagonists first meet Hagrid.
The traditional English afternoon tea
Afternoon Tea is a British culinary tradition that developed in the 18th century and is still proudly celebrated in many parts of the United Kingdom, including Oxford. Afternoon Tea is a light meal served in the afternoon between 3 and 5 pm, usually accompanied by a cup of tea.
The traditional Afternoon Tea menu usually includes a selection of sandwiches, sweets, and scones served with whipped cream and jam. The sandwiches are typically cut into triangular shapes and may include fillings such as cucumber, smoked salmon, ham, and cheese. Sweets often include cakes, pastries, biscuits, and chocolate cakes. Scones, sweet leavened bread served warm, are often the most anticipated part of Afternoon Tea and are frequently served with butter, whipped cream, and jam.
In addition to the food, Afternoon Tea is also a celebration of the art of tea preparation. Usually, a black tea, such as Darjeeling or Assam, is served, accompanied by milk and sugar to taste. The tea is brewed in porcelain or silver teapots, which are often decorated with flowers or other decorative motifs.
Afternoon Tea is a beloved British cultural tradition and can be experienced in many places in Oxford, including the Folly Restaurant as mentioned earlier.
Where to Stay in Oxford with Kids
Oxford has a wide range of accommodation options to suit all budgets and preferences. Here are some of the best family-friendly hotels in Oxford:
- The Old Bank Hotel is a luxury hotel located in the heart of Oxford, overlooking the famous Radcliffe Camera. The hotel offers spacious family rooms and suites, which are perfect for families with children.
- The Randolph Hotel is another luxury hotel located in the heart of Oxford, just a few minutes’ walk from the city center. The hotel offers spacious family rooms and suites, which are perfect for families with children.
- The Old Parsonage Hotel is a charming boutique hotel located in the heart of Oxford, just a few minutes’ walk from the city center. The hotel offers spacious family rooms and suites, which are perfect for families with children.
- YHA Oxford is a budget-friendly hostel located in the heart of Oxford, just a few minutes’ walk from the city center. The hostel offers family rooms and dormitories, which are perfect for families with children.
Where to Eat in Oxford with Kids
Oxford has a vibrant food scene, with a wide range of restaurants and cafes to suit all tastes and budgets. Here are some of the best family-friendly restaurants in Oxford:
- The Nosebag is a popular cafe located in the city center, offering a range of delicious homemade food, including sandwiches, soups, and salads.
- G&D’s is a popular ice cream parlor located in the city center, offering a wide range of delicious ice cream flavors, including vegan options.
- The Jam Factory is a popular restaurant located in a converted factory building, offering a range of delicious dishes, including pizzas, burgers, and salads.
- The Rickety Press is a popular gastropub located in the Jericho neighborhood, offering a range of delicious pub food, including burgers, sandwiches, and fish and chips.
FAQs about Visiting Oxford with Kids
- Is Oxford a family-friendly destination?
Yes, Oxford is a family-friendly destination with a wide range of activities and attractions to suit all ages.
- What are the best things to do in Oxford with kids?
Some of the best things to do in Oxford with kids include visiting Oxford Castle and Prison, the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and the Pitt Rivers Museum.
- Are there any family-friendly hotels in Oxford?
Yes, there are several family-friendly hotels in Oxford, including The Old Bank Hotel, The Randolph Hotel, and The Old Parsonage Hotel.
- What are the best family-friendly restaurants in Oxford?
Some of the best family-friendly restaurants in Oxford include The Nosebag, G&D’s, The Jam Factory, and The Rickety Press.
- What is the best time to visit Oxford with kids?
The best time to visit Oxford with kids is during the summer months when the weather is warm, and there are plenty of outdoor activities and events.
- Is Oxford expensive to visit with kids?
Oxford can be expensive to visit, but there are several budget-friendly options available
Getting to Oxford
Oxford is easily accessible by both train and bus. The Oxford train station is about 1.5 km from the city centre and offers frequent connections to London and other cities in the UK. Trains are operated by several companies, including Great Western Railway and CrossCountry.
Alternatively, Oxford can be reached by bus. The city is served by several bus companies, including National Express and Oxford Bus Company. Most buses arrive at Gloucester Green bus station, which is located in the city centre.
For those arriving by car, Oxford is served by the M40 motorway, which connects it to London and Birmingham. There are also several paid parking options in the city.
Once in Oxford, the city is easily explorable on foot or by bike. Alternatively, there are also local buses serving the city and its surroundings.
I recommend the “Park and Ride” system if you arrive in Oxford by car. The system involves parking your car in an out-of-town car park, usually near the motorway, and using a shuttle bus to reach the city centre. This is a convenient and affordable way to avoid traffic congestion and the high cost of parking in the city centre.
There are five “Park and Ride” sites around Oxford, each with a regular shuttle bus frequency operating throughout the day. The car parks are open from early morning until late evening, and prices are generally very reasonable, depending on the duration of parking.
In conclusion, Oxford is a city full of charm and unique attractions, even for those traveling with children. From its historic architecture to its museums, from rowing boats along the canal to Ben’s Cookies pastry shop, there is truly something for every taste and budget to see in Oxford.
I hope you found this article useful, and if you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below. For further travel information on what to do, where to stay, shop and eat in Oxford and beyond, go to experienceoxfordshire.org