11 Things to Consider When Making Plans to Visit Oxford from London

by Markus
Last Update: 17 July 2023

Can you believe that 7 million people visit Oxford every year?

As an idyllic university town, it’s easy to see why Oxford is so popular. But if you’re planning to take your family to this historic and fun spot for a few days, you probably have a lot of questions.

How will you get there? Where should you stay, and what are the most fun attractions for the whole family?

If you crave the perfect family holiday, keep reading for eleven important things to consider when making plans to visit Oxford.

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A great day out without compromise.


1. Travel by Train

The fastest way to travel to Oxford from London is by train. This method of transportation takes about an hour and is both comfortable and scenic.

You have the option of taking a train from Paddington station, which affords a view of Windsor Castle and the Thames Valley. Or you can take a train from London Marylebone, which is just as fast and provides views of the Chiltern Hills.

2. Travel by Bus

If you wish to save money on travel, then journeying by bus is the least expensive option. Buses are available through the Oxford Tube. The time it takes to get to Oxford generally runs a bit under two hours.

These coaches depart every 10-20 minutes and stop in multiple locations in London and Oxford. They are committed to safety, with several guidelines in place to maximise cleanliness and minimise the risk to your health. They also offer features like 4G wi-fi and in-seat charging stations.

The Oxford Tube offers a range of ticket discounts. Currently, fares for children (age 5 to 15) start at £4 one-way, while students and adults over sixty pay £10. You also save money by buying a return ticket, which is good for a return within three months.

The Oxford Tube allows luggage up to a certain size and even permits you to take bicycles. There is also no need to buy tickets ahead of time. Check out their FAQs for more information.

3. Travel by Car

If you are taking a family vacation to Oxford, you may be considering driving yourself. However, this option has several problematic components. Let’s look into the pros and cons of driving your car to Oxford.

One pro is that you can pack all your bulky luggage such as bikes, prams, and picnic baskets. Carrying these items when travelling by train or bus, even if allowed, can be hectic and stressful.
You will also have a flexible transportation option during your holiday. If you want to pop over to other towns or cities during your trip, this can make having your car convenient.

However, the cons of driving yourself are not insignificant. Commuter traffic between the two destinations can make rush hour intense. Gridlock and traffic jams can increase the travel time from 1.5 hours to three hours.
In addition, there are tolls to be paid. And let’s not forget parking fees in Oxford, which can be expensive.

Oxford is extremely navigable by foot or bike; bikes are even available for rent. There are also buses in town. This makes having your car rather unnecessary.
With these pros and cons considered, you may find that driving yourself from London is more trouble than it’s worth.

4. Where to Stay

The ideal location to stay in Oxford is the historic city centre. This is where you’ll find the colleges of Oxford University, as well as historic churches dating back to medieval times. There are many shops, restaurants, and theatres in this area.

Gothic architecture features prominently in the city centre, making it beautiful and scenic. Here you’ll find the luxurious Old Parsonage Hotel and Old Bank Hotel. The Vanbrugh House Hotel, housed in a 1700s Cotswold townhouse, is also a short walk away.
These accommodations run more expensive, but are lavish and ideally situated.

Nearby in the suburb of Summertown, you will find mid-range accommodations. These include the Burlington House Hotel, Royal Oxford Hotel, and Holt Hotel. These are about a ten-minute walk from the city centre and are also accessible by bus or train.

For housing accommodation on a budget, one might consider the Travelodge Oxford Peartree Hotel or the Premier Inn Oxford Hotel. These are inexpensive, pleasant and tidy. There is also the Travelodge Oxford Wheatley, which is pet-friendly.

5. Oxford City Sightseeing

When you arrive in the city of Oxford, a sightseeing bus tour is your obvious first choice. This allows you to get acquainted with the great multitude of things to do in Oxford.

Thus the hop-on-hop-off tour is ideal. Riding a double-decker bus, you can view iconic landmarks like Oxford Castle and Christ Church. You also drop by the North Parade, a street crammed with artisan shops and fabulous coffee spots.

When you come to a stop you wish to explore further, simply get off the bus, tour, and then jump onto another hop-on-hop-off bus when you’re ready to continue. You can get off and on as many times as you wish within 24 hours.

The bus ride itself is 1 hour. Included in your ticket is an optional 30-minute guided walking tour, which allows you to see sights not accessible by bus.
Hop-on-hop-off tours run 7 days a week.

6. Oxford Castle and Prison

This attraction is perfect if you are touring Oxford with kids. Venturing deep into a Norman candle-lit crypt, your family will learn about the legends of King Arthur. Climbing 101 steps up St. George’s Tower, you will be afforded an amazing panoramic view of Oxford.

Everyone will be suitably chilled entering creepy prison cells from the 1700s. Tours presented by fully-costumed guides in character add to the adventure.

Visit our Days Out page for more on visiting the Castle and Prison.

7. Punting on the River

This activity is a must for your trip to Oxford. A rite of passage since the 1800s, you will see many of the colleges and well-kept parks as you glide serenely along.

You might opt for a chauffeured punt, which allows you to sit back and relax as you take in the scenery. Or, if your family feels adventurous, you can hire a self-drive punt to try navigating the rivers yourselves.

The main riverways can get crowded with other craft and tourists, but if you stick to the backwaters you can punt through gorgeous rural countryside.

8. Oxford Botanic Gardens

This is the UK’s oldest botanic garden, dating back to 1612. Originally intended to grow plants for medical purposes, today it features numerous glasshouses, gardens, and 130 acres of woodland. It also boasts 6,000 different types of plants, some of which are used for cancer and heart research.

Kids will enjoy the Garden Eye Spy Trail as well as seasonal themed trails. Tours of the Botanic Gardens typically take 1-2 hours.

9. Port Meadow

This enormous field is a bucolic paradise. Edged by the Thames and frequented by ponies and cows, it is the ideal spot for a picnic. Kids can run off some energy tossing balls or playing badminton while you recline with a good book.

The Meadow is also great for birding enthusiasts, hikers, and photographers. Be sure to pack your hamper and bring along a blanket for a sun-drenched afternoon in the fresh air, bidding stress and care goodbye.

10. Oxford’s Covered Market

This famous indoor marketplace is housed in a building that dates to the 1700s. A bustling hub of sights, sounds, and smells, your family will enjoy shopping till you drop.

Wares range from delicious foods to farm-fresh produce, art and clothing, and unique gifts. Watch gorgeous cakes being decorated at The Cake Shop or design a custom milkshake flavour at Moo-Moos.

The Covered Market is still operating with consideration for health and safety guidelines. Read more about their mask requests and other helpful info here.

11. The Story Museum

This amazing interactive experience allows your family to delve into a fantasy world of adventure. Visitors start at the Portal, an immersive room where Story Guides help you choose your adventures.

Next, you can visit the Whispering Wood, where each tree features interactive games. Following Firouz the Hare, your family will use audio headphones to enjoy stories from around the world.

In the Enchanted Library, you can go into Narnia or down a rabbit hole. Lavish multi-sensory immersive exhibits enable you to experience your favourite stories in rich detail.

You’ll also enjoy eating at the Museum’s themed cafe and watching thrilling live theatre shows. All these wonders and many more await you in The Story Museum.

Make Plans to Visit Oxford Today

We hope this list helped as you make plans to visit Oxford. Whether you picnic on the Port Meadow, shop in the Covered Market or punt along the river, we’re sure your whole family will enjoy your Oxford holiday.

For more information on how Keetoo can help you save money on fantastic trips and experiences, feel free to check out our How It Works page!

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