June 10, 2023


Creative living

The 7 best hotels for a family-friendly break in Oxford

4 min read

With its eccentric traditions, quirky gargoyles and tales of mystery and intrigue, Oxford makes a great destination for families. The museums may be world-famous but they go out of their way to welcome children, there are loads of parks, and it’s easy to hop in a boat and splash about on the river. A number of hotels offer large rooms, kitchenettes or extensive grounds that make a family stay a little easier, just choose whether you want instant city access or a touch of the countryside. Here’s our pick of the best family-friendly hotels in Oxford.

Once belonging to the Knights Templar, this historic manor is now a superb hotel set among manicured lawns along the River Thames. There’s plenty of old-world character, complemented by contemporary furnishings and great spa facilities, making it a good base for exploring Oxford and beyond, or a destination in itself. Facilities are wide-ranging, with tennis courts available, a decent gym and an indoor pool. There are large rooms with sofa beds and adjoining rooms for families. You can even bring the dog, as many rooms have direct access to outside space.

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This is arguably one of the quietest hotel locations in Oxford, ideal for those wanting to enjoy the buzz of Oxford during the day but keen to retreat from the noise of the city centre for a very restful night’s stay. The rambling white building seen by passers-by belies the detail inside: an attractive mosaic of tiles in reception; a cosy wood-panelled country-house lounge with a trio of sofas and travel trunks for tables, focused around a working fireplace; giant birdcage chandeliers casting light over the central wooden-railed staircase and soft-toned paintwork to keep the mood relaxed. Four family rooms incorporate bunk beds within a den-style area, and the property is also dog-friendly.

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Ethos has some of Oxford’s largest rooms (each with kitchenette), as well as parking, a small restaurant and a city-centre location that’s also blissfully quiet. The hotel is set across two buildings on opposite sides of a street, one a converted Victorian hotel, the other a purpose-built building. On arrival it feels like a sleek, contemporary operation with reception set in the funky café and lobby decorated with trendy floral motifs and large artworks. Rooms are less cohesive in style, but are nevertheless ideal for great option for families since they are extra large (some of the largest in Oxford) with kitchenettes, sofa beds (£20 extra), and connecting doorways.

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This contemporary, purpose-built hotel sits within its own leafy grounds close to the River Thames and set back from one of the main routes into Oxford city centre, which is less than a mile away. Facilities are plentiful with a leisure centre and spa (also open to members of the public) plus large restaurant and bar. All rooms are en-suite (many with bath and overhead shower) and include a main-brand hospitality tray, television, desk, seating and safety deposit box. Interconnecting rooms are available; cots and children’s beds can be requested. Food is served in the Deacon Restaurant, a large modern open-plan space.

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This historic hotel’s grand Victorian gothic façade provides a striking presence even with the impressive architecture of some of Oxford’s most famous and handsome colleges and buildings for neighbours (it’s in the centre of Oxford, directly opposite the renowned Ashmolean Museum and two university colleges, Balliol and St John’s). All rooms are en-suite (bath with overhead shower or bath and separate shower plus Elemis or Penhaligan toiletries) and are different shapes and sizes, decorated with a variety of themes. Some are interconnecting, or families can opt for double rooms with sofa beds; extra beds and cots are also available.

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Once a thriving boatyard, this Fullers pub occupies the handsome former warehouse, offering a spacious open area around two busy bars. Oriental rugs brighten slate floors and a selection of rowing paraphernalia punctuates brick walls. The focus is the huge yard itself, where cheerful blue tables and chairs surround the great old winch and an al fresco bar; planters, heaters and parasols promote riverside revelry all year round. Twenty unique bedrooms, offering comfortable and quirky spaces, occupy the upper floors of the pub and a large house overlooking the courtyard and river, three of them family rooms with bunk beds or fold-out sofas.

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This family-owned property, billed as a hotel-style b&b, is within easy reach of central Oxford. The exterior of the building has a smart, almost Hamptons-style look about it, with broad eaves and lots of greenery. The interior design is functional but attractive, using white walls, natural light and occasional abstract artworks. A well-tended garden at the rear of the property is a very pleasant spot in fine weather, with tables, chairs and parasols. There’s a dedicated family room, with one double and one single bed. Sofa beds can also be prepared in some rooms, at a surcharge of £20. Cot beds are available at no extra cost.

Contributions by Caroline Mills, Cathy Stebbings & Ben Lerwill