9 must see parks in Oxford

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Like many British cities, Oxford is blessed with natural wonders, many of which are found within or close to the City Centre. You don’t need to travel far for a breath of fresh air, with the glorious gardens, meadows, and parks in Oxford waiting to be explored. Hidden behind college walls and unassuming neighborhoods are lush green spaces, offering a much-needed break from the vibrant cosmopolitan community.

Whether you want to witness the views of the ‘dreaming spires,’ have a romantic picnic, or embark on a scenic walk, there’s sure to be a park in Oxford that will tickle your fancy. There are many of them, so if you’re a tourist, you may be unable to explore them all during your visit.

Don’t know where to start? Use this guide to the best parks in Oxford for locals and visitors. We’ve also included their highlights and activities you can do so that you can pick the best one for your needs. Before you venture out into the vast expanse of wilderness, lighten your load by dropping your heavy items in a baggage storage facility in Oxford. This way, you can tour the city's beautiful parks without hassle and burden.

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Oxford Botanic Garden

Founded in 1621, Oxford Botanic Garden is the UK’s oldest botanic garden and one of the world’s oldest scientific gardens. Since its inception, it has played a vital role in educating people about plants and their importance, supporting research, teaching, and conserving plants from around the world. It boasts a collection of over 5,000 plant species across its different sections.

Oxford Botanic Garden is a perfect place to explore with your family and let your kids appreciate nature around them. You can have a picnic in the grassy areas, relax under the shade of a tree, and explore the magical world of plants and flowers.

Check out the themed glasshouses; each offers a different experience that will amaze you. The Conservatory is often filled with the fragrant flower scent in spring, and the seasonal florals make gorgeous backdrops for events. The Walled Garden is also not to be missed. It’s the oldest part of the Oxford Botanic Garden featuring medicinal plant beds, geographic beds, and a literary garden. If you want to visit the Harcourt Arboretum to see some of the world’s rarest plant species, you’ll have to drive about fifteen minutes from the Botanic Garden. Although it’s part of the facility, the sites are separate and require separate tickets.

Florence Park

Flowerbeds, wildflower areas, shrubs, and a meandering stream await you at Florence Park. It’s one of the parks in Oxford that received the prestigious Green Flag Award for enhancing the cityscape. It’s near Templars Square, Oxford’s largest enclosed shopping center.

Florence Park offers an array of activities for everyone of all ages. You can play miniature golf or tennis on one of the tennis courts, challenge someone to a casual game of cricket, go for a run, or take your little ones to one of the children’s areas. There are lots of green spaces for dog walking, picnics, or games with family. It’s a nice quiet park with old trees and a three-lined walkway, ideal for a pleasant daytime stroll.

If you get hungry and need to refuel, a café in the vicinity has light snacks and drinks. Benches are also everywhere if you want to rest, though you’re always welcome to sit on the grassy lawns.

Cutteslowe and Sunnymead Park

It’s far north of central Oxford, but Cutteslowe and Sunnymead Park is worth a twenty-minute drive if you want a free family day away from the busy city. It’s the largest park in Oxford, with sprawling nature areas and woodland. Bring your kids to play, as it’s filled with recreational facilities that will keep them busy and entertained for hours.

Everyone will be excited about the new Splash ‘n’ Play area with water jets from the floor. The play areas include a skate park, a paddling pool, and a mini golf course so that children will be spoiled for choice at Cutteslowe and Sunnymead Park. For those not into sports, try the Cutteslowe Park Miniature Railway for kids and the young at heart. The mini trains also have facilities to allow passengers with disabilities to enjoy the ride safely. The Miniature Railway is only available in certain months or on summer holidays, so check the schedule to avoid disappointment when you get there.

Didn’t prepare food for the picnic or forgot your snacks on the dining table? Don’t fret, as Cutteslowe and Sunnymead Park has a café serving a selection of fresh snacks, treats, and hot and cold beverages. You can sit outside in an outdoor seating area on a summer day and enjoy your food while taking in the idyllic natural environment around you.

University Parks

Nestled at the heart of Oxford, Oxford University Parks is a charming green space for recreation and sports. Merton College used to own the land until it was purchased by Oxford University and turned into a park in 1864. Thanks to its accessibility and ideal location, it’s a favorite destination where students, visitors, and residents can socialize, relax, and join sporting activities.

Even if you can’t visit other Oxford parks, be sure to allot a few hours exploring this parkland. University Parks is open to the public daily until dusk, boasting a network of walking trails, an open area for picnics and informal games, and an extensive collection of plants and trees. Depending on the season, you might catch a game of tennis, rugby, lacrosse, cricket, or tennis.

Take a leisure stroll along the River Cherwell and spot some wildlife and birds that call University Parks their home. For avid bird watchers, the first Swift Tower in Oxford is located near the pond, containing twenty-five nest boxes designed for endangered swifts.

University Parks is easily accessible via public transportation and within walking distance from central Oxford. You can also bike or take a bus to get there since several bus routes service the roads that run close to the park.

South Park

The young and old will have an enjoyable time at South Park, a vast open space spanning fifty acres of land. Its biggest draw is its panoramic view overlooking Oxford, making it a famous spot among photographers who want to capture the iconic towers and spires of Oxford University from the highest point of the park. Kids can enjoy outdoor fun at the play area with a zip wire.

South Park is located on Headington Hill, east of Oxford, England. It’s the largest park within the city limits. On the weekend, you’ll often encounter a group of locals, including families, students, and friends, sitting on the benches scattered around.

The park consists mainly of rugged grass mounts, old trees, and outdoor gym equipment like monkey bars, bikes, and treadmills. It’s mostly quiet and not as busy as university parks, ideal for a serene escape from the chaotic city. It’s also a wonderful spot to chill, soak up the sun, and admire the sunset. If you plan to visit Oxford in the summer, catch the Foodies Festival at South Park for unlimited treats, delicious food and drinks, and fantastic entertainment.

Christ Church Meadow

History buffs, nature lovers, and outdoor enthusiasts will find a paradise at Christ Church Meadow, a peaceful open space in central Oxford. It welcomes visitors year-round, allowing them to recharge their mental batteries and reconnect with nature without leaving the city center.

Choose from different outdoor activities that appeal to you. You can chill by the river, organize a picnic with friends, go for a run, or get your heart pumping by running or walking. For first-time visitors, don’t leave without exploring the Meadow Trail to witness the beauty and history preserved in the buildings in the Christ Church Meadow. It only takes thirty to forty minutes, depending on your speed and how much time you spend at each stop.

The first site you’ll see is the War Memorial Garden and Rose Garden at the entrance to Christ Church Meadow. The Gardens are often busy, with a million people passing through the site each year. Other attractions include the Dean’s Ham, Jubilee Bridge, the Botanic Garde, Rose Lane, and the Christ Church, known for its remarkable architecture. The Christ Church Meadow is open throughout the year and free for everyone.

Hinksey Park

Less than a ten-minute drive from Christ Church Meadow and a short bike ride from the center of Oxford is another stunning green space called Hinksey Park. But what makes it unique is the large heated outdoor pool that has been around in the park since 1934. It’s a beloved family summer destination with a large fun area, a poolside café, and a place for lap swimming.

If you’re tired of swimming or playing in the water, there are many outdoor adventures you can do, like cycling, fishing, running, and walking. The kids can also run around the grassy lawns, play soccer, dip in the pool, and stroll around the lake and pond with waterfowl. Besides recreation, the park’s lush greenery and water features serve as important habitats for animals. For serious walkers, Hinksey Park is a perfect starting point to walk to the countryside, offering access to Chiswell Valley, Thames Path, Boars Hill, and South Hinksey.

Bury Knowle Park

Bury Knowle is one of the city’s most magnificent parks set against the Bury Knowle House, a private mansion built around the 1800s as a country retreat with its own park. It is nestled in the picturesque Headington suburb near the center of Oxford. It conveniently lies on a public transport route, making it easily accessible from various parts of the city.

The historic Bury Knowle Park is open daily for locals and tourists who can take advantage of its wide range of activities and features. It has several sculptures, picnic tables, carved seating, pirate play elements, sand pits, floral displays, and wildflower areas that bloom in spring. Kids can also enjoy unlimited fun at the swings, climbing rocks, timber frames, and zip wire, while older kids and adults can play table tennis, tennis, and basketball.

Go to the kiosk in the park to book the tennis court or rent mini gold equipment. It also serves as a café offering refreshments and ice cream.

Port Meadow

Another calming spot that provides a momentary relief from all the noise and city crowds is Port Meadow. It’s a massive area that covers 136.9 hectares of greenery. Flowing through the meadow is the River Thames, making it an important habitat for various cattle species, wildfowl, and horses.

There are not many services available here, so there’s a limit to what you can do. You can have a picnic and use the static picnic benches and barbecue facilities away from the animals. Fishing is also a fun activity for locals, as well as scenic walks. You can explore the neighboring Burgess Field or cross the river. Wild swimming is also becoming more popular, but do so at your own risk because it means no lifeguard around.

Discover the indispensable Oxford parks

Prepare for greenery galore in this ancient University city in Oxfordshire. No matter which part of Oxford you go to, you won’t struggle to find a tranquil spot to get away from the urban bustle. The parks in Oxford are more than just a place to play, work out, or ride your bike — they also offer plenty of historical and cultural activities, summer concerts, and events.

Have you been to most of these parks and want to try something else while still enjoying the great outdoors? Read our guides on 7 beaches near Oxford and the 10 best hikes in Oxford; you’re bound to find something that will quench your thirst for adventure.

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