- 1 - Free Museums In Oxford
- 2 - Paid Entry Museums in Oxford worth visiting
- 3 - Finally
Whether you’re a keen historian or you’re planning a fun day out for the family, why not hop on a train and experience some of the fantastic museums Oxford has to offer?
Oxford is not only home to one of the world’s most prestigious universities but also boasts a rich history and culture that is reflected in its best museums. With a variety of museums showcasing everything from natural history, musical instruments to contemporary art, there is plenty of options for visitors looking to explore the city’s heritage.
The city’s museums have a long-standing reputation for excellence, with many being internationally recognised for their million historical collections and exhibits. They provide a glimpse into the city’s past, offering insights into the scientific, artistic, and cultural contributions that Oxford has made to the world.
Whether you’re a history buff, an art lover, or simply curious about the world, the city’s museums will surely provide a fascinating and educational experience. So, if you’re planning a trip to Oxford, be sure to add the museums listed below to your itinerary and prepare to be captivated by the city’s rich cultural heritage.
Free Museums In Oxford
Beaumont Street, OX1 2PH
The Ashmolean Museum is a renowned institution of art and archaeology, founded in 1683 as a part of the University of Oxford. Its collection of artefacts is exceptionally diverse, encompassing the rich cultural heritage of many of the world’s great civilisations, ranging from 8000 BC to contemporary times.
The museum’s extensive collection includes several extraordinary treasures, such as the world’s most significant collection of Raphael drawings, a remarkable collection of pre-Dynastic Egyptian sculpture and ceramics (which is only rivalled by the one in Cairo), the preeminent assortment of Minoan artefacts in the UK, remarkable Anglo-Saxon treasures, and the most significant collection of modern Chinese painting in the Western hemisphere.
Pitt Rivers Museum
South Parks Road, University of Oxford, OX1 3PP
The Pitt Rivers Museum, located in Oxford, is a museum that showcases a wide range of exhibits related to various themes such as photography, world cultures, natural history, costume and textiles, music, religion, toys and hobbies, agriculture, weapons and war, and archaeology. The museum’s collection is incredibly diverse, featuring an array of fascinating objects, including masks, mummies, musical instruments, and more.
Visitors to the museum can view several highlights, including a towering 40-foot totem pole, an enchanting witch in a bottle, and a temporary exhibition of photographs taken in Iraq by the renowned traveller Wilfred Thesiger. The museum has a designated collection, which means it is recognised as being of national importance and is sure to provide visitors with a captivating and educational experience.
Oxford University Museum of Natural History
Parks Road, OX1 3PW
The Oxford University Museum of Natural History is of considerable architectural interest and a fascinating museum showcasing a diverse range of natural sciences and archaeology exhibits. Visitors to the museum can explore various themes, including zoology, entomology, palaeontology, petrology, and mineralogy. The museum is home to an impressive collection of designated specimens recognised for their national importance.
One of the most popular attractions at the museum is the dinosaur exhibit, which features an extensive collection of fossils and models of these fascinating prehistoric creatures. Visitors can learn about the evolution of these magnificent animals and how they lived millions of years ago. Additionally, the museum is home to a rare and iconic bird, the Dodo, and displays the only remaining soft tissue from the extinct species.
Museum of the History of Science
Broad Street, OX1 3AZ
The History of Science Museum, situated on the Oxford University campus alongside other prominent museums such as the Ashmolean Museum, is a fascinating destination for visitors of all ages. It offers a unique perspective on the history of science and its evolution over the centuries.
The museum is strongly committed to conservation and nature education, making it a beloved Oxford institution. It features a wide range of exhibits, including the original penicillin culture, Einstein’s blackboard, rare collections and interactive experiences, that enable visitors to learn about various scientific discoveries and inventions throughout history.
Of particular interest to young visitors, the museum offers a range of interactive exhibits and programs geared towards nature explorers and those curious about natural history. Visitors can explore the museum’s fascinating collection of scientific instruments, including early microscopes, telescopes, and navigational devices. The museum also has an impressive display of early computers and other computing devices.
Modern Art Oxford
30 Pembroke St, OX1 1BP
Modern Art Oxford is one of the most sought-after contemporary art spaces in the United Kingdom, offering a transformative experience for art enthusiasts. The museum has something for everyone, from activities designed for young children to dedicated spaces for emerging artists to showcase their work.
Modern Art Oxford hosts special exhibitions in its purpose built gallery throughout the year, including workshops, music events, and presentations from renowned artists and creators. Visitors can also take home a bold piece of art from the on-site shop or indulge in delicious snacks and small bites at the cafe before leaving.
The museum is committed to showcasing the works of emerging artists, providing a platform for them to display their talent and creativity. The unique spaces at Modern Art Oxford are designed to stimulate the senses and encourage visitors to explore the boundaries of contemporary art.
Museum of Oxford
Town Hall St. Aldates, OX1 1BX
The Museum of Oxford is a unique and singularly important establishment, solely dedicated to sharing the fascinating stories of Oxford and its people. This museum is a must-see destination with a recent renovation that revitalised the building’s Victorian charm and reinvigorated the way the city’s tales are told.
Two brand-new galleries showcase the evolution of Oxford through its people and history, highlighting the many unique aspects of the city’s culture, including football, fairgrounds, marmalade, Morris Motors, patron saints, pubs, barges, bones, and customs galore. There’s something here to interest everyone, and the newly added Museum Makers space provides a playful and engaging setting for school children and communities to participate in the museum’s educational programming.
With a combination of important collection items, video, audio, and interactive displays, the exhibitions bring to life the essence of what makes Oxford such a unique and special place to live, work, and study. Whether you’re a local seeking to delve deeper into your community’s stories or a visitor looking to discover the city’s wonders, the Museum of Oxford offers an unparalleled experience.
Bate Collection of Musical Instruments
Faculty of Music St Aldate’s, OX1 1DB
Established in 1970, the Bate Collection is situated within the Faculty of Music at the University of Oxford. With a focus on musical instruments, the museum offers diverse exhibits related to archives, performing arts, and personalities. Visitors can explore various themes, including instrument tutors and methods, percussion, keyboards, brass, and wind.
Some of the museum’s most notable exhibits include the Retford bow-making workshop, the William Smith harpsichord, the Bressan recorder, and the Beale trumpet. Additionally, the collection features the works of renowned individuals such as Reginald Morley-Pegge and Edgar Hunt. Visitors can gain insight into the world of music and its evolution over time.
Paid Entry Museums in Oxford worth visiting
Christ Church Picture Gallery
(Entrance via Oriel Square), Christ Church, OX1 1DP
The Christ Church College in Oxford is a true gem, with a unique display collection of Old Master paintings and drawings that will leave art enthusiasts in awe. Housed in a specially designed gallery created by the acclaimed architects Powell and Moya, this collection is a true testament to the beauty of Italian Renaissance and Baroque art. Some of the most renowned artists featured in the collection include Lippi, Tintoretto, Veronese, van Dyck, and the Carracci.
What makes the Christ Church collection genuinely exceptional is its internationally acclaimed selection of almost 2000 Old Master drawings and over 3000 prints, featuring important works by Leonardo, Dürer, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Mantegna, among others. While some of these pieces cannot be permanently displayed for conservation reasons, many are regularly showcased to the public.
The Story Museum
Rochester House, 42 Pembroke St, OX1 1BP
The Story Museum is a truly one-of-a-kind attraction in Oxford, which offers an unforgettable experience for visitors of all ages. With its interactive display exhibits and immersive spaces, the museum strongly emphasises storytelling within popular culture.
The museum has been designed with young visitors in mind and offers surprises around every corner, making it an ideal destination for school groups and parties. It features a cafe, a gift shop, and a bookshop where visitors can browse through a unique collection of books and gifts.
The Story Museum is also perfect for hosting special occasions, such as birthday parties. Visitors can book their celebrations in this space and enjoy a memorable and unique experience. Families can make the most of their visits to the museum by purchasing annual passes, which provide unlimited entry to the museum throughout the year. Additionally, pass holders can avail of discounts at the museum’s cafe and gift shop.
The Oxford Castle and Prison
44-46 Oxford Castle, OX1 1AY
Adult – from £15.50 / Child – from £9.95 (Child under 5 – free) / Student – from £14.50
In 1066, when William the Conqueror successfully invaded England and won the Battle of Hastings, Oxford Castle caught the Normans’ attention as an ideal location for building a motte-and-bailey castle. The task of constructing this castle was entrusted to the Norman baron Robert O’Doyly. Over time, the castle was repurposed into a prison, and it continued to serve this function for many years.
Today, over a millennium since its inception, the Oxford Castle & Prison is a fascinating visitor attraction with a rich and intriguing story to tell. Visitors can explore the castle’s many layers of history, including its days as a fortified, medieval period stronghold and its evolution into a prison. The prison has a rich history, with many stories of famous inmates and daring escapes, providing a unique perspective into the justice system of yesteryears.
The castle’s attraction has a range of features that tell its compelling story, including guided tours and interactive exhibits. Visitors can climb the Saxon St. George’s Tower to enjoy stunning views of the city or delve into the dark history of the prison’s underground crypt. With so much to see and experience, Oxford Castle & Prison is a must-visit destination that provides a glimpse into the past and insight into the evolution of the justice system over the centuries.
As you can see the choice for museums in Oxford is as varied and exciting as in any other city in the world. All museums have easy to use websites that contain opening times, details of upcoming exhibitions and special events that will need to book ahead for that appeal to any and all.
Most are free entry but will ask for a voluntary donation on arrival that is purely at your discretion.