With over a dozen museums across the city covering everything from modern-day science to natural history, musical instruments and archaeology, Oxford is one of the UK’s outstanding cultural hubs.
Founded in 1683, the Ashmolean Museum is a fascinating look at ancient and modern art from across the world. With hundreds of thousands of artefacts spanning civilisations from across the world, the museum covers everything from Egyptian art to Samurai armour and from Greek sculptures to Islamic ceramics. Located near The Playhouse and Oxford New Theatre, the museum is free to enter and is open from Tuesday to Sunday 10am-5pm.
An impressive museum founded in 1860, the Natural History Museum isn’t just an excellent depository of geological and zoological specimens, it’s also been home to some of the most important events in Oxford’s history. It was here that the first public display of wireless telegraphy took place, while the much-fabled evolution debate of 1860 that pitted the new Darwinism theory against the then traditional Genesis creation narrative took place in this very museum. The museum today is free to enter and largely covers three topics: the earth collections spanning mineral and rock collections, the life collections which include animals and insects and the archive collection.
Part of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, the Pitt Rivers Museum hosts a mammoth collection of objects, photographs, film, manuscripts and sounds from across the world donated by Lieutenant-General Augustus Pitt Rivers, a noted figure in archaeology and evolutionary anthropology. The collection is now at half a million items including a Tahitian costume from Captain Cook’s voyage in 1773, Japanese drama masks and sculptures from across the world. Accessed through the Natural History Museum, it’s open daily from 10am-4.30pm Tuesday to Sunday and from midday to 4.30pm on Mondays.
Part of the University of Oxford and a fully fledged museum as well, the History of Science Museum is located in the Old Ashmolean on Broad Street and has one of the world’s best collections of early scientific instruments. With more than 20,000 objects including sundials, early maths instruments, telescopes and cameras, the museum hosts regular lectures, workshops and exhibitions.
One of the closest museums to our Oxford hotel, the Story Museum on Pembroke Street was founded in 2003 with the support of authors and illustrators like Terry Pratchett, Philip Pullman and Quentin Blake. Aimed at educating and entertaining, the museum runs regular events and exhibitions to help raise interest in books, reading and storytelling, while there’s a café and gift shop as well.
If music is your thing, then the Bate Collection is a must-visit. Home to over 2,000 musical instruments from the Middle Ages onwards, largely focused on classical music, the museum has a large collection of horns, woodwind, stringed instruments and keyboards. And, in a very modern twist, you get given audio wands that let you hear samples and snippets of each instrument as you head around the museum.
There are plenty of reasons for visiting Oxford. Whether it's the world-famous university, Westgate shopping sprees, world-class museums, or the waistband-busting food scene, you can take your pick from four wonderful Oxford hotels with parking. Each one is an excellent base for exploring this most-fascinating of cities.
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