If you enjoy visiting museums, then Oxford is the perfect destination. Here, you will find some of the best in the world, including the Ashmolean (Brit’s first public museum and a mecca for art and archaeology lovers), the Natural History Museum, and the History of Science Museum – all of which offer memorable experiences for people of all ages. In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about visiting Oxford’s museums, including a handy map for planning your own self-guided visit.
Oxford Museums Free Self-Guided Walking Tour
Let’s start with a quick summary of what you can see in this image. There are two main components to this free self-guided walking tour covering Oxford museums (long name, I know!):
In purple: This is the path I would recommend you follow to see the best of the city AND the most recommended museums in Oxford. If you want to learn more about this path, you can check my other (and way more thorough) self-guided walking tour guide, which you can use to get to know Oxford at your own pace.
In pink (or fuchsia, really): These are the best museums. I’ve included a few pictures for the four most popular ones (Ashmolean, Natural History, Modern Art, and Science Museum) and also added some smaller circles of other museums you can visit if you have time. These are a little more specific. For example, Pitt Rivers is an anthropology museum and Christ Chuch picture gallery is, as its name indicates, an art gallery.
Here are the basic instructions for doing the walking tour, including the attractions you can see as you move from museum to museum:
- We’ll start at St Michael at the North Gate, on Cornmarket Street. One interesting fact: This was the city limit when Oxford had a wall around it.
- Walking down Cornmarket Street, the central commercial vein, check out 24-26 Cornmarket Street, the beautiful 14th-century house right across the tower.
- Keep down the road and you’ll get to the Covered Market; turn left to get to the Oxfordian landmark of excellence, the Radcliffe Camera library. Don’t miss, to your right, the Church of St Mary the Virgin, and to the left, the Bodleian Library.
- Turn left again after you exit to visit the Sheldonian Theatre and Trinity College.
- Walk up to Corn Steet and turn left again, so you can enjoy a pleasant stroll up Parks Road.
What You Shouldn't Miss in This Self-Guided Oxford Museums Walking Tour
I’ve chosen the “best” Oxford museums based on three things. First, their cultural and historical importance. Second, how popular they are for visitors. And third, how much I like them myself! So, let’s see what you can encounter as you walk the city at your own pace.
Modern Art Oxford
Modern Art Oxford is a contemporary art space with exhibitions, events, projects, and online activities in the city of Oxford. The gallery holds regular activities and workshops in its creative
History of Science Museum
The History of Science Museum holds a large collection of scientific instruments ranging from Middle Ages to the 19th century. The museum building is also known as the Old Ashmolean
Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology
The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology in Oxford is Britain’s first public museum. It was founded in 1683, when the wealthy antiquary Elias Ashmole gifted his collection to the
Oxford University University Museum of Natural History
The Oxford University Museum of Natural History or OUMNH displays many of the University of Oxford’s natural history specimens. It also contains a lecture theatre that is still used by the
And here are the other museums you can visit when you’re in Oxford and doing your own free self-guided walking tour of the city and its sorrounding areas:
Christ Church Picture Gallery
Christ Church Picture Gallery is an art museum holding an important collection of about 300 Old Master paintings and almost 2,000 drawings and is one of the most important private
The Oxfordshire Museum
The Oxfordshire Museum is located in Woodstock (in Fletcher’s House, Park Street, opposite the Bear Hotel) and tells the story of the County of Oxfordshire through galleries and exhibitions. The
The Story Museum
The Story Museum is an unusual museum. Located in the heart of Oxford, it celebrates the power of stories. Fly through a thousand years of Oxford’s story history, from ancient
Bate Collection of Musical Instruments
The Oxford Bate Collection is the most comprehensive collection of European woodwind, brass and percussion instruments in Britain. It mainly contains instruments for Western classical music, from the Middle Ages onwards.
Museum of Oxford
The Museum of Oxford is dedicated to telling the story of the city and its people. It has classical and modern art, artefacts and instruments. The museum displays an exciting
Pitt Rivers Museum
The Pitt Rivers Museum displays the archaeological and anthropological collections of the University of Oxford. This museum is located to the east of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and
Un-Missable Stops in an Oxford Walking Tour
As I mentioned, I have this other self-guided walking tour that includes colleges, parks, shops, and other points of interest. Below, you’ll find some of the most popular Oxford attractions and how to visit them.
St John’s College
A constituent college of the University of Oxford, St John’s College was founded in 1555 as a men’s college, but has been coeducational since 1979. With a financial endowment of
Keble College is one of the University of Oxford’s constituent colleges. It is located on Parks Road, opposite the University Museum and University Parks, and is bordered to the north
Christ Church College
Christ Church is college of the University of Oxford. It was founded in 1546 by King Henry VIII and is one of the larger colleges. What’s the History of Oxford’s
Oxford University’s Brasenose College (BNC) was founded in 1509 and is home to one of the oldest rowing clubs in the world. Brasenose College ranked 10th in the Norrington Table
All Souls College
All Souls College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford. It was founded by Henry VI and it has no undergraduate members. Unique to All Souls, all of
Radcliffe Camera is a neo-classical building inside Oxford University, built from 1737 to 1749 for the Radcliffe Science Library by James Gibbs. Radcliffe Camera is considered one of the finest
The Bodleian Library is one of Oxford’s most famous landmarks. Among the oldest in Europe, it’s easy to visit and incredible to see. Anyone visiting Oxford should make a stop
Blackwell’s Bookshop first opened its doors in 1879, on Broad Street, Oxford. They have been trading continuously from there ever since. The History of Blackwell’s Bookshop The first Blackwell’s Bookshop
The Shop of Secrets
The Shop of Secrets is Oxford’s chamber of Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts official collectables and merch. A shopping must-to in the city, the Shop of Secrets is a family-run
Alice’s Shop is a little shop placed exactly where Alice Liddell (the “real” Alice that inspired the books) used to buy sweets. The shop is filled with all manner of
Parks and Meadows
Oxford University Parks
Oxford University Parks (or University Parks) is a large park area northeast of the city. The park is open to the public during the day.
Oxford Botanic Gardens & Arboretum
The University of Oxford Botanic Garden is Great Britain’s oldest botanic garden and one of the oldest scientific gardens in the world. The Oxford Botanic Garden was founded in 1621
Port Meadow is a large open space in the north and west of Oxford. The River Thames flows through the heart of this ancient area of grazing land, still used
Christ Church Meadow
Christ Church Meadow is open to the public all year round. This open space in the heart of Oxford is an ideal choice for recreation. The lower sections of the