The Ashmolean Museum

Address: Beaumont Street, Oxford, OX1 2PH, United Kingdom
Telephone: 01865 278 000

- Free


Oxford's very own British Museum.

Founded in 1683 by Elias Ashmole, this was Britain’s first public museum. Over the centuries it acquired the university’s art collection and a world-class collection of archaeological objects. Highlights include the Alfred Jewel, donated in 1718, watercolours by JMW Turner, a huge amount of ancient Greek and Roman statuary given by the Countess of Pomfret in 1755, paintings by Canaletto and Guardi, Guy Fawkes’ lantern, drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, Minoan pottery and a sword said to have been given by the pope to Henry VIII.

The present neo-classical building dates from 1845. It was designed by Charles Cockerell who specialised in splendid 19th-century banks. Cockerell also did the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge. Between 2006 and 2009 the Ashmolean was extensively rebuilt and expanded behind Cockerell’s façade by the architect Rick Mather. It now boasts five floors instead of three, doubling of the display space. Unusually, the revamp has met with much delight.

Value for money

Expert tips

The Ashmolean Dining Room is Oxford’s first rooftop restaurant, with superb views if you eat outside in the summer. The menu offers both rustic and European dishes and a wine list of over eighty handpicked wines from around the world.

The ground floor shop is well worth visiting. Much of the merchandise is inspired by the exhibitions: embroidered silk Chinese jackets, Renaissance-style gold and silver rings, classical Greek jewellery. The shop also does a good line in Tradescant wines, champagnes and damson and berry preserves.

The Ashmo is not only a major Oxford attraction it’s right opposite the city’s main tourist hotel, the MacDonald Randolph. As a result the museum can get very full, especially at weekends. Try and get there first thing.

Recommended for

  • Culture vultures
  • Families with teenagers
  • Families with younger children
  • Seasoned travellers
  • Singles
  • Education
  • Escaping the crowds
  • Art
  • History
  • Design and architecture