Oxford University is not a campus university, so it is not all located on one site. It is made up of many different buildings, including academic departments, colleges and halls – all strewn across the centre of Oxford.
Many of the university buildings – colleges, libraries, museums and gardens – are open to visitors during the day (especially outside term time), although they may have varying opening hours, fees and rules for groups.
In the colleges, visitors can usually explore the college quad and gardens, as well as the chapel. Some colleges also open their dining hall to visitors, such as Wadham College and Christ Church, whose grand hall was the setting for Hogwarts’ Great Hall in the Harry Potter films.
You’ll find information on opening times and admission charges, where these apply, for the colleges and permanent private halls of Oxford University on the university website at https://www.ox.ac.uk/visitors/visiting-oxford/visiting-the-colleges.
The Ashmolean Museum, which opened in 1683, is Britain’s first museum and the world’s first university museum. It holds a vast selection of treasures dating from 500,000 BC to the present day, including Egyptian mummies and the world’s greatest collection of Raphael drawings.
The Oxford University Museum of Natural History, founded in 1860, holds the University’s internationally significant collections of geological and zoological specimens in a stunning example of neo-Gothic architecture. It is also home to a lively programme of research, teaching and events focused on the sciences of the natural environment.
Adjacent to the Museum of Natural History is the Pitt Rivers Museum. Founded in 1884, it holds one of the world’s finest collections of anthropology and archaeology objects from all parts of the world and all time periods in human history.
The History of Science Museum is the world’s oldest surviving purpose-built museum building and houses an unrivalled collection of early scientific instruments, from a blackboard used by Albert Einstein during a lecture in Oxford in 1931 to the first life-saving Penicillin cultures.
Located in the University’s Faculty of Music on St Aldate’s, the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments celebrates the history and development of the musical instruments of the Western Classical tradition, from the medieval period to the present day.
Founded by Sir Thomas Bodley and officially opened in 1602, the world-famous Bodleian Library is a must-see cultural destination in the heart of Oxford. It is the foundation of the Bodleian Libraries Group – the largest academic library system in the UK, comprising 27 other libraries across Oxford.
The Weston Library, across the road from the Bodleian Library, is a working library and research centre as well as a public event and exhibition space. It houses the Bodleian Libraries’ special collections and exhibits some fine treasures, from ancient manuscripts to a letter from Albert Einstein.
Christ Church Picture Gallery houses and displays an important collection of Old Master paintings, drawings and prints in a purpose-built gallery of considerable architectural interest. You can visit the Picture Gallery to see works by Leonardo, Michelangelo, Dürer, Raphael and Rubens without visiting the rest of the college.
Founded in 1621, the Botanic Garden is the oldest botanic garden in Britain. And with over 5,000 different plant species, it forms the most compact yet diverse collection of plants in the world. The garden helps educate people about the importance of plants, conserve plants from the world over, and support teaching and research within the University and beyond.
Christ Church Meadow is a large area of tranquil pasture in the heart of the busy city of Oxford, owned and maintained by Christ Church and bordering the rivers Cherwell and Isis. A herd of beautiful Longhorn cattle are maintained by Christ Church on the Meadow and spend most of the year there.
University Parks consists of around 70 acres (30 hectares) of beautiful parkland bordering on the River Cherwell. It includes various sports areas, a duck pond and a large collection of plants and trees in landscaped surroundings. Whatever the season, University Parks always has a lot to offer residents and visitors alike.
Designed by Christopher Wren and erected in 1669, the Sheldonian Theatre is the principal assembly room and the ceremonial venue of the University. Inspired by drawings of Roman theatres, this magnificent and versatile theatre is also home to a raft of exciting events and offers stunning panoramic views over Oxford.
Standing in the centre of Oxford, the University’s own church has a long and varied history and offers excellent panoramic views of the city. There’s no charge to enter the church, which is a place of worship with dignified liturgy and beautiful music, but a charge applies for entry to the tower.