Front entrance to the Ashmolean Museum in Beaumont Street.

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Ashmolean Museum

Top choice in Oxford

Britain’s oldest public museum, Oxford’s wonderful Ashmolean Museum is surpassed only by the British Museum in London. It was established in 1683, when Elias Ashmole presented Oxford University with a collection of ‘rarities’ amassed by the well-travelled John Tradescant, gardener to Charles I. A new exhibition celebrates Ashmole’s 400th birthday by displaying original treasures including the hat worn by the judge who presided over the trial of Charles I, and a mantle belonging to ‘Chief Powhatan’, the father of Pocahontas.

You could easily spend a day exploring this magnificent neoclassical building. Each bright, spacious gallery across its four floors seems to hold some new marvel, be that a dazzling fresco from the palace of Knossos; artwork from Renaissance Italy to Japan, taking in Goya, van Gogh and JMW Turner; or, famously, the Anglo-Saxon Alfred Jewel, a glorious, golden 9th-century gem, thought to have been a sort of bookmark, that was crafted for Alfred the Great. There’s a strong connection throughout with Oxford and its heritage, and upstairs there's a beautiful rooftop restaurant.

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