Sunday, October 26, 2008

Free for All

I've been speaking to some foreign tourists in the Oxford area who were shocked at prices in London and Oxford. They were under the impression that the UK was experiencing a financial meltdown, meaning everything was much cheaper. If only!

Luckily, I was able to point them in the direction of free activities in Oxford which are still great for tourists, but which don't cost quite as much as the
bus tours or buying a book on the area. We really are spoilt in terms of free museums here, and it's all too easy to put off going if you live in the town. I know they're always there, but who knows if they'll always be free, and they certainly don't always have the same exhibitions.

Here are some of my favourites:

The Ashmolean
The oldest public museum in the UK, and long may it be so! This is like the British Museum and is equally exhausting to take in in one go and to navigate around. Lots of anthropological displays, with history spanning from the Stone Age until today. There's a lot of information on how the artefacts were found and transported to the museum, which is fascinating in itself, and there are quite a few local discoveries.

Museum of the History of Science
Always neglected in tours and forgotten by locals, this lovely building has work from Einstein, a great collection of instruments for measuring time and space, some magnificent telescopes, and some utterly terrifying old medical gadgets - think surgeons' knives, anaesthetic kits and so on. Absolutely fascinating and completely free!

Natural History Museum
This is a great one for the kids, and for grown-up kids too! Easy to take in, spacious and full of fascinating life-size animals. It's very hands on and accessible Again, there's local emphasis, with a special section on Alice in Wonderland.

Pitt Rivers Museum
My absolutely favourite. A real mish-mash of human civilisation and culture, with clothes, tools, jewellery, religious artefacts, instruments and everything you could possibly think of from a multitude of different eras, countries and cultures. Absolutely fascinating, all crammed in in a wonderful display of colour, sights and information, and definitely worth visiting as many times as you can still learn things.

Yes, you could definitely do worse than spending a few hours in one of these. Make the most of what's on your doorstep.

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