Oxford is lucky enough to have six fascinating museums, covering a wide range of subjects, all within easy walking distance of the city centre. If you have a specific interest, whether it is the development of wind instruments, the history of St Giles’s Fair, dinosaurs or French porcelain, you will find it catered for somewhere in the collections.

Browsing the displays with no particular object in mind can be equally rewarding. Admission to all the museums is free, though most request a donation.

The smallest of them is the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments, which has the most comprehensive collection of European brass, woodwind and percussion instruments in Britain, with more than 1,000 on display, from the Renaissance period through the baroque, classical and romantic traditions of Western orchestral music.

You can see a harpsichord used by Haydn in Oxford, and have a go at playing a Serpent (first invented in 1590 and popular ever since).

St Aldate’s, OX1 1DB (near Christ Church). Open weekdays 2-5pm, except Easter and Christmas; Saturdays 10an-noon, term-time only. Call 01865 276139 or visit the website: www.bate.ox.ac.uk

The nearby Museum of Oxford is run by the City Council. Galleries on two floors bring to life the history of Oxford from its prehistoric and Roman origins, through the Saxon period, the founding of the University and the city’s medieval prosperity, to its role as Charles I’s civil war headquarters, and the growth of modern Oxford.

Archaeological finds and recreated room settings help to tell the tale. There is a section on the Victorians and Alice in Wonderland, and a film about the city’s past narrated by Tony Robinson.

St Aldate’s, OX1 1DZ (next to the Town Hall). Open Tuesday-Friday 10am-5pm, Saturdays and Sundays noon-5pm. Call 01865 252761 or visit the website: www.museumofoxford.org.uk

In the oldest purpose-built museum building in the world (originally the Old Ashmolean) in Broad Street, is the Museum of the History of Science. It has an unrivalled collection of 10,000 scientific instruments, dating from ancient times to the early 20th century, in particular astrolabes, sundials, quadrants, early mathematical instruments (such as those used for surveying, calculating, astronomy and navigation), optical instruments, and apparatus associated with natural philosophy and medicine.

There is an imaginative programme of talks, workshops, special exhibitions, family events and themed tours of the galleries which are well worth looking out for.

Broad Street, OX1 3AZ. Open Tuesday-Friday noon-5pm, Saturdays 10am-5pm, Sundays 2-5pm. Call 01865 277280 or visit the website: www.mhs.ox.ac.uk

The Oxford University Museum of Natural History houses an enormous collection of animal, insect and geological specimens gathered from all over the world. It is well-known for its dinosaur bones found in Oxfordshire, its pieces of dodo anatomy, live bees in a transparent hive section, and, in spring and summer, its webcam-linked screen showing nesting swifts in the museum’s roof space. The neo-Gothic building is Grade I listed and dates to 1860, the year the Great Debate about Darwin’s theory of evolution was held there.

Parks Road OX1 3PW. Open daily 10am-5pm Call 01865 272950 or visit www.oum.ox.ac.uk

At the back of this building, and accessible through it, is the refurbished Pitt Rivers Museum, which houses 80,000 archaeological and ethnographic artefacts, arranged mainly by function, rather than geographical origin.

Its unique atmosphere of mystery and higgledy-piggledy charm has not been lost with the changes, much to the delight of everyone who loves the museum.

The huge Haida totem pole and East African outrigger canoe, for which it’s famous, can be seen to better advantage, and another eight display cases have been added.

These feature items from the reserve collection relating to painting and decoration in their many forms, including aboriginal art and many fresh examples of the depiction of animals and deities.

The new education area on the now fully-accessible lower gallery is the venue for school and family events such as the popular Saturday morning Pitt Stops.

South Parks Road OX1 3PP — entrance through Parks Road. Open Mondays noon-4.30pm, Tuesdays-Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays 10am-4.30pm. Call 01865 270927 or visit the website: www.prm.ox.ac.uk

Tucked away in Jericho you will find the fascinating Oxford University Press Museum, which traces the university’s involvement in printing and publishing from the 15th century to the present day.

The museum charts the growth of Oxford University Press and displays deal with notable books, including the first edition of Alice in Wonderland and the evolution of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Visitors can explore the world famous dictionary and other key texts online.

Great Clarendon Street OX2 6DP. Open Monday-Friday, 10am-4pm. Admission is free, but please book before all visits on 01865 353527 or e-mail martin.maw@oup.com