FROM medieval college chapels to an Islamic centre, a hydroelectric power station to an historic graveyard, some of Oxford’s hidden treasures open their doors to curious visitors this weekend.

The annual event sees dozens of interesting buildings open to the public. This year’s event, on Saturday and Sunday, may be smaller than usual, a result of efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus, but still features a programme of fascinating locations open to visitors to show themselves around, or to view virtually from the comfort of their own homes.

For the energetic, there are also walks around the city, college gardens, meadow and open country.

Highlights include self-guided tours of Oxford Botanic Garden, the garden at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, a geology walk at Holywell Cemetery, the Turrill Sculpture Garden in Summertown and Osney Lock Hydro.

Virtual tours and visits include a peep inside Christ Church, Exeter, St Claire’s, Trinity, and Magdalen colleges, St Luke’s Chapel, the Bodleian Libraries, Sheldonian Theatre, the Examination School, St Michael at the North Gate, the Covered Market, the Oxfordshire County Council Emergency Planning Unit, Wytham Woods, the Jewish Congregation, hidden Blackbird Leys, and the city’s railway heritage – including the sites of our 13 former stations and a swing bridge.

Self-guided walks will explore Jericho, St Ebbe’s and Iffley, and into the country for Boars Hill, Seacourt, Kennington, and views of the city’s skyline – dubbed by the poet Matthew Arnold as the ‘dreaming spires’ .

The videos and tours will go live at 10am on Saturday.

There will also be a wind quintet concert on Sunday and language taster sessions at the Berlitz Language Centre.

The Open Doors events, held in conjunction with Oxford University, have grown in popularity over the years. Last year’s attracted more than 35,000 visitors to approximately 150 venues as it celebrated its 12th year.

The switch to a largely ‘virtual’ programme follows similar events by Oxfordshire Artweeks, Oxford Folk Weekend and the city’s Cowley Road Carnival.

Some videos are clips recorded by the trust in recent months, while others will be streams of popular attractions from previous years. These include the Painted Room in Cornmarket, where visitors can find a 14th century tavern with Elizabethan wall paintings. It was reputedly frequented by Shakespeare.


Trust director Debbie Dance said: “Last year, when we welcomed 35,000 people, seems like a piece of history now. But we wanted to hold Open Doors. We were keen to do the right thing though, as we couldn’t have lots and lots of people coming together.”

She added: “This is aimed at Oxford people and allowing us to be tourists in our own city. It’s about getting Oxford back on its feet – and everybody’s welcome.


Self guided walks

  • Green Spaces Walks
  • Around Boars Hill
  • Bayworth to Boars Hill
  • Dreaming Spires Walk
  • Iffley to Kennington
  • Seacourt to Grandpont
  • Wootton to Boars Hill
  • Heyford Meadow
  • Kennington

Hidden Heritage Walks

  • Jericho
  • St Ebbe’s & St Thomas
  • Iffley Circular Walk
  • Oxford Waterways

Partner Walks

  • Oxford’s Green Health Routes – East Oxford, Wood Farm, Jericho, Blackbird Leys & Marston (Centre for Sustainable Healthcare)
  • Hidden Landscape of Blackbird Leys – Circular Walk (Katie Hambrook)
  • Historic Oxford Castle Perimeter (Oxford Archaeology)
  • Oxford’s Historic Churches (Oxford Archaeology)
  • Oxford’s City Walls (Oxford Archaeology)



  • Recent Archaeological Work & Oxford’s Hated Buildings – virtual talks
  • The Painted Room – virtual tour
  • LMS Railway Swingbridge – videos
  • Oxford Castle & Prison – videos
  • The Covered Market – Malcolm Graham’s History & Stuart Panter’s videos Sandford Hydro – virtual tour
  • 66 Men of Grandpont – film, trail & website
  • University of Oxford – department virtual tours
  • Balliol College – virtual exhibition
  • Exeter College & Cohen Quad – virtual tours
  • Trinity College – virtual tour
  • The Mitre, Lincoln College – restoration video
  • St Clare’s, Oxford – short film
  • Bodleian Libraries – explore the collections
  • Sheldonian Theatre – virtual tour
  • Examination Schools – event time-lapse
  • St Luke’s Chapel – virtual tour
  • Museum of Oxford at Oxford Town Hall – virtual tour & short films
  • Pitt Rivers Museum – virtual museum & virtual talk
  • Museum of Natural History – virtual museum & video
  • History of Science Museum – virtual museum
  • Modern Art Oxford – online exhibition
  • St Michael at the North Gate – video
  • Wytham Woods - online
  • Trap Grounds – introductory video
  • Wesley Memorial Church – oral histories
  • Oxford Jewish Congregation – video & information leaflets
  • OCC Emergency Planning Unit – virtual talk
  • Dorchester on Thames – documentaries
  • Stanford University Centre – virtual tour