Inevitable machine motion errors change the cutting tool trajectory and degrade the machined surface quality. Compared to the mature error measurement technologies developed for traditional precision CNC machine tools, the increasing use of ultra-precision machine tools (UPMTs) has shown some distinctive characteristics in error modelling, measurement, and compensation. This paper attempts to summarise state-of-the-art research in the calibration of geometric errors of UPMTs. A general routine for a UPMT error calibration is proposed in this literature review. Various error modelling methods, instruments, and measurement methods applicable to the geometric error measurement of both the linear and rotary axes are discussed using typical case studies. With respect to these achievements, there is a real concern regarding the reproducibility of measurement sensors used for the calibration of UPMTs and it remains challenging to decompose the volumetric motion error of UPMTs. Owing to the high flexibility in practice, trial cutting and a sensitivity analysis-based error measurement and compensation provide a promising solution to achieve a fast UPMT calibration.