By Jo Le Borgne , Chris Millyard, Marietta Nettl and Anne Roumieu June 2008

Marseille museums are usually closed on Mondays and Bank Holidays. The municipal museums are free on Sunday mornings, except the temporary exhibitions. otherwise expect to pay 2€ or 3€. More information can be found on the following websites, or Here is a small selection and with comments from a variety of sources!

Jules Cantini Museum

Musée Cantini 19 Rue Grignan (near Rue Breteuil). This museum specialises in 20th century art up until 1960. The collection is housed in the 17th century Hôtel de Montgrand, the former home of sculptor Jules Cantini who donated the building to the city in 1916 along with his comprehensive art collection. The works exhibited are mainly of contemporary art which include sculptures, paintings, collages and ceramics by many famous artists; a renowned collection of fauvist, cubist and surrealist works, well-known international and french artists being represented.

Old Charity Cultural Centre

Centre de la Vieille Charité 2, rue de la Charité. The centre includes the Museum of Mediterranean Archaeology, the Museum of African, South Seas and American Indian Arts, and a Temporary Exhibition Centre for high profile works of art. This museum has a rich and varied collection of some 900 artefacts demonstrating an almost complete picture of ancient Mediterranean civilisations. The collection of Egyptian antiquities is the largest in Provence, second in France only to the Louvre. The Vieille Charité was built from 1671 to 1749 (though never actually completed) to house the poor and needy of the city. The well restored building is in the heart of the "Panier" district, and is centred on a beautifully proportioned dome of a baroque chapel which is surrounded by a courtyard building with three-tiered arched balconies, all made of a rose or yellow tinted Couronne stone. Marseille and Paris are the only two French cities with museums dedicated to African, Oceanic and American-Indians Art.

Visitors are free to wander around the courtyard area free of charge or to visit the book shop or to stop off at the café. An entrance fee is levied for exhibitions and the different museums. Check website for travelling international exhibitions, some of which are so popular that it is necessary for advance booking .

Old-Marseille Museum

Musée du Vieux-Marseille - Maison Diamantée. 2 Rue de la Prison. This museum is behind the 17thcentury Hotel de Ville on the north side of the Vieux Port. Housed in the "Maison Diamantée" a 16th century house which was saved from destruction in 1943. The building takes its name from the diamond-shaped stones which decorate the frontage. Visitors can see 18th century Provencal furniture, domestic objects and a large collection of santons from 1830 to the early 1900’s. There is also a relief model of Old Marseille from 1848 plus an area dedicated to 19th century paintings and costumes. This interesting museum demonstrates the town’s rich history with artefacts of Provencal life. It is a museum of art and popular traditions. To note, for example, the large wrought iron grip which was used to remove the corpses in the street, during the great plague.

Roman Docks Museum

Musée des Docks Romains 28 Place Vivaux. This museum houses, in situ, exhibits and artefacts from the commercial Roman docks and warehouses that were discovered on the site during the post-war rebuilding of the area which had been destroyed during World War II. The Old Port area underwent reconstruction in 1947 when many large, old earthenware urns, pots and jars were discovered. These discoveries resulted in the museum being established in 1963. Objects date from Greek times to the middle ages, but centre on the large earthenware jars (dolia) that filled the Roman warehouses and were used for storing oil, grain and wine. Other artifacts in the museum are from underwater archaeological finds in the waters around MASSILIA (ancient name of MARSEILLE) which help trace the history of trade in and out of the city between the 7thcentury BC. and the 4thcentury AD.

Death-Camps Memorial

Mémorial des Camps de la Mort Situated between the Esplanade de la Tourette and the Fort Saint-Jean, housed in a former World War II blockhouse. This Holocaust memorial features transcripts of eyewitness accounts from concentration camps with an extensive collection of photos of Auschwitz and photos of the evacuation, deportation and destruction of Marseille’s historic quarters. Here visitors can become aware of the memoirs of the Marseillais of the city and the area whilst under the Occupation with evidence of the roundup of the Jews, the evacuation and destruction of the Old Port, the actions and undercover work of the Resistance movement and learn through the interviews and comments about Nazism and the French State.

Santon Museum

Musée du Santon. 47/49, rue Neuve Sainte Catherine. This is a private collection of the famous "santonnier" Marcel Carbonel. Musée du Santon. This museum tells the history and technical aspects of santons (hand painted clay figurines characterizing the townspeople, country folk, vocations and daily like of Provence). The museum houses santons depicting such icons as Voltaire, Punicelli and Lagnel. It is also particularly famous for its Christmas santons. Works date from 18th to 20th century Asia, the Americas and Europe.

Préau des Accoules Children's Museum

Le Préau des Accoules - Espace muséal des enfants. 29, Montée des Accoules. Since 1991 this has been a place of entertainment for children. The Préau des Accoules is a children's museum located in the old building of the Académie de Marseille (1782/83). Every year two thematic exhibitions are presented expressly for the young. Here children can participate in live performances and join in practical activities.

Fashion Museum of Marseille

Musée de la Mode de Marseille 11, La Canebière. This collection of over 6000 costumes and accessories has been assembled from the patrimony of Marseille and the Institute Mode Mediterranean. The exhibits were moved to their current location in 2004. It is an ongoing project with the renovation of artefacts taking several years. Permanent exhibits feature fashion trends from the 1930’s to the present. From time to time there are temporary exhibitions of certain fashion or costume themes.

Maritime and Commercial Museum of Marseilles

Musée de la Marine et de l'Economie de Marseille 9 La Canebière. Situated on the ground floor of the stock exchange (Bourse). Palais de la Bourse. This maritime and commercial museum shows the history of the port of Marseille, concentrating on the 17thcentury to the present. Visitors can see exceptionally detailed models of sailboats and steamships together with water-colour and oil paintings, engravings and plans which illustrate maritime history.

Transport Gallery

La Galerie des Transports. Gare Noailles, Place du marché des Capucins. The museum is located in the old "Gare de l'Est" railway station where the young Marcel Pagnol departed on the tramway for the "Collines". The museum presents the history of urban transportation of Marseille, from the first horse-drawn omnibus to the modern metro, there are plans to add evidence of the newly constructed modern tramway to the exhibition. Even down on the platforms of the metro station Noailles passengers can see models of different types of old transport and large tiled pictures of locomotives etc.on the walls of the station.

Palais de Longchamp

Bd Longchamp. Sited majestically at the end of the symmetrical Boulevard Longchamp. This is not really a palace, but more of an impressive folly that cleverly conceals a water tower embellished by cascading fountains. It is linked by a colonnade that fans out left and right of the central fountain which forms the grandiose conclusion of an aqueduct that brought water from the Durance to the city in 1849. Designed by architect Esperandieu, it was built in conjunction with the construction of the canal in 1839. Today, the waterfalls, ornamental lakes, fountains and numerous sculptures give this enchanting place an Italian Renaissance feel. Marseilles' Fine Arts Museum in its left wing and the Natural History Museum in the right, of this prominent landmark building.

Fine Arts Museum

Musée des Beaux-Arts Currently closed for renovation. Marseilles' Fine Arts Museum, created just after the Revolution, is one of the oldest in France. It has been located in the left wing of the Palais Longchamp since 1869. The varied collections include works from the 16th, 17th , 18th and 19th centuries and represents paintings and artefacts of French, Provencal and Italian origins. Visitors can see works by David, Courbet, Daumier, Perugino and Rubens. Provencal art is represented by Loubon, Puget and Mignard.

Natural History Museum

Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle The Natural History Museum was created in 1819 can be found in the right wing of the ‘palace’. The collection (zoological, geological and prehistorical) was amassed by the mayor Marquis de Montgrand and Count de Villeneuve-Bargemon. The museum's Science Library (bibliothèque scientifique) was created in 1879 by Edouard Heckel. One gallery is devoted to the flora and fauna of Provence. Four hundred million years of history of the Provence-French Riviera are retraced, plus a safari exhibition demonstrating the diversity of the animal kingdom throughout the world.

Grobet-Labadié Museum

Musée Grobet-Labadié 140 Boulevard Longchamp, close to the Palais Longchamp. The bourgeois interior of this fine family home has been preserved with a delightful collection of 16th – 18th century Flemish and French tapestries. This private 1873 town house of Louis Grobet and Marie-Louise Labadié exhibits 15th -19th century European-school drawings, 16th -18th century furniture, 17th,18th and 19th paintings, and 18th century faïence ware from Marseille and Moustiers. There are displays of religious icons, gold and silver plate, wrought iron work and old musical instruments, one of the finest being a beautiful hand decorated Italian harpsichord. The windows have inset different stained glass pictures collected from several European countries. The entrance hall is dominated by a fine example of a provencal turning staircase. Wandering through the rooms one certainly gets the feeling of this building having been a cosy family home.

History of Marseille Museum

Musée d'Histoire de Marseille et le Jardin des Vestiges This museum can be found in the Centre Bourse shopping centre adjacent to the Canebière. Archaeological exhibits, models and documents trace the Provencal history of Marseille from prehistoric to Gallo-Roman times. The main exhibit is centred round a genuine 26-metre Roman merchant vessel from the 3rd century BC, this has been preserved by freeze-drying and shows the wide range of wood used in shipwright naval construction of the time. A least six different types of wood were used to construct this vessel. This ancient port complex houses a vast collection of archaeological findings, documents and models that chronicle Marseille’s history from its origin to being one of France’s leading cities. There are 3D models which show the evolving shape and development of the Vieux Port. The remains of the city’s ancient Greek fortifications and ancient docks dating from the 1st century AD can be seen in the gardens.

La Friche Belle de Mai

41 rue Jobin. More than 80,000 visitors annually frequent this museum/theatre for its culturally tinged exhibits and high quality artists. There are approximately 60 different cultures and disciplines represented (theatre, dance, training, multimedia, art, music etc.) As well as theatres, recording studios, a radio and offices. Visitors can also enjoy a drink or meal in the attached restaurant.

Parc Pastre

155 avenue de Montredon. Countess Pastré bequeathed this magnificent 19th century country mansion to the city along with 120 hectares of wooded parkland, located between La Pointe-Rouge and the Rolland caves, extending up towards the Marseilleveyre hills and the spectacular limestone cliffs of the Calanques. The park has for the most part been transformed into a public garden, including an adventure playground located near the entrance where children who can, amongst other things can enjoy a bicycle or pony ride. The small branch of the canal of Marseille runs through the park towards the sea. Within the park the Chateau Pastré can be found.

Faïence ceramics Museum

Musée de la Faïence 157, avenue de Montredon. This Museum was opened to the public in 1995, in the magnificent Chateau Pastré, which was designed by Paris architect J.C. Danjoy. The building was completed in 1862. The chateau was commissioned for the famous ship owner-merchant Eugène Pastré and his wife, whose lifestyle was typical of a time when there was an endless succession of family get-togethers, celebrations and society gatherings. The museum's exhibition is centred on faience pottery from the 17th and 18th centuries in Marseille and Moustiers, and individual creations by artist-potters from the 1850s onwards, This former country house, now restored and refitted allows the exhibitions of some 1500 ceramic pieces, covering a historic period of 7000 years, providing an extensive overview of the technical and artistic landmarks in this art in Marseille and Provence from the Neolithic period to the present day. Admission is free.

Château Borély

134, avenue Clot Bey. South of the city centre, near the beach "Plage du Prado" Château Borély is in the 40-hectare Parc Borély, the largest open public space in Marseille. The Borely family built the chateau in 1766 on what was then the rural domain of Bonneveine. The building was an archaeological museum from 1863 to 1989. Currently it is part of a restoration project which will eventually house the Museum of Decorative Art. Borély has numerous ponds with ducks, swans and rowing boats. There are large expanses of lawn where one can relax, and wide pathways, watch out for young learner cyclists! There are also quiet little corners where narrow paths meander through trees and foliage. Part of the park is divided into several different gardens. Visitors can wander through an English or a French garden, a rose garden or a botanic garden or a traditional Chinese garden donated by Shanghai in 2004. The gravel area near the château is used for petanque. The hippodrome race-track was opened in 1860, it is between the chateau and the beach.

Motorcycle Museum

Musée de la Moto 18 traverse St Paul, Quartier le Merlan , at the northern edge of the city. The museum, opened in 1989, follows the mechanical and motorcycle evolution from 1898 until the present day. The building itself, an old flour mill (minoterie) is a fine example of 19th-century industrial architecture. The collection of 120 bikes includes: all motorcycles Nougier of 1936-1971; Triumph T120 Bonneville; the last and only Peugeot Grand Prix 1923; the Jonghi de Monneret (inspiring Johnny Hallyday and Coluche).

Contemporary Art Museum

Musée d'Art Contemporain (MAC) 69, avenue de Haïfa (Prado) This museum houses a large collection of post war art.

Popular Arts and Traditions Museum

Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires du Terroir Marseillais. Château-Gombert, 5 Place des Héros - 11 km northeast of the centre; via Ave de St Just and Ave de Château-Gombert. The Chàteau-Gombert situated in a shady square opposite a 17th century church. The chàteau houses a museum, with rooms displayed in period style, with examples of famous local faïence ceramics among the many every-day items. It is small so beware of school visits; there is an excellent restaurant below.

Maison de l’artisanat et des Metiers d’art

21 cours Honoré d’Estienne d’Orves, close to the Vieux Port. Open Tuesday – Saturday 13:00-18.00 free of charge. This is a museum which is easy to wander in and out of at will, as many times as one wishes. The frequently changing exhibitions are interesting and well displayed. Recent exhibitions have been: one devoted to Russian culture and art, showing beautifully embroidered costumes, the famous nesting Russian dolls and toys, musical instruments, wooden folk art carvings and delicate porcelain. Another with similar artefacts but dedicated to Japanese culture.
Copyright © 2008 Anglo-American Group of Provence