Palais Longchamp in Marseille – Two Museums in One

by Bea Cińska
Palais Longchamp, Marseille

Palais Longchamp in Marseille

If you happen to be in Marseille, the second largest city in France after Paris, make sure you visit Palais Longchamp. This architectural marvel was built in the 19th century as a way to celebrate the construction of the Marseille canal.

There are several reasons why you should visit this magnificent structure. The first and foremost is its undeniable beauty. I will venture out and say that Palais Longchamp is one of the most beautiful buildings we have ever set our eyes upon. And we’ve seen a lot beautiful places, from Rome through London to Paris, to name just a few.

Palais Longchamp is sure to take your breath away. When you enter the grounds, you will be in awe of the imposing fountain in the front of the palace. And as you climb the stairs of the palace, you will feel nothing but admiration for the architect of this impressive structure, Henri-Jacques Espérandieu.

Beside its majestic architecture, another great reason to visit Palais Longchamp is that it houses two very important museums. One of those museums is the Museum of Natural History and the other is the Museum of Fine Arts. They are a great way to spend a day with family. And if you visit them on the first Sunday of the month, you won’t have to pay the admission fee.

Additionally, behind the Palais Longchamp there are beautiful gardens which have made the French Ministry of Culture’s list of Notable Gardens of France. These gardens are always free of charge. There are playgrounds for children and you will spot a lot of families having picnics and kids running around. And sometimes you may even stumble upon a festival or a concert.

Museum of Natural History of Marseille

This is one of the most visited museums in France. It contains thousands of fossils and zoological, botanical and mineral specimens. There are four permanent displays:

  • Museum Safari (The Safari Museum) – this section is filled with zoological specimens, current and extinct, from all over the world.
  • Salle de Provence (Provence Room) – this area focuses on fauna and flora native to the region of Provence.
  • Terre des Hommes (The Human Earth) – this room takes you across the human history, from our first days on this planet through today.
  • Terre du Vivant (Land of the Living) – here you will find fossils and skeletons of both living and extinct species.

The museum also has an area on the upper level designated especially for its youngest visitors. Here, children can learn about our natural world through touch, sound and interactive displays.

There are also temporary displays, so depending on when you visit you may encounter other interesting collections. Additionally, there is a scientific library on the grounds containing books on the subject of natural history, some of them dating back to the 19th century.

A word of warning, this museum’s labels are entirely in French, so if you don’t speak the language, come prepared with a downloaded French-English dictionary from Google Translate. This way, you can use your phone’s camera to translate the labels for you.

The museum is rather old fashioned and you get a feeling of stepping back in time when it comes to the way the the displays are presented and organized. Regardless, this is a fabulous museum if you wish to learn about natural history. In fact, we loved this museum so much, we also wrote about in a collaborative piece about kid-friendly museums around the world we worked on with other traveling families.

Museum of Fine Arts of Marseille

If you are an art lover, don’t miss this museum. Located in the Palais Longchamp across from the Museum of Natural History, this is the oldest museum in Marseille. Before you enter, grab a pamphlet from the ticket office with the map and explanations of the different displays. The pamphlets are available in either French or English. The art displayed here ranges from the 16th to the 19th centuries and is representative of the French, Italian, Spanish and Northern schools. 

We highly recommend visiting this amazing architectural gem in Marseille. If you are traveling with your kids and wish to minimize your sightseeing costs, we do recommend you visit it on the free admission day which is the first Sunday of the month. Otherwise, you can always see the palace and the grounds, including the gardens, free of charge, any day of the week.

Happy sightseeing!

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16 comments

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Lisa | Waves and Cobblestones May 14, 2022 - 11:17 pm

That palace is gorgeous — with its wings and the cascading fountain in front, it reminds me of the palace in Barcelona in the Montjuic area. Lovely!

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simplyjolayne May 14, 2022 - 8:48 pm

Love your pics of the columned passage (in your Pinterest pins). It looks like a lot of fun for kids and with a few unusual things to see that you don’t always find in other museums.

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Lasma May 14, 2022 - 6:36 pm

I definitely would love to visit! during my last short visit to Marseille, I couldn’t make it but now I regret it! it looks like a very interesting place! Thanks for the guide!

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Alaina Thomas May 14, 2022 - 5:29 pm

That is so unique they combined two museums into one. This is perfect for me, for art museums are not my main preference.

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Yvonne January 15, 2022 - 5:52 pm

It looks amazing! We would love to go. I think my son would love it.

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Bea Cińska
Bea Cińska January 16, 2022 - 5:55 am

I am sure he would. Our son loved learning about all the different animals, plants and history of the region.

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Terri January 15, 2022 - 12:00 pm

I visited Marseilles years ago and absolutely adored wandering through the city (and sniffing soaps). I wish I had visited this museum.

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Bea Cińska
Bea Cińska January 16, 2022 - 5:54 am

Ah, the famous Marseille soap! Yes! Love it!

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Zoe January 15, 2022 - 11:36 am

Great post and photos! I’ve been to Marseille but didn’t have enough time to explore all or visit many museums. One day i’ll definitely return!

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Bea Cińska
Bea Cińska January 16, 2022 - 5:53 am

Marseille sure has a lot of hidden gems. When you return you will have plenty still to see and do.

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Vanda September 15, 2018 - 5:38 pm

Haven’t been to Marseille yet, but would love to visit! This place does look gorgeous, and that small Theatre de la Girafe is so lovely!

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BPK
BPK September 15, 2018 - 11:54 pm

It is gorgeous! Marseille is often overlooked by visitors but it does have many hidden treasures.

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Lisanne September 15, 2018 - 5:09 pm

Would love to go there, it looks really pretty. You’ve definitely convinced me to visit this amazing architectural gem in Marseille 😀

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BPK
BPK September 15, 2018 - 11:55 pm

Thank you! You will love it when you visit.

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Katalin September 15, 2018 - 4:50 pm

Great photos! Looks like these museums in Marseille are a lot fun with a kid – we need to wait a few years though 🙂

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BPK
BPK September 15, 2018 - 11:55 pm

Yes, there are definitely child friendly museums in Marseille.

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