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.