The best things to see and do in Marseille often have to do with learning about the interesting history of this locality or also with the possibility of getting closer to the culture of this important Mediterranean port. In that context, the museums of the city are an excellent option that can occupy a couple of hours in some of the days of your visit.
Keep reading this compilation I have prepared for you, as I have grouped the 10 best museums in the city with the intention that you can choose from some of them to learn a little about what Marseille has to offer in art, history and culture.
1. The MuCEM
This site is not only one of the most important museums in the city of Marseille, but it is also one of the most representative buildings of the old port of the city.
MuCEM stands for the Museum of the Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean, which is a national institution with more than 40,000 m² dedicated to the conservation and anthropological study of the societies that have developed throughout the continent.
It is definitely one of the most visited places in the whole city and this is due to its easy access thanks to its iconic 115 m long walkway that connects it to Fort Saint Jean, an obligatory stop when making a tourist tour of the old port.
Complementing a visit to this place with a boat ride around Marseille is also an excellent idea especially considering that it is located right in the port area from where these types of tourist boats usually depart.
- Location: 1 Esp. J4, 13002 Marseille, France.
- Opening hours: The museum is open every day of the week except Tuesdays and the opening hours change according to the time of the year. In the high season from July to September it is usually open from 10 am to 8 pm.
- Price: Tickets cost around 10 euros per person.
2. The museum of contemporary art
The museum of contemporary art in the city of Marseille is one of the most interesting museums dedicated to this period of plastic arts in France. Since the 1960's it has become an extremely important institution to the point of having a collection of more than 1000 pieces on permanent display.
It is popularly known as MAC for its French acronym and without a doubt a walk through some of its facilities is one of the best things to do in Marseille during the summer.
In addition, you can also enjoy a series of exhibitions and special events that are organized all over the city during this time of the year to stay relevant in the Marseille cultural agenda.
- Location: 69 Av. d'Haifa, 13008 Marseille, France.
- Hours: Depends on the exhibitions taking place as well as the time of year of the visit.
- Price: tickets for special events organized by this museum are usually around 10 or 15 euros per person. Although it is also true that there are all kinds of free events.
3. Borely Castle
Inside the Borely Castle, located in the famous park that bears its name, is the Museum of Decorative Arts, Fashion and Ceramics. The building itself is an impressive structure built in the second half of the 18th century and was owned by the Borely family, who were wealthy merchants and philanthropists from Marseille.
Today the museum inside, inaugurated since 2013, delves a bit into contemporary arts and the relationship they have with the world of clothing, as well as decorative ceramics.
So this museum is one of the most entertaining in the whole city, especially due to the fact that it is located in one of the most popular public parks in the city, making it one of the best things to do with kids in Marseille.
The museum's collection is also a spectacle in itself, as its more than 10 000 pieces make it one of the greatest triumphs of costume and art collecting in the whole region.
Details of interest
- Location: 132 Av. Clot Bey, 13008 Marseille, France.
- Hours: The museum is open every day of the week from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. except Mondays.
- Price: access to the museum is completely free because it is part of the public park that bears the same name as the mansion on which it is located.
4. The Cosquer Méditerranée
The Cosquer Grotto is one of the most interesting archaeological sites in and around Marseille.
It is an underwater cave located east of Marseille in the Calanques National Park. Its importance has to do with the fact that it contains prehistoric paintings whose origin is located by specialists around the Paleolithic period.
However, the site is completely inaccessible, since its entrance is located below about 37 m at Mediterranean sea level. So it is in this context that the Cosquer Méditerranée arises, which is an exact replica located right in the tourist heart of Marseille. The place stands out for the fact that it is fully interactive and its exhibitions allow both children and adults to understand the importance of this historical asset in a very entertaining way.
This replica with permanent exhibition is located in the Villa Méditerranée, another of the great architectural wonders of Marseille, which is right next to the MuCEM in the tourist and cultural epicenter of the Marseille of the 21st century. The cave replica is accompanied by a gallery that delves a little into prehistoric life.
Details of interest
- Location: Promenade Robert Laffont, Esp. J4, 13002 Marseille, France.
- Hours: the site is open every day of the week from 10 am to 6:30 pm.
- Price: the individual access ticket for adults is around 16 euros while children between 10 and 17 years old pay about 10 euros and if they are between 6 and 9 years old 5 euros.
5. The Memorial de la Marseillaise
The history of the French national anthem has to do with the fact that it was originally a war song sung by the Marseillaise revolutionaries on their march from this city located in the Mediterranean to the capital, Paris.
When they arrived, the rest of the population began to identify the song as the anthem of the people of Marseille and with the passage of time it became a universal song that represented the revolutionary sentiment of all French people.
In this context, the monument commemorating the Marseillaise is one of the most important museums of this city. Especially because until recently there was no specific space within this city to address this important element of the history of this city and the country.
It is a historic building that has been restored with the intention of having several permanent exhibitions that allow a pedagogical and quite interactive tour for people to understand the origin and importance of the national anthem. Identify this place is also quite simple by the fact that the facade of the building is a waving flag quite representative.
- Location: 23 Rue Thubaneau, 13001 Marseille, France.
- Hours: this site is open every day of the week except Mondays from nine in the morning until 12:30 noon. It then reopens at 1:30 p.m. before closing again at 6:00 p.m.
- Price: access to this site is completely free.
6. The Marseille Soap Museum
Soap production has for centuries been one of the commercial strengths of the Provence region as well as the Occitania region. For this reason, it is not surprising to learn that there is a museum dedicated to the handcrafted manufacture of soap under the parameters that have been used for centuries in this area of France.
The site has a permanent exhibition displaying rare and unusual objects used in the past for the manufacture of this personal care product. Demonstrations on the process of saponification, milling, extraction and cutting of these soaps are also common. Everything under the parameters that have made the soap from the south of France an international quality reference.
This site also has a store where you can buy the products made with traditional techniques in the museum's workshop. At the same time, if the idea of exploring a little more about the artisanal production of soap catches your attention, then you have to participate in one of the excursions through Provence from Marseille, since the region as a whole has several factories dedicated to this peculiar industry.
Details of interest
- Location: 25 Quai de Rive Neuve, 13007 Marseille, France.
- Hours: this museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.
- Price: entering the museum store is completely free and if you want to visit the museum you have to pay about 2.5 euros per person.
7. The Fort Saint-Jean
This site is an iconic fortification of the old port landscape of Marseille that was built during the 15th century by direct order of Louis XIV. Its historical purpose was always to protect and ensure the security of the city' s port, but in modern times it has become an iconic construction and very representative of the glorious past of this city.
Accessing this site is quite simple thanks to the walkway built by the MuCEM that connects it to the old port city and allows it to be today one of the most visited sites in the entire metropolis.
Inside the fortification there is a museum in which many of the artifacts that were used for the defense of the port as well as for the daily life of the guards who lived there are exhibited. You should also know that visiting this place is one of the best things to do in Marseille during the Christmas season due to the fact that the number of tourists is low enough for you to enjoy this place with much more intimacy.
- Location: Promenade Louis Brauquier, 13002 Marseille.
- Hours: During the summer, this fort is open from 11:00 am to approximately 7:00 pm. During the rest of the year the opening hours change.
- Price: access to this site is totally free.
8. The Château d'If
In the same sense in which Fort Saint-Jean is presented as one of the best museums in the city, it can be said that the Château d'If is also a fortification that was also built during the sixteenth century and is located inside a small island in the bay of Marseille.
At the same time, it is a basic stop within the best tours of Marseille and this has to do with the fact that for many years it functioned as a state prison. Therefore, it is full of artifacts that can show visitors how this type of fortifications worked back then.
Moreover, this castle is world famous for being the setting of part of the story of the Count of Monte Cristo written by Alexandre Dumas.
Details of interest
- Location: Embarcadère Frioul If, 1 Quai de la Fraternité, 13001 Marseille, France.
- Hours: The island is open for visitors every day of the week except Mondays from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
- Price: the entrance to the island costs approximately 16 euros per person, but this rate may be higher or lower depending on your inclusion in some of the tours that also offer visits to major and important attractions of the old port of Marseille.
9. The Museum of Fine Arts of Marseille
The museum of fine arts of the city of Marseille is one of the main museums dedicated to classical art in the whole region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur.
At the same time, its location inside one of the wings of the Longchamps Palace makes it an essential stop for those who wish to know the greatest wonders of this city. And the fact is that this neoclassical building is one of the most important points of this town since its inauguration in the nineteenth century.
Conveniently, it is located in an area that is part of the Hop On Hop Off bus route of Marseille, which means that it can perfectly be part of your logistical itinerary no matter how short your visit to the city is.
You have to know that all the works exhibited in this museum are paintings, sculptures and drawings that were developed between the sixteenth and nineteenth century. That is, since before the inauguration of this palace.
Details of interest
- Location: Palais Longchamp Aile gauche, 9 Rue Edouard Stephan, 13004 Marseille, France.
- Hours: open every day of the week except Mondays from 9:00 am to 5:00 or 6:00 pm.
- Price: the permanent collections of this museum are accessible free of charge to all visitors.
10. The MAAOA
Multiculturalism is one of the most interesting aspects of Marseille and one of the factors that distinguish it from other cities in the region. For this reason, the museum of African, Oceanic and Amerindian art of the city of Marseille is one of the places you should not miss during your visit to this city.
The site stands out for having a permanent exhibition of a very significant variety of paintings, sculptures, statues and artifacts related to civilizations of these geographical areas that somehow have always been linked to the history of this city for its port character and the constant migrations it has received throughout its centuries of antiquity.
Specialists define it as one of the best institutions of these characteristics in France. At the same time, it is an excellent complement to the best gastronomic tours of Marseille to understand a little of how the cultural identity of this city works when it comes to celebrating the external influences that have permanently marked it.
Details of interest
- Location: 2 Rue de la Charité, 13002 Marseille, France.
- Hours: this museum is open every day of the week except Mondays from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.
- Price: access is completely free for the permanent exhibitions of this museum. It is usual that the temporary exhibitions have one day of free access and that the rest of the dates have changing rates.