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10 Best museums in Marseille

The best museums in the city of Marseille are an excellent alternative for tourist entertainment due to the very diversity that defines their exhibitions.

Keyvis Montilva

Keyvis Montilva

10 min read

10 Best museums in Marseille

Museum of Marseille | ©Frank Eiffert

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 this context, the city's museums are an excellent option that can occupy a couple of hours in some of the days of your visit.

Keep reading this compilation that 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

MuCEM| ©Fred Romero
MuCEM| ©Fred Romero

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 European and Mediterranean Civilisations, which is a national institution with more than 40 000 m² dedicated to the conservation and anthropological study of the societies that have developed across 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 footbridge that connects it to the Fort Saint Jean, an obligatory stop when making a tourist tour of the old port.

Complementing a visit to this place with a boat trip around Marseille is also an excellent idea, especially considering that it is located right in the harbour area from where these types of tourist boats usually depart.

Interesting details

  • Location: 1 Esp. J4, 13002 Marseille, France.
  • Opening hours: The museum is open every day of the week except Tuesdays and opening hours vary according to the time of year. In the high season from July to September it is usually open from 10am to 8pm.
  • Price: Tickets cost around 10 euros per person.

Book a boat trip in Marseille

2. The museum of contemporary art

At the museum of contemporary art| ©jean luc moreau
At the museum of contemporary art| ©jean luc moreau

The museum of contemporary art in the city of Marseille is one of the most interesting museums dedicated to this period of the plastic arts in the whole of France. Since the 1960s it has become an extremely important institution with a collection of more than 1000 pieces on permanent display.

It is popularly known as MAC for its French acronym and a stroll through some of its installations is one of the best things to do in Marseille during the summer.

You can also enjoy a series of exhibitions and special events that are organised all over the city during this time of the year to stay relevant in Marseille's cultural agenda.

Interesting details

  • Location: 69 Av. d'Haifa, 13008 Marseille, France.
  • Opening hours: Depends on the exhibitions taking place as well as the time of year of the visit.
  • Price: Tickets for special events organised by this museum usually cost around 10 or 15 euros per person. However, it is also true that there are all kinds of free events.

3. Borely Castle

Borely Castle| ©OTCM
Borely Castle| ©OTCM

Inside 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 Marseille merchants and philanthropists.

Today the museum inside, which opened in 2013, delves a little deeper into contemporary arts and their relationship to the world of clothing, as well as decorative ceramics.

So this museum is one of the most entertaining in the whole city, especially as it is located in one of the city's most popular public parks, making it one of the best things to do with children 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.
  • Opening hours: The museum is open every day of the week from 9am to 6pm 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 stands.

4. La Cosquer Méditerranée

National Park of the Calanques| ©travelmag.com
National Park of the Calanques| ©travelmag.com

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 placed by the specialists around the Palaeolithic period.

However, the site is completely inaccessible, as its entrance is located below about 37 m at Mediterranean sea level. It is in this context that the Cosquer Méditerranée was created, 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 **Marseille'**s great architectural wonders, which is right next to the MuCEM in the tourist and cultural epicentre of 21st century Marseille. The replica of the cave is accompanied by a gallery that delves a little deeper into prehistoric life.

Interesting details

  • Location: Promenade Robert Laffont, Esp. J4, 13002 Marseille, France.
  • Opening hours: The site is open every day of the week from 10am to 6.30pm.
  • Price: Individual admission for adults is around 16 euros while children between 10 and 17 years old pay around 10 euros and if they are between 6 and 9 years old they pay 5 euros.

5. The Memorial de la Marseillaise

Memorial de la Marseillaise| ©So_P
Memorial de la Marseillaise| ©So_P

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 Mediterranean city 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 over time it became a universal song representing the revolutionary sentiments of all French people.

In this context, the Marseillaise memorial is one of the most important museums in the city. Especially because until recently there was no specific space in the city to deal with this important element of the history of the city and the country.

It is a historic building that has been restored with the intention of having several permanent exhibitions that allow an educational and quite interactive tour for people to understand the origin and importance of the national anthem. Identifying this place is also quite easy because of the fact that on the facade of the building there is a very representative waving flag.

Interesting details

  • Location: 23 Rue Thubaneau, 13001 Marseille, France.
  • Opening hours: this site is open every day of the week except Mondays from 9am until 12:30 noon. It then reopens at 1.30pm before closing again at 6pm.
  • Price: access to this site is completely free of charge.

6. The Marseille Soap Museum

Soap museum| ©Frédéric BISSON
Soap museum| ©Frédéric BISSON

Soap production has for centuries been one of the commercial strongholds 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 according to the centuries-old methods used in this part 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, grinding, extraction and cutting of these soaps are also common. All within the parameters that have made southern French soap an international benchmark of quality.

This site also has a shop where you can buy products made using traditional techniques in the museum's workshop. If the idea of exploring a little more about artisanal soap production appeals to you, then you should join one of the excursions in Provence from Marseille, as the region as a whole has several factories dedicated to this peculiar industry.

Interesting details

  • Location: 25 Quai de Rive Neuve, 13007 Marseille, France.
  • Opening hours: This museum is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm.
  • Price: The museum shop is completely free to enter and if you want to visit the museum you have to pay about 2.5 euros per person.

Enjoy the best excursions in Provence from Marseille.

7. The Fort Saint-Jean

Fort Saint-Jean| ©Marc DUPUY
Fort Saint-Jean| ©Marc DUPUY

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 guarantee 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.

Access to this site is quite easy thanks to the footbridge built by the MuCEM which connects it to the old port city and which allows it to be one of the most visited sites in the whole metropolis today.

Inside the fortification there is a museum which exhibits many of the artefacts that were used for the defence of the port as well as for the daily life of the guards who lived there. You should also know that visiting this place is one of the best things to do in Marseille during the Christmas season because the tourist crowds are low enough for you to enjoy this place in much more privacy.

Interesting details

  • Location: Promenade Louis Brauquier, 13002 Marseille.
  • Opening hours: During the summer this fort is open from 11am until about 7pm. During the rest of the year the opening hours change.
  • Price: Access to this site is completely free of charge.

8. The Château d'If

Château d'If| ©Jeanne Menjoule
Château d'If| ©Jeanne Menjoule

In the same sense that Fort Saint-Jean is one of the best museums in the city, the Château d'If is also one of the best, as it is a fortification that was also built during the 16th century and is located on a small island in the bay of Marseille.

At the same time, it is a basic stop on 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 artefacts that can show visitors how such fortifications functioned back then.

Moreover, this castle is world famous for being the setting for part of the story of the Count of Monte Cristo written by Alexandre Dumas.

Interesting details

  • Location: Embarcadère Frioul If, 1 Quai de la Fraternité, 13001 Marseille, France.
  • Opening hours: The island is open to visitors every day of the week except Mondays from 10am to 5pm.
  • Price: 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 attractions in the old port of Marseille.

9. The Museum of Fine Arts in Marseille

Marseille Museum of Fine Arts| ©Patrick
Marseille Museum of Fine Arts| ©Patrick

The Museum of Fine Arts of the city of Marseille is one of the main museums dedicated to classical art in the whole Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region.

At the same time, its location in one of the wings of the Longchamps Palace makes it an essential stop for those who wish to see the greatest wonders of this city. This neoclassical building has been one of the most important points of interest in the city since its inauguration in the 19th century.

Conveniently, it is located in an area that forms part of the Marseille Hop On Hop Off bus route, which means that it can perfectly form part of your logistical itinerary no matter how short your visit to the city is.

You should know that all the works exhibited in this museum are paintings, sculptures and drawings that were developed between the 16th and 19th centuries. That is to say, from before the inauguration of this palace.

Interesting details

  • Location: Palais Longchamp Aile gauche, 9 Rue Edouard Stephan, 13004 Marseille, France.
  • Opening hours: Open every day of the week except Mondays from 9am to 5 or 6pm.
  • Price: The museum's permanent collections are accessible free of charge to all visitors.

10. The MAAOA

Sculpture| ©Deb Nystrom
Sculpture| ©Deb Nystrom

Multiculturalism is one of the most interesting aspects of Marseille and one of the factors that distinguishes 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 Marseille.

The site stands out for having a permanent exhibition of a very significant variety of paintings, sculptures, statues and artefacts related to civilisations from these geographical areas, which in a certain way have always been linked to the history of this city due to 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 the whole of 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.
  • Opening hours: This museum is open every day of the week except Mondays from 9am to 6pm.
  • Price: Access to the museum's permanent exhibitions is free of charge. Temporary exhibitions usually have one day of free admission and the rest of the dates have changing prices.