Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations

The Mucem (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations) opened its doors in June of 2013, when Marseille Provence was the European Capital of Culture.

The first museum located outside Paris, endowed with a rich collection from the Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires and the Musée de l’Homme, the Mucem’s exhibits embrace the fields of anthropology, history, archaeology, the history of art and contemporary art.

The first national museum devoted to the Mediterranean: in harmony with its time, the Mucem studies what is currently happening in the Euro-Mediterranean area, covering all aspects, historical, social, artistic….

The Mucem an exceptional 40,000 sq.-m. site with 3 buildings :

  • The exquisitely restored 12th century Fort St. John has been opened to the public. It features exhibition halls, a Mediterranean garden, a promenade, a café and the Place d’Armes, an open space that hosts concerts and conferences.
  • The adjacent contemporary J4 building, designed by architect Rudy Ricciotti, evokes a vertical casbah, enveloped by a sun-screen resembling a mashrabiya and providing vast exhibition areas, a bookshop, and auditorium, a terrace, restaurants and spectacular views over the Port of Marseille and its bay.
  • The Conservation and Resources Centre, a monolithic structure in ochre and white designed by Corinne Vezzoni, is located at the Belle de Mai and houses the approximately one million objects that provide an almost limitless source of exhibits for both the Mucem and other society-themed museums.

Marseille History Museum

A short distance from the Vieux Port, and surrounding the archaeological site of “La Bourse – Antique Port”, the Marseille History Museum, entirely renovated in 2013, allows the visitor to discover 26 centuries of existence of the oldest city in France.
The building houses a reference exhibition of 3500m2 where 4000 objects of the collection are on display. The circuit is organised in 13 chronological sequences, from the first prehistoric occupations to contemporary urban developments, illustrated with numerous audio-visual and multimedia devices as well as “A History Stopover” especially created for the young public.
The museum also has a temporary exhibition gallery, a workshop for school children, an auditorium seating 200 and a documentation centre open to all.

Fine Arts Museum

The Fine Arts Museum was created following the French Revolution. It is one of the most important museums in France and the first one in Marseille to open its doors to the public in 1804. Its collections of paintings, sculptures, drawings from French and European schools, cover the entire modern period, from the 16th century to the 19th century. Its originality is also based on the important amount of Provençal paintings in its possession. Since 1869, the collections have been displayed in the sumptuous Longchamp Palace, designed by the architect Henri Espérandieu, to whom we also owe Notre Dame de la Garde. In 2013, when Marseille was elected “Culture Capital”, the museum underwent major renovations and the public can now enjoy the particularly elegant presentation of its collections.

VOUET-La Vierge à la rose
© Ville de Marseille, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Jean Bernard

Vieille Charité

The Vieille Charité Centre includes several multicultural structures in Marseille: Museums, associations, schools, ... and offers temporary exhibitions and activities all year long.

Museum of art of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas – MAAOA

Open to the public since 1992, the MAAOA, the African, Oceanic and Native American art museum is the only museum in France, along with the Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac museum in Paris to be entirely devoted to art from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. The MAAOA exhibition contains an abundance of art objects, that are not only cultural exhibits but also genuine works of art. It is without doubt an art museum that provides the necessary tools for the visitor to be able to appreciate the uniqueness of these works of art.

The Africa Room

Masque N’domo Marka, Burkina-Faso
©Bruges, Hugo Maertens

Partly made up of the L. Pierre Guerre donation (1911-1978), a brilliant Marseille lawyer, a keen collector of African art, and who, from a very young age, was fascinated by this continent. From the beginning of the 20th century, Pierre Guerre and his father Léonce built up one of the oldest collections of African art in France. On his death, the collection that he donated to the MAAOA now represents the framework of their African art collection. Along with the 87 masks and statues donated, different objects, left over from the town’s colonial museums as well as acquisitions were added.

The Oceania-Americas Room

Pendentif en os et nacre (hauteur = 10 cm)
de Nouvelle Zélande

Works of art from these two continents are displayed in this room, in particular those be-longing to the eminent Marseille neurologist Professor Henri Gastaut’s (1915-1995) unique collection. In 1989, the town of Marseille acquired more that 80 human skulls, sculpted, painted, remodelled or engraved collected all over the world. Amongst these objects is a Kanak mourning mask (New Caledonia) lent by the Evreux museum and several objects collected by the MAAOA in Vanuatu between 1991 et 1992. In 2008, magnificent Native American feather adornments from Marcel Heckenroth’s (1902-2008) collection, who, between 1939 and 1942 was chief medical officer for the colonial troops in the district of Oya-pock (Guyana), were added to the museum’s collections.

The Mexico Room

Alebrije Mexique, 20e siècle Ht : 59 cm
Papier, pigments, vernis
© Ville de Marseille/R. Chipault et B. Soligny

This room, devoted to popular Mexican art was created in 1993 following the legacy of François Reichenbach’s extraordinary collection. Documentary film maker, passionately interested in Mexico, he owned nearly 3000 objects brought back from his numerous trips to Mexico since the 1950’s. In 2016, the MAAOA acquired Bernard Meusnier’s collection. Producer and friend of François Reichenback, he had also collected Mexican works of art. Their acquisitions, exhibited together at the MAAOA, represent a unique collection.

The Mediterranean Archaeological Museum

A journey of almost 6000 years In the Middle East and the Mediterranean

These collections reveal the oriental and Mediterranean worlds. From the banks of the river Tigris and Euphrates, from the Greek shores to Roman Italy, passing through the most emblematic islands of the Mediterranean, the journey draws the contours of a day to day tale of ancient history…

© Museums of Marseille/ photo Jean-Luc Maby

Mythical, unknown or caricatured civilisations, advanced cultures and life styles, major inventions for mankind emanated from this geographic part of the world. Technical progress and expertise still in use today were acquired and developed within this outstanding and complex perimeter.

Obviously, the discourse is scientific but also sociological and unifying. It tries to underline the duration and creative strength of the people and civilisations bordering the Mediterranean and to demonstrate the innovative role played by the Middle Eastern civilisations living between the Tigris and Euphrates during that period.

Using pico projectors to create luminous frescoes, the objects regain their original polychrome, techniques and know-how are restored in films or projections made with meticulous care.
Therefore, the “Middle East – Mediterranean Basin” region can be interpreted either thematically, geographically and chronologically depending on the path and reflection of each visitor.

The Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde

The Virgin of Notre Dame de la Garde, the « Bonne Mère » (the good (holy) mother), is a symbolic representation of the town of Marseille.
For 800 years, Notre Dame has been the guardian of mariners, fishermen and the people of Marseille and can be seen from anywhere in the city...
An ex-voto (from the vow) is a tribute from the worshiper to the Virgin expressing thanks and recognition for having been saved from a shipwreck, a storm, an epidemic, an accident, by offering a painting or an artwork.
Nearly 2500 objects bear witness and are exposed in the basilica, the crypt and also on the parvise.

Château Borély
Museum of Decorative Arts, Earthenware and Fashion

Built in the 1760s-1770s, the extravagant Borély country house stands out with its elegant façade and the quality of its interior design. This rare gem has preserved most of its original décor. Classified as a historical monument, it has been turned into the ‘Museum of Decorative Arts, Earthenware and Fashion’ since it was completely renovated in 2013.

The museum brings together a rich selection of incredibly diverse works of art from donations and legacies by generous collectors staking the history of Marseille’s museums : from ceramics (notably an exceptional collection of 18th c. earthenware sets from Marseille and Moustiers factories), furniture, glass, tapestry, art objects... to fashion pieces, from the 18th century up to modern day.

With regularly renewed exhibits, the Fashion department allows you to admire the creations of Madeleine Vionnet, Pierre Balmain, Christian Dior (...), as well as pieces from young designers. Contemporary masterpieces, such as Hubert Legall’s mirrors, Laurence Aegerter’s tapestries or Benjamin Graindorge’s reception desk and vase, are all on display here.

The Contemporary Art Museum

The museum of contemporary art in Marseille began with an exceptional collection of modern contemporary art originally belonging to the Cantini museum which is one of the most important museums in the Provence region. The building was designed at the end of the 1970’s by a collector, Doctor Rau, to house his personal collection. However, the collector abandoned the idea of presenting his collection in Marseille and donated the building to the town. A few years later in 1992, the town decided to officially accept the donation and established the museum of contemporary art on this site. The inauguration took place on the 28th May 1994. In 2003, the museum (MAC) obtained the title of “Museum of France” and on the 28th May 2014, it celebrated its 20th anniversary.

The historical and conceptual source of this collection lies in the new direction taken by the Nouveaux Réalistes or “New Realist” movement and their artistic contributions. The other strong points are the works belonging to different movements such as Narrative Figuration, Arte Povera, Conceptual and performative American art, Fluxus, and Supports-Surfaces. The American artists are well represented with Masterpieces such as Basquiat’s work or Rauschenberg’s Relief. There are over 600 works of art on display to date and the museum is developing in the fields of installation and video creation.

The museum’s garden consists of small hills and valleys where one can discover sculptures from Alberola, César, Dietman and Gygi. It is an ideal place for presenting outdoor performances.

The Courtyard of the Accoules

This “fun loving” museum, is dedicated to the discovery of art by the very young.
The exhibitions are displayed in an exceptional setting, the Marseille Academy of Arts, Science and Belles Lettres.

Of a rare architectural quality, the chamber, with its columns topped by a flat vault, was built in 1781-1783 by Esprit-Joseph BRUN (at the time, a very active architect in Provence and in particular in Marseille).

It is nestled in the ancient observatory built by the Jesuits in 1702 at the top of the Accoules mound. (Butte des Accoules).
It now houses entertaining exhibitions in order to offer an original approach to the art object.

The programme of events, essentially based on discovering the rich heritage of Marseille's museums, tackles various themes: archeology, Fine Art, History, Regional patrimony…
Each year, a new theme is chosen around which an exhibition is organised, enriched with various events, shows, encounters…
Different kinds of receptions are planned based on the type of public : families, school children, groups, specific populations… Visits can be organised either as a workshop visit or an unrestricted visit.

Roman Docks Museum

Marseille’s Roman Docks Museum has been devoted to the Phocaean city’s maritime commerce in antiquity, between the 6th century BC and the 4th century AD.
Situated on the grounds of an ancient roman warehouse, the museum displays dolia (clay jars) preserved in-situ (1st to 3rd centuries AD). These huge jars were buried to accommodate and store the wine that came from Italy by boat and was unloaded in the port, a few yards from the warehouse.
Other objects (ceramics, stocked anchors, scales, coins, metals) resulting from undersea excavations carried out on wreckages discovered in and around the bay of Marseille, provide information on navigation and the type of goods that arrived and passed through the Phocaean city.

Saint-Victor Abbey in Marseille

The Abbaye St. Victor, in Marseilles, France

At the same time, a religious, cultural and symbolic monument, the Abbey of Saint Victor is one of a kind. This vestige of the history of Marseille is a treasure from the early Christian era with a Roman architecture. Listed in the register of historical monuments, it is one of the most beautiful churches in the city.

Listed in the register of historical monuments, it is one of the most beautiful churches in the city.
As early as the 5th century, the site was occupied by a chapel, which, during the Roman era of the 11th century, was converted into a crypt. The building is fortified and contains early Christian sarcophagi in the crypt.
From an architectural point of view, two art styles are apparent. Roman art in the central nave with pointed barrel arches, and Gothic art for the aisles, transept and choir. Nothing here will leave you indifferent : the architecture, the legends, as well as the symbols and beliefs that are attached to it.

Musée Regards de Provence

Musée Regards de Provence ©Michèle Clavel

In 2013, the year Marseille was European Culture Capital, the Foundation Regards de Provence - Reflets de Méditerranée, which was created in 1998, installed its eponymous museum in the former maritime sanitary station built by Fernand Pouillon in 1948.

Located on the Marseilles waterfront opposite the Mucem, this building, which has been designated a 20th century heritage site, is a sober, functional and unique example of modernist "liner" style port architecture.

It is a modern and contemporary art museum inspired by the Mediterranean, but also a place steeped in history that promotes the artistic wealth of the South. Throughout the year, the programme features temporary individual and group exhibitions, some of which reveal works from the Foundation Regards de Provence’s collection by great masters, witnesses of several artistic movements that have marked the French and Provençal pictorial scene in particular.
The museum has a bookshop and a panoramic restaurant with a roof terrace, called the Regards Café.