Palais Longchamp

Marseille, France

The Palais Longchamp houses the Musée des beaux-arts (Museum of Fine Arts) and Muséum d'histoire naturelle de Marseille (Natural History Museum). The surrounding Longchamp Park is listed by the French Ministry of Culture as one of the Notable Gardens of France.

The Palais Longchamp was created to celebrate the construction of the Canal de Marseille, which was built to bring water from the river Durance to Marseille. Although the foundation stone was laid by the Duke of Orleans on 15 November 1839, the building took 30 years to complete, partly because of the enormous expense and partly because of difficulties with local regulations. Designed by the architect Henri-Jacques Espérandieu, the building was centered on the structure and elaborate fountain known as the château d'eau ('water castle').

Musée des beaux-arts de Marseille

The Musée des beaux-arts de Marseille is one of the main museums in the city of Marseille, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region. It occupies a wing of the Palais Longchamp, and displays a collection of paintings, sculptures and drawings from the 16th to 19th centuries.

Muséum d’histoire naturel de Marseille

The Natural History Museum of Marseille is one of the most visited natural history museums in France. It was founded in 1819 by Jean-Baptiste, marquis de Montgrand and Christophe de Villeneuve-Bargemon.

The park

Longchamp Park was opened in 1869, at the same time as the palace; in addition, the art and natural-history collections, which had been housed elsewhere, moved into the palace at this time. The park also contained a zoo, which was run by the city from 1898 until 1987, when, because of public disaffection with traditional zoos, it was closed.

At the summit of the fountain are sculptures of four large bulls and three women—a central figure representing the Durance flanked by one who represents grapes and one who represents wheat and fertility. Behind the women, within the central structure of the palace, is a manmade stone grotto decorated with carved stalactites and nymphs. From beneath the three women and from the bulls, water flows into a secondary basin, and then into an artificial pond. The water drains out of the pond into underground pipes, from which it emerges in a waterfall-like structure, and in twelve ornate bronze fountains lined alongside it, flowing into a second, larger pond.

The central feature of the garden behind the palace is a classic garden à la française, which is known as the Jardin du plateau. The garden also includes an English landscape garden, with winding alleys and many notable trees, including a 150-year-old plane tree and an oak and a Siberian elm that are both 120 years old.

The area that was occupied by the 19th-century zoo still contains many of its picturesque buildings in fantastic styles, including oriental pavilions for the giraffe and elephant, cages ornamented with Turkish tiles, and bear cages and seal dens decorated with rocaille, or rock-work.

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Details

Founded: 1839
Category: Palaces, manors and town halls in France

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Eric Campbell (37 days ago)
Nice local monument to see. Overall not great upkeep. There was construction and graffiti everywhere and the fountain was not running. Museums are closed on Tuesdays.
Samantha Platt (42 days ago)
A beautiful building at the end of the main road that certainly makes you stop in your tracks. There is a museum here and gardens foe you to enjoy. We were slightly disappointed that the Palace seems to have been let go a little. There was lots of rubbish on the steps, graffiti on the buildings and the water was green and dirty. Our visit was mid April, so hopefully they clean it up and have the water running and the fountain on in summer. A great place for photos if you edit out the rubbish and the graffiti.
AlQays Faizal (Qays) (4 months ago)
Remarkable place. Went on a cloudy day but I would expect this place to be much more serene if it was during a sunny sunset. Regardless, it was worth the trip and a definite go to if you’re planning a day trip to Marseille.
Evan Strain (6 months ago)
This palace is less so a palace and more a large statue / fountain which is quite beautiful and much larger than I anticipated. The natural history museum and fine arts museum on either side make up what was probably the palace at one point. The fine art museum was free when I attended and it seems it’s often free. It’s quite small but the collection is interesting and worth the time and I’d say I would pay 5 euros if it was required of me.
Iryna _ SIA (7 months ago)
Very beautiful and large-scale architecture of the building is combined with a cascade of fountains and greenery. The building houses a magnificent collection of flora and fauna of France. Entrance is absolutely free, which is a great rarity in our time. I highly recommend to visit this location.
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