Marseille History Museum

Marseille, France

The Marseille History Museum is the local historical and archaeological museum opened in 1983. It became soon one of the most significant museums for urban history in France, dedicated to exhibiting the major archaeological finds discovered after the site was excavated in 1967; at the same time the property was redeveloped commercially and the Centre Bourse shopping arcade constructed. The museum building is entered from within the centre, and opens out onto the 'Jardin des Vestiges', an outdoor garden containing the stabilised archaeological remains; it includes classical ramparts, port buildings, and a necropolis.

The construction of the Center Bourse was undertaken in 1967 on land in the district behind the Bourse, the old buildings of which had been destroyed from 1912 to 1937 and which had been left as they were. During the earthworks for the construction of the shopping center, many remains of Greek, Roman and medieval ages were discovered. Their importance was then a surprise although the existence of the famous wall of Crinas could suggest the discovery of other remains. Gérin Ricard specifies in the book Promenades archeologique published in 1925 that the Greek origin of this wall had been supported by members of the Archaeological Commission as early as 1916.

The creation of a Marseilles history museum therefore seems essential. The archaeologist and anthropologist Alain Nicolas participates in its foundation. It was opened in 1983. Some of the discoveries are kept on site, the ancient port has been converted into the Jardin des Vestiges. The museum then includes a temporary exhibition hall for events on various themes relating to the history of Marseille and a permanent exhibition hall which highlights the various remains discovered.


Installed in the Center Bourse, near the Old Port, the Marseille History Museum houses the site of the Jardin des Vestiges, a permanent exhibition of 3,500 m2, a temporary exhibition space, a documentation center and an auditorium, making it the most important urban history museum in France. The museum presently contains permanent displays exhibiting the history of Marseille up to the 18th century. Highlights include:

some of the finds from the site itself, including, most famously, the hull of a ship of the 2nd century (claimed to be the best preserved vessel of this period in the world);the prehistory of the region round the later city, the Ligures and the Phocaeans, and the development through the Ancient Greek and Roman periods of the port of Massilia;early Christianity (4th-6th centuries);medieval potters' workshops and the first French manufacture of faience (13th century);the redevelopment of the city under Louis XIV and the construction of the forts of Saint-Jean and Saint-Nicolas;the architecture and building works of the architect, sculptor and painter Pierre Puget;the Great Plague of 1720.

Further building works are planned which, when completed, will assure permanent exhibitions of Marseille's history for the 19th and 20th centuries.



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Founded: 1983
Category: Museums in France


4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Patrick Osborne (4 months ago)
What an amazing place , free music concerts good gardens and architecture , you could easily spend a whole day here ! We got ice creams down by the quay at lunch time then went back up for a concert .
Ömer Yiğit Tatkan (4 months ago)
Duration/Time: 60 - 90 Minutes The museum can be comfortably explored within approximately one hour. Positive Aspects: It was a free museum and exceeded our expectations. The staff members were kind and friendly. We were impressed by the overall collection, which was better than expected. Negative Aspects: The staff members had limited English skills, which posed some communication challenges.
Andy Kennedy (5 months ago)
Amazing experience. Marseille is one of the oldest cities in the Mediterranean and the museum walks you through that rich and colourful past, from the Greek traders in 600BC to date. Great audio guides (we used the English language ones). Our one visit of about 2 hours was definitely not long enough to do it justice. Would recommend 2 separate visits if you can.
Pierre Beniston (5 months ago)
As a museum, it’s great. I’d never before notice comments about the extraordinary rudeness of staff before, as I did when I read up on this place. Well, on my visit I was forced to witness a large anger miserable Karen type berating an older gentleman. He stayed mild, acknowledged he understood the rules in question. Eventually he said enough already, calmly. There are rules yes, their are also manners. This museum seems to have only one of these things for their staff. The guard was clearly a miserable individual, bent on victory and humiliation of the visitor. It spoiled my visit to witness this. Disgraceful.
Helga (5 months ago)
Absolutely recommend to visit if you are interested local history. We had few hours in Marseille, and great that didn't avoid this museum. 1-1,5 hour can be enough to see all expositions. There are many well-preserved artifacts, also museum is free which was a surprise.
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