Are you heading off to Marseille in the French Provence? Don’t miss a visit to the Mucem, Marseille’s most famous museum!
The MUCEM, the acronym for the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations, is a national museum located in Marseille. It was inaugurated on June 7, 2013, as part of Marseille-Provence 2013, a year when Marseille was designated as the European Capital of Culture. By the following year, it had become one of the world’s 50 most visited museums and its iconic boldly modern architecture makes it stand apart in the middle of the old city. The Mucem has quickly carved itself a a spot within the diverse Marseille landscape, on the same level as the Chateau d’If or the Cité Radieuse, though it would be a stretch to say it has become as eponymous with Marseille as its Bonne Mère, watching over the city. Visit the Mucem and discover the history of the Mediterranean world, one of the cradles of European civilization. Through a multidisciplinary approach that combines anthropology, archaeology, history, art history, and contemporary art, the Mucem offers visitors the possibility to (re)discover the multi-faceted nature of the Mediterranean world and its ancient foundations.
Visit the Mucem to take a step back in time and explore more than 2,000 years of human history. The museum has welcomed 8.5 million visitors since its opening, with an average of 1.255 million visitors per year. You are wondering how to visit the Mucem? Here is all you need to know about visiting one of Marseille’s most prominent museums!
Also read : The 13 best things to do in Marseille
The history of the Mucem
The Mucem of Marseille officially opened its doors on June 7, 2013. However, the constitution of its vast collection dates back to more than 130 years. The Mucem is indeed the heir to three museums: the Musée d’Ethnographie du Trocadéro (Ethnographic Museum of the Trocadéro) (1878-1936), the Musée de l’Homme (Museum of Man), and the Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires (Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions). The project of the Mucem was initially launched by President Jacques Chirac, and Lionel Jospin, then Prime Minister (1997-2002).
The museum was born out of a desire for cultural decentralization, spearheaded by the Jospin government. The collections of the Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions, which opened in Paris 1937 and closed in 2005, were transferred to Marseille. After ten years of delay, between the Vieux Port (Old Port) and the Commercial Port, the Mucem saw the light of day.
What to see and do at the Mucem in Marseille?
What to see when visiting the Mucem? Home to no less than one million works of art, documents, and objects, the Mucem boasts impressive dimensions, and extends over 45,000 m²! Here’s how to make your way through this fascinating maze of a museum, comprising three different sites: the J4 building, Fort Saint-Jean, and the Resource Conservation Center.
Stretching across two levels and an area of 3,690 m² hosting permanent and temporary exhibitions, the J4 area offers beautiful panoramic views of the coastline and a rooftop terrace.
A restored 12th-century fortress, previously inaccessible to the public, Fort Saint-Jean offers many free activities for people from Marseille. Here, visitors can view the exhibitions of the Mucem, enjoy scenic strolls across the Jardin des Migrations (Garden of Migration)and its lush endemic vegetation, and spectacular vistas of the coastline. With 1,100 m² of exhibition space and 12,000 m² of gardens, Fort Saint-Jean has much to offer and is an excellent spot for families.
The Centre for Conservation and Resources
Finally, discover the Mucem’s Centre for Conservation and Resources (CCR) comprising four distinct spaces that are open to the public: an objects viewing room, a lecture hall, a display space, and the asset storage space. The library, which specializes in the Humanities, houses 150,000 books and publications about France, Europe, and the Mediterranean.
How to visit the Mucem in Marseille?
In the J4 area, start your visit at the Galerie de la Méditerranée, situated at ground level (level 0). This section hosts semi-permanent exhibitions dedicated to the arts, the history, and the anthropology of the Mediterranean world. Set across two halls, each extending over a surface of 1,000 m², level 2 houses the museum’s temporary exhibitions. Visitors can admire an eyeful of age-old artifacts and artworks, all offering precious indications to the times they were created.
At Fort Saint-Jean, be sure to visit Place d’Armes – a rooftop terrace regularly hosting concerts, film screenings, and various events – as well the Galerie des Officiers, where you will discover the history of the military fort, and the Jardin des Migrations, which stretches over an area of 12,000 m², filled with endemic plants from the Mediterranean basin. Also, don’t miss the Galerie d’Actualité, the walkways, the solarium, the chapel – home to contemporary works -, and the Georges Henri Rivière building.
How to get to the Mucem in Marseille?
The Mucem is situated right between the classic and scenic Vieux Port, which serves as a leisure port and is open to a limited number of fishermen, and the more modern and industrious Gare Maritime, which serves as a transportation hub with frequent ferries to Corsica and all over the Mediterranean Sea.
- By metro
Exit either at “Vieux Port” or “Joliette” station (about 10 minutes walk)
- By bus
– Line 82 and 82s (“Littoral Major” or “Fort Saint-Jean” stops) – night line 582
– Line 60 (“Littoral Major” or “Fort Saint-Jean” stops)
– Line 49 (“Église Saint-Laurent,” “Littoral Major” or “Fort Saint-Jean” stops)
- By tramway
Tram T2: stop at “République,” “Dames” or “Joliette” stops (10-15 minutes walk)
- By car
There are several car parks near the Mucem, you can book a spot online in advance.
From Marseille Provence airport
Marseille Provence airport is one of the larger airports in France and you will find many flights from London , either Stansted or Heathrow, as well as from Edinburgh or Manchester. You can easily find a low-cost flight to these destinations on Skyscanner.
Many shuttles run between the airport and Marseille Train Station, in the center of the city. The public shuttle leaves every ten minutes and will get you from the airport to the train station in 25 minutes. Tickets cost 8,30€ for adults and 4,15€ for children. From the train station, you can simply walk to the museum or take the metro and stop at “Vieux Port” station.
To enjoy greater freedom of movement during your stay in the Phocaean city, you can also rent a car at the airport.
Also read : The best areas to stay in Marseille
The Mucem in Marseille: rates and opening hours
How much does it cost to visit the Mucem in Marseille? Find out below all the essential information for your visit.
- From November 5 to April 30: 11:00 am to 6:00 pm
- May 2 to July 6: 11:00 am to 7:00 pm
- From July 7 to September 2: from 10 am to 8 pm
- From September 3 to November 4: from 11 am to 7 pm
Good to know: The ticket office closes 45 minutes before the museum’s closing time, and the exhibition halls close 15 minutes before the closing time of the Mucem.
- Full rate: €9,5
- Reduced price: €5
- Family ticket: €14 (up to 5 children, accompanied by two adults)
- Full rate: €14
- Reduced price: €9.5
- Under 18 year-olds rate: €4,5
Group visits (adults, from 8 to 25 people):
- 1-hour guided tour: €260
- 1,5-hour guided tour: €290
GOOD TO KNOW
Free admission is granted to specific visitors, depending on their situation (people on income support, pensioners, jobseekers, visitors under 18 years of age, etc.). The ticket is free (on presentation of proof of entitlement). MUCEM is also free of charge on the first Sunday of each month, during the “Nuit des Musées” (Museum Night) and the European Heritage Days.
A reduced rate applies to young people aged 18 to 25 inclusive, holders of a valid Education Pass and a higher education diploma working in France, visitors of the Regards de Provence Museum, the FRAC, or the Granet Museum and families of up to 2 adults and 5 children.
All Mucem exhibitions are accessible to people with reduced mobility.
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