The Massena Museum (Musée Masséna) reopened in March 2008 after a seemingly interminable renovation. It was worth the wait.
The building, surrounded by lush gardens, makes an impressive sight along the Promenade des Anglais. Built from 1898 to 1901 and designed in the style of Italian villas, André Massena gave it to Nice in 1917. It was then transformed into a regional history museum and inaugurated in 1921.
In 1999, the museum closed for renovation. The work included restoring the spectacular facade, sprucing up the interior of the villa and its 23 exhibition rooms, redoing the gardens and installing a welcome room, boutique and ticket counter at the entrance pavilion.
It was a spectacular success. The public gardens are English-style and provide a restful place to relax and contemplate the greenery. The entrance hall is on a rectangular plan and decorated in classical Greek style with a beautifully restored frieze and an impressive statue that dates from the original villa.
What to See
The two floors above ground level trace the history of Nice in chronological order. On the first floor there are three main galleries devoted to: Nice from 1792 to the fall of the empire in 1814; Nice under the Restauration Sarde; Nice from 1860 to 1914. Rooms radiating out from the galleries are devoted to Masséna, the urban development of Nice, the daily life of the Niçois and the Carnival. The second floor is devoted mainly to temporary exhibitions plus rooms honoring the artistic life of Nice, including the musicians, writers and painters who lived and worked in Nice. Note that all explanations are in French only.
|Greek frieze in the entrance hall|
The interior is beautifully lit from both natural and artificial sources and the upper rooms have lovely views of the sea. Unfortunately, there is little available (yet) for English-speaking visitors as the signs and explanations are only in French.
April 1 to May 31: 9am to 7pm
June 1 to September 15: 9am to 8pm
September 16 to September 30: 9am to 7pm
October 1 to March 31: 9am to 6pm
The museum is closed Tuesday, January 1, Easter, May1 and December 25.
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