Palais Massena has been transformed from a grand home into a museum of art and history. When you're out for a drive or a stroll along the waterfront Promenade des Anglais in Nice, a stop at the museum will give you a chance to connect with Nice's rich culture.
While the Palais Lascaris was built in the 1600s, the construction of the Palais Massena came much later. Both palace museums are near the blue waters of the Mediterranean and must-sees when visiting Nice. Construction on the Palais Massena began in 1898 and completed three years later, built in the style of an Italian villa, which is another similarity to the Palais Lascaris. The architect, Hans-Georg Tersling from Denmark, built many buildings along the Cote d'Azur.
The museum's namesake, Victor Massena, became the Duke of Rivoli, when his older brother died, giving him the title that was passed to the oldest son in the family of military men and public servants. Victor lived a life of luxury after his birth in Paris in 1836; later, the rich and famous were received as guests of the Palais Massena over the years. Perhaps the best known guest in its history was the Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III. Today's visitors may not be royalty, but they are welcome to visit the Palais Massena Museum. Victor's son, Andrew, gave the family home to the city of Nice after World War II with the condition that it become a museum. A top-to-bottom restoration was completed in 2007, preserving the historic structure and enhancing visitor amenities.
The first visitors at the Massena Place Museum in Nice France crossed the threshold in 1921. Over the years, people have embarked on tours of the elegant house museum to see its collection of art, furnishings, and other items from France's Napoleonic history. In total, the collection includes more than 15,000 items that the elite would have had in their homes at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Along with the art, the Palais Massena collection also includes the library once owned by Victor Cessole. Over his illustrious career, Cessole pioneered mountaineering techniques, served as a senator, and was the Attorney General in Provence's parliament. The reading room and exhibit showplace at the Palais Massena Museum in Nice France was designed to be comfortable for the visitors and optimal for preserving the collection. Cessole bequeathed his books, photos, engravings, and other items to the museum 1933, which is still interesting to see today.
No tour is complete without spending some time strolling through the garden. The south slope of the gardens face the Mediterranean and its beaches, while the northern part of the gardens provide views of a landscaped courtyard. This lovely outdoor space was originally designed by France's version of Frederick Law Olmsted, Edourad Andre. Olmsted designed the gardens of Central Park, the U.S. Capitol, and many others, while Andre's works where revered around Europe. The garden, too, has been restored to match the glory of the original.
The Palais Massena Museum follows the same schedule as most of the other museums in Nice. It's open Wednesday through Monday, only closed on Tuesday and a few select holidays. Like the other municipal museums, the Massena Palace in Nice France is free to enter. You can save your money for other things to do, like a good dinner or a cocktail at the beach.