The Nice Observatory

Magic in the Moonlight movie posterThe 130-year-old Nice Observatory is not a museum at all, but a working astrophysics and astronomy lab with several planet discoveries to its name. You might recognize it if you saw the recent Woody Allen film Magic in the Moonlight.

The Nice Observatory was designed by a collaboration of two the greatest luminaries of their day: Gustave Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame bien sur, and Charles Garnier who designed the ornate Paris Opera and Monte Carlo Casino.

 

Coupole Bischoffsheim.jpg

But it was Eiffel who came up with the ingenious floating system for making the giant telescope mobile: a small man-made lake was dug out and filled with water, and the coupole was then erected on a floating platform, allowing the the 92-ton dome to be easily rotated into whatever viewing position was required!   Nowadays the telescope and dome are maneuvered by hydraulics, but you have to admire the genius of such a creative solution…

How to get there:  The best way is by car, and limited free parking is available.  It is also possible to go by bus: From the Nice Riquier train station (accessible by bus #7 or a 10 minute walk from the tram stop Palais des Expostions), take bus #84 which goes roughly every 30 minutes and will take 15 minutes to reach the stop ‘Observatoire‘.  Note that as of this writing the bus #84 was not running on Sundays.

Hours:  Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 2:45pm. The group size is limited to 25 people, so it’s best to reserve in advance here.

Tickets:  6€ for adults, but reduced to 3€ for students and children over 6.

The tour:  The 2-hour tour is in French only and takes place mostly outdoors, walking 2 kilometers (1 mile and a half) around the scientific compound, over sometimes steep hilly terrain (but worth it for the stupendous views), finally finishing in the inner sanctum of the cupola.  Even if you have only a basic grasp of French, the tour is still fascinating, the views magnificent, and all in all a rare experience to get to go inside an observatory and peer through such a telescope. English tours can also be arranged in advance for a cost of 90€ for the group at  groupenice@oca.eu

A couple of times a year there are rare tour opportunities a night for some serious star-gazing.  Check the site for info…

See related page on the History of Nice:  21 Fascinating Facts About Nice  

Photo credits:  Cupola by Ericd, licensed under creative commons.  Poster from Magic in the Moonlight from Amazon.com.

 

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