Inside the most beautiful villa on the Promenade des Anglais, right next to the iconic Hotel Negresco, you’ll find the elegant Musee Massena. Surrounded by stately manicured gardens, the estate is an oasis of tranquility, and the villa itself has been beautifully restored.
Although the museum itself is rather spotty and unfocused, the sumptuous villa is a pleasure to explore. There are some very intriguing artifacts, artworks and displays (especially on Napoleon), but you will probably not catch the full significance due to complete lack of English explanations; and even if you do read French, the signs are dryly written and difficult to read.
The first floor is decorated with artwork, antique furnishings and personal effects from the Massena family that built this home, and whose family history was deeply entwined with Napoleon and the history of Nice. The second floor is consecrated on thematic elements of the history of Nice from the 19th century through just before WWII, including military memorabilia and uniforms.
A particularly interesting display has personal memorabilia from Napoleon and Josephine including a cape and tiara that she once wore, some of their letters, and even Napoleon’s death mask! The third floor displays historic documents, including some fun drawings, photos, advertising, and tourism posters from the turn of the century.
How to get there: By bus take #8 or 11 which both go along the Prom, and get off at the Congres-Promenade stop; or take #7 getting off at Dante-Gambetta, or the #9 or 10 getting off at the Rivoli stop. The address is technically 65 rue de France (one street inland from the Prom) but it’s easiest to spot and access from its entrance on the Prom, next to the iconic pink turrets of the Hotel Negresco.
Hours: 10am to 6pm; closed Tuesdays, May 1, Easter, Christmas and Jan. 1.
Guided Tours: Only in French, at 3pm on Friday’s, for 6€
Tickets: 10€ for adults, or 20€ for 7-day municipal museum card (recommended) good for 14 museums and galleries in Nice. Free for children under 18, students of any age with student ID, locals with the blue Pass Musee, or with the French Riviera Pass. Click here for more info on the various museum passes.
By the way, your ticket includes admission to the Prieure du Vieux Logis within 48-hours. A very small museum in a small villa, it’s full of religious medieval art, furniture and artifacts from the period. Open 10am – 6pm, closed Tuesday, located at 59 avenue Saint-Barthelemy in North Nice, tram stop Gorbella.
While you’re in the neighborhood at the Musee Massena… I recommend going to another type of museum, Hotel Negresco, just across the street. This time your ticket for admission to get past the top-hat-and-tights-wearing doormen is simply to have an over-priced cocktail is the wonderfully clubby bar. Then you can wander around the iconic palace, an amusing mix of elegance and quirky kitsch, all lovingly chosen by its eccentric owner. Don’t miss the ballroom with the Gustave Eiffel designed cupola and an enormous Baccarat crystal chandelier made for a Russian Tsar …which is complemented by a giant pop-art sculpture by Niki de Saint Phalle of a big woman with a tiny head, spinning on a pedestal. Or the salon with the giant portrait of Louis XIV showing off his legs, …or the bathrooms, …or the elevator, …or the breakfast room… This hotel is truly a museum in its own right.
- Back up to main History Museums page