Palais Lascaris Museum in Old Nice

Since I live in Old Nice, I really love this little museum because it shows what Vieux Nice used to be like, and gives a glimpse into the ritziest family home in town. My apartment has the same architecture, windows, ceilings, and those amazing doors, but since they have been painted over a hundred times, it feeds my imagination to come to the Palais Lascaris and see these rooms restored to their original medieval glory.

This baroque-style ‘palace’ was built in the early 1600’s for the richest and most powerful family in town, the Vintimille-Lascaris family.  Check out the grand staircase, the arches, the unusual carved doors and special hinges (automatic door-closers!), the fresques, and the ingenious medieval air-conditioning system.  There are around 20 other ‘palais’ in Old Nice, all with similar architectural elements… if you are renting a holiday apartment in the old town, like from AirB&B, you might even be staying in one and will recognize some of the features!

The Vintimille-Lascaris family kept the building until 1801, just after the French Revolution. At that point, the city outside of Old Nice was growing rapidly with the Golden Age, but the old town was sliding into squalor, and by the beginning of the 20th century Old Nice had metamorphosed into a veritable slum: all these formerly fancy digs were occupied by multiple poor families, usually having only one shared sink and toilet for all families on each floor. Even up through the 1960’s, apartments in Old Nice didn’t have refrigerators, the streets were full of garbage and rats, and kids routinely peed out the windows on to the passersby, earning Old Nice the nickname ‘babazouk‘ or monster’s lair. Despite its ritzy origins, this house was no different, and even after it was acquired by the city in the 40’s, it was still inhabited by squatters until the restorations commenced in the 1960’s.

The museum is in three parts.  The temporary exhibit, the curious collection of ancient musical instruments (the 2nd largest antique musical instrument collection in France), and the opulently restored rooms with furniture and artifacts from the period.

How to get there:  Take the tramway to ‘Cathedrale’, then take the street on either side of the tram stop down into the Old Town until you get to the Cathedral at Place Rossetti.  Now walk up rue Rossetti toward the Chateau, turn left on rue Droite, and you will see the museum on your left, at 15 rue Droite.

Hours: 10am to 6pm; closed Mondays, May 1, Easter, Christmas and Jan. 1.

Guided Tours:  Only in French, Fridays at 3pm, for 6€; check at the front desk for the schedule, as they sometimes have other tours on other days.

Tickets: 10€ for adults, or 20€ for 7-day municipal museum card 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.

Even though this is a Municipal Museum, it is one of only two (the Matisse Museum is the other) that doesn’t have a shared admission ticket with one or more other museums. Frankly, I think a 10€ admission just for this tiny museum is a bit steep, so I would instead recommend getting the 20€ 7-day municipal museum card good for all 14 museums and galleries in Nice.

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

Photo Credits: Stairway by Dalbera, Lascaris 2 by Nataraja, both licensed under Creative Commons.

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