A palace built to hide a water tower in the 1860s, the Palais Longchamp is a remarkable work of architecture that commemorates the arrival of water via the canal from the Durance river that was created to supply the city of Marseille with water after the cholera epidemic of 1835. Visit the beautiful gardens full of statues and waterfalls where you'll also find the 300 year old astronomical observatory, Marseille's oldest astronomical institution. Inside the circular colonnade of the building itself, are housed both the Fine Arts Museum and the Natural History Museum of Marseille. The exterior of the building is richly decorated with sculptures evoking the abundance and fertility that the canal water brings. Inside the beautiful architecture forms a wonderful backdrop to the art collections and science collections of the two museums.
The astronomical observatory plays host to a planetarium with sessions for all ages, the famous Foucalt telescope which stands 80cm in diameter looking up at the stars, and the dome of the 26cm original 19th century telescope. There is also an exhibition hall with temporary exhibitions showcasing topical research and a collection of ancient astronomical instruments. For those more interested in science on earth, the Natural History Museum features collections on paleontology, botany, zoology, mineralogy and more. Creatives will enjoy the Fine Arts Museum, the oldest museum in Marseille, with many works form 19th century French artists as well as a collection of 16th and 17th paintings by French and Italian painters.