Palais Longchamp Extérieur
Discover a timeless place

The Palais Longchamp park

It is one of the most beautiful parks in Marseille, and undoubtedly one of the most appreciated by the inhabitants. Located in the city centre, with nearly 8 hectares of greenery, it surprises as soon as you enter with its fountains and monumental waterfalls. Discover a timeless place just a stone’s throw from the Canebière!

The history of the Palais Longchamp park

This park is a grandiose setting that celebrates the arrival of water in Marseille. Water has always been a major issue and became the main concern of the municipality, accentuated by a cholera epidemic in 1835. As early as the 16th century, plans were made to dig a canal to supply Marseille with water from the Durance. As early as 1838, projects for the digging of this canal were drawn up, and Franz Mayor de Montricher, engineer of bridges and roads, was selected. A major architectural competition was launched and Henry Espérandieu was chosen. Marseille also owes him the Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica. In order to dig this 93 kilometre long canal, it was necessary to open underground passages and build 18 bridges and aqueducts.
Nearly 15 years of work were necessary to build the water tower, which was completed in 1869 with the construction of the Palais Longchamp, an architectural complex linking two museums by a monumental covered colonnade: the Museum of Natural History in the right wing and the Museum of Fine Arts in the left wing.

The Palais Longchamp park

The creation of the public garden

The ‘plateau’ garden was inaugurated in 1869, at the same time as the water tower, while the ‘Observatory garden’ was created between 1863 and 1864. Underground basins, essential elements of the hydraulic system, in the form of two large superimposed rooms supported by a multitude of heavy pillars, constitute an immense reservoir of water intended to be redistributed in the city.
Espérandieu designed a French garden behind the water tower.  Access to this garden on the plateau is via the colonnade, behind the waterfall representing the Durance and the arrival of the Canal in Marseille.

The zoological garden

The idea of installing a zoological garden on the ‘plateau’ garden was considered at the beginning of the garden’s development (in 1854). Construction began a few years later, in 1856. As the surface area of the zoo (5 hectares) was too small, the municipality decided to extend the park below the garden, beyond the present Boulevard Cassini. This two-part zoo was connected by a bridge over the Boulevard Cassini and by a staircase along a waterfall. The zoo had a wide variety of animal species. It closed in 1987. The cages are still visible today.

The park today

Today the park is home to rides, playgrounds (some in the shape of animals to remind us of the zoo) and several play areas for children.  The park is ideal for picnics and walks. Pony rides are also available, as well as a refreshment stand, two snack bars and toilets.
There is also a botanical garden and the old zoo is still visible. The old cages have been preserved, some of the animals have been replaced by colourful, life-size fibreglass animals. Indeed, on the occasion of Marseille European Capital of Culture in 2013, an open-air exhibition of animals was created in the Parc Longchamp, and some of these colourful animals regularly ‘came out’ of the zoo to be exhibited in the city centre to the delight of passers-by. You can still see these strange animals in the old zoo cages today!
In 2005, the Ministry of Culture recognised the Longchamp garden as a ‘remarkable garden of France’.

Activities all year round

The Parc Longchamp is a privileged place that hosts many events. Every summer, the ‘Marseille Jazz Festival of the Five Continents’ takes place there, with internationally renowned artists, open-air cinema, exhibitions, and events such as ‘the legendary lights of China’, which in 2019 allowed us to discover animals made of silk and illuminated at nightfall, in a magical atmosphere for everyone!

The Marseille Observatory

During a walk in the park, you can go to the observatory to enjoy a beautiful attraction based on astronomy. The Andromeda association introduces visitors to the sky, the constellations, the planets, the movement of the moon and the sun, and to the universe. Planetarium sessions for all audiences are offered: they are followed, when the weather permits, by observation of sunspots.
Before and after these sessions, exhibitions and guided tours allow visitors to discover the Observatory’s large telescope, the 80 cm diameter Foucault telescope (the largest in the world for a century). The history of the large telescope, the moon and the satellites of the planets, or light and astronomical instruments will no longer hold any secrets for you!
The association offers three levels of astronomy courses and seminars open to all.
It’s a fun and instructive activity to do with your family during your stay in Marseille!