The Chagall Museum (Musée Chagall) is one of Nice’s two most popular museums, along with the Musée Matisse, which is located just up the hill. Although the collection is relatively small, it provides a satisfying and intimate glimpse into the magical and mystical world that Chagall envisioned. Chagall was closely involved in the design and arrangement of the museum, so you can be assured that when you view a painting or drawing, you’re seeing it the way Chagall wanted it to be seen.
MAJOR NOTE: Bring your passport or driver’s license with you. If you provide it at the entrance, you’ll be given a free audio guide to listen to. This is very helpful in understanding and appreciating what you’ll be looking at. If you don’t have either a passport or license, the women who run the coat check counter will not give you the guide no matter what you offer them. They are militant about this. One woman actually reached over and took back my 69-year-old friend’s audio guide when my friend could only offer her AARP (pensioners) card or a credit card as collateral.
The museum features two main rooms: the first contains twelve large paintings depicting scenes from the first two books of the Old Testament: Genesis and Exodus. The second room contains five smaller works that were inspired by the Song of Songs in the Old Testament.
For me, the highlight of the museum is the stained glass windows in the performance space. You’ll find this room at the far end of the gallery, to the left as you enter the building. On a sunny day, the light streaming through the blue and green glass panels makes for a stunning sight and bathes the room in a wonderful glow.
The video that plays in this room, alternating between French and English, is quite long, but very interesting if you want to know all about Chagall and his influences.
Traveling exhibitions are displayed in the space between the entrance hall and tthe he performance space. These seem to change every few months and all of the ones I’ve seen have been very good. If direct access to the performance space is not possible, you can access the space by exiting the building and walking back toward where you bought your ticket. Immediately before you arrive back at the ticket building/bookshop, you’ll see on the right an alternate entrance to the performance space. Note that this entrance is only used when new exhibits are being installed.
Open Wednesday through Monday from 10am to 5pm (November to April) and from 10am to 6pm (May to October). Closed on Tuesdays and on New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, May 1, and Christmas Day. Note that because it’s a national museum, not a city museum, you cannot use the city museum pass to gain entrance.
The museum is located at 36 Avenue Dr Ménard in the northern part of Nice. To arrive by bus, take the 15 or 22 (1.50 euros) and get off at the Musee Chagall stop. Cross the street (Boulevard de Cimiez) and walk uphill to the first cross street, which is Dr. Ménard. The museum entrance is on your left as soon as you turn into the Avenue Dr Ménard.
Tickets are 10 euros for adults, children 18 and under get in free. It’s also free for students and pensioners who have ID with them. The museum is free to everyone the first Sunday of each month.
There’s a charming little open-air cafe in the garden in front of the museum. La Buvette du Musee (The Museum Tavern) is open every day but Tuesday. The cafe has 6 bistro tables scattered around an outdoor patio and on the grass. For days with inclement weather, there’s also seating for about 20 people inside. Wifi is available, too; just ask the server for the password. The menu includes crepes, wraps, salads, chicken dishes, and ice creams all at reasonable prices. Overall, the cafe is a pleasant place to sit and have lunch or a snack, especially on a sunny day. If you’re lucky, you’ll encounter the cafe owners’ cute little white terrier, Toto, who wanders around quietly grumbling to himself all day.
If you enjoyed this blog post, check out our reviews of Nice’s best known art museums:
Note: I haven’t written about the Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain (MAMAC) because everyone I’ve brought there has hated it. In fact, two of the people on separate days were in and out in less than 15 minutes. To be honest, I’m not a fan of it either. I’d recommend any of the other three art museums in town if you’re looking for world-class art.