Discover in this article the Palace Lascaris – Museum of musical instruments, in Nice. Located in the heart of the old town, this baroque architectural gem is a former aristocratic residence, a historical monument, and a museum. You will find luxurious ceremonial apartments, rooms dedicated to the museum’s collection of musical instruments, as well as spaces for temporary exhibitions.
Find all our practical advice to plan your visit and let yourself be guided inside this palace with a fascinating history!
This review is completely independent, we visited anonymously and paid our admission in full.
Why visit the Palais Lascaris – Museum of Musical Instruments?
The Lascaris Palace was built in the middle of the 17th century, for a family of the nobility of Nice, the Lascaris-Vintimille. At that time, many buildings in the Baroque style were erected. The Rue Droite, one of the main thoroughfares of Nice, saw the construction of a dozen churches alongside the Palais Lascaris, which bear witness to the evolution of Baroque architecture in the 17th and 18th centuries. Classified in 1946, the Palais Lascaris, with its monumental staircase, its frescoes, and its collections of furniture and ancient art, is the most emblematic baroque monument in the city.
Is the Palais Lascaris – Museum of Musical Instruments worth it? Our opinion:
Absolutely! The Palais Lascaris, which became the Municipal Musical Instruments Museum in 1970, presents particularly interesting temporary exhibitions. It has, in addition to its magnificent architecture, a very rich collection. We particularly liked the antique furniture, but also the numerous models of harps exhibited in the different rooms of the museum.
Why is the Palais Lascaris Palace famous?
The Lascaris Palace is famous for its baroque architecture, but also and above all as a reference museum on ancient musical instruments. In fact, its collection is the second most important in France, just behind the Musée de la Musique in Paris! It is also a recognized collection in this field throughout Europe.
PLAN YOUR STAY IN Nice
- What to do in Nice: 15 ideas (+ tips)
- Where to stay in Nice: 15 best hotels
- Where to eat in Nice: 20 best restaurants
- The 12 best museums in Nice
- Visit the Palais Lascaris
- Visit the MAMAC Museum
- Visit the Museum of Photography
- Itineraries: 1 day – 2 days – 3 days
- Rent a car in Nice (airport or train station)
- Most beautiful villages around Nice
History in brief
The history of the Lascaris Palace is intimately linked to that of the family for which it was built. The Lascaris-Vintimille family’s ancestor was Eudoxie Lascaris, princess of the Byzantine dynasty. Married in 1261 to Guillaume-Pierre de Vintimille, she ruled the empire of Nicea following the capture of Constantinople in 1204 by the Crusaders, better known as the Franks.
Among his descendants, there are many knights and dignitaries of the Order of Malta, including Jean-Baptiste Lascaris (1600-1650). Lord of Castellar, a territory near Menton, he was also marshal of camp of the Duke of Savoy, Charles Emmanuel II. Thanks to his power, the Lascaris-Vintimille family was able to build the Lascaris palace, inspired by the Genoese baroque style, which they owned until the Revolution.
As a result, the palace deteriorated rapidly before being put up for sale in 1802. It is only in 1942 that it was bought by the municipality of Nice, which had to carry out important works from 1963 to rehabilitate it. 1970 marks the opening of this new museum dedicated to the decorative arts, fine arts and music of the 17th and 18th centuries. Its resource center also has significant documentation on the history of the region. The Palais Lascaris, now called “Palais Lascaris – Museum of Musical Instruments”, is a certified French Museum.
Useful tips: Palais Lascaris – Museum of musical instruments, Nice, France
Where is the Lascaris Palace located?
The Palais Lascaris – Musée des instruments de musique is located at 15 rue Droite in Nice (06300) in France.
- Driving time from Marseille: 02h20min.
- Driving time from Nice: 15min.
- Driving time from Avignon: 02h50min.
- Driving time from Montpellier: 03h40min.
- Driving time from Toulon: 01h50min.
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How to get there
You can get to Nice by car, plane, or train. Nice is served by TER trains from Marseille, as well as regular TGV lines from Valence or Paris.
The old town of Nice, in which the Lascaris Palace is located, is characterized by its narrow streets. It is therefore difficult to drive there.
We therefore advise you to reach the museum by public transport.
The Cathedral-Old City stop is a 5-minute walk from the museum. To get there, you can take the following lines:
- Tramway: Line 1.
- Bus lines 08, 12, 15, 33, 38, P.
There is no dedicated parking. It is not possible to park in Old Nice. To park, you must go to the surrounding parking lots.
Here is a list of the nearest parking lots:
- Parking of the Palais de Justice (paying): 2min from the museum by car, 5min on foot Address: 19 Rue Alexandre Mari, 06000 Nice.
- Parking Parcheggio Cascate (free): 12 min. from the museum by car, 10 min. on foot. Address: 13 rue du Malonat, 06300 Nice.
- Parking Station Auto bleue (electric terminal): 8min from the museum by car, 5min on foot. Address: 1 Place Saint Augustin, 06000 Nice.
Best time to visit the Lascaris Palace
For your visit, if possible, favour periods outside school vacations. If you want to avoid the crowds, it is best to visit the museum during the week. Visit at opening time or just before closing time, with peak attendance on Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm. On other days, the crowd grows from 2pm to 5pm.
How long to visit the museum and main difficulties
The visit lasts about 1 hour. Toilets are available, as well as a water fountain. It is mandatory to leave bulky items (umbrella, stroller, etc.) at the reception desk. You can find a store. The floor is not very difficult and there are not many steps.
However, the place is not accessible to people with reduced mobility: the entrance and the toilets are not adapted, and there is no elevator because of the classification of this museum as a historical monument.
For the same reasons as mentioned above, if possible, choose a baby carrier instead of a stroller for your family visits!
Animals are not allowed inside the palace.
Advice on how to visit
It is advisable to start the visit on the first floor and then go up to the second floor, but it is quite possible to do the opposite depending on the number of visitors in the different areas.
The Lascaris Palace – Museum of musical instruments with children
If you are with your family, we advise you to ask for a visit document adapted to children at the museum reception. Indeed, the permanent collection is only intended for an adult audience.
WHERE TO STAY IN Nice
Option 1: facing the sea
You dream of enjoying the sea view during our stay in Nice. We understand, it is very relaxing. You will find mainly 4 and 5 stars.
- Anantara Hotel – prices, pictures and availability
Option 2: close to the sea
At only 10 minutes walk from the waterfront, you will find a very large choice of hotels of all ranges.
- Hotel Apollinaire, elegant and bright – see prices, photos and availability
Option 3: by the sea
If you are looking for a less classical atmosphere, stay in the heart of the old town near the main attractions.
- Aparthotel AMMI Vieux Nice very practical and pleasant – see prices, photos and availability
Schedules and rates
The Palais Lascaris is open every day from 10 am to 6 pm, except on Tuesdays.
It is exceptionally closed on January 1st, Easter Sunday, May 1st and December 25th.
You will find the price list below:
Adult rate: 5 €.
Free (except for groups) for:
- Children under 18 and students.
- Job seekers.
- Beneficiaries of social minima.
- Persons with disabilities and their companions.
- Museum curators.
- Teachers (upon presentation of the Education Pass).
If you are an art and history lover, it may be worthwhile to buy the 3-day Museum Pass (15 €, access to all municipal museums and galleries during 72 hours).
For more information on the rates, please visit the dedicated page on the official website.
To take a guided tour lasting about an hour, you can go directly to the museum reception on Mondays and Wednesdays at 2pm.
The individual rate is 6,20 €.
Guided tours are free for children under 13 and during cultural events.
For more information, do not hesitate to contact the museum reception at 04 93 62 72 40.
As the Palais Lascaris is located in the heart of Old Nice, you will have no trouble finding restaurants to eat at.
Here is our selection of nearby restaurants:
- Restaurant JAN: a starred cuisine inspired by the flavors of South Africa.
- Restaurant La Rotonde (5* hotel Le Negresco): a chic brasserie emblematic of the Riviera.
- Restaurant Le Panier: gastronomic cuisine in a friendly atmosphere.
- Restaurant Peixes: specializes in seafood cuisine, revisited in an original way.
- Maïdo Japanese Bistro: seasonal Japanese dishes, meant to be shared in the spirit of tapas.
- Restaurant Sentimi: a traditional and refined Italian cuisine.
If you prefer to have a picnic, you can go to the Castle Hill Park. At 10 minutes walk from the museum, you can enjoy the sun or on the contrary, picnic in the shade while enjoying a breathtaking view of Nice.
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Beginning of the visit to the Lascaris Palace (ground floor + 1st floor)
The hall of honor and its monumental staircase
After admiring the façade with its balconies and majestic white marble entrance, you enter the main hall. Look at the ceiling: the vault is decorated with frescoes, which feature white ornamental patterns on a light red background. Can you spot the coat of arms of the Lascaris-Vintimille family with their motto “nec me fulgura”, which means “even lightning does not strike me”?
The same decorative frescoes made by Genoese artists can be found all along the monumental staircase. Restored in 1996 and 2001, they make this late 18th century staircase particularly striking, as do the marble statues that line the landings. You can see the gods Mars and Venus, but also carved busts representing the ancestors of the Lascaris-Vintimille family. They are in niches framed by stucco ornaments in the rococo style.
Rooms dedicated to temporary exhibitions
On the first floor, the rooms with low ceilings are reminiscent of certain rooms in Italian palaces. In the 18th century, this floor was made up of private apartments, occupied by members of the family of Count Lascaris. Today, the museum sometimes uses them as temporary exhibition spaces, just like the first floor. It is on the first floor that we were able to visit the exhibition “Le Baroque de A à Z, La Chambre des Merveilles, par Sylvie T”.
The exhibition allowed us to discover the work of the Nice-based illustrator Sylvie T, who through her drawings and engravings, offers a new vision of the palace and the Baroque style.
The museum maintains a dialogue with contemporary art. For example, we were able to admire a sculpture by Arman in the courtyard.
Works were also being installed for an exhibition dedicated to visual artist Odon (1940-2017). Braids of the artist were visible in the different rooms of the noble floor.
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The noble floor: the ceremonial apartments (east wing)
Still following the model of the Genoese aristocratic palaces, the second floor, or “noble floor”, is made up of representative apartments. In other words, these rooms are particularly luxurious, to show the wealth and power of the owners. Thus, the ceilings are decorated with mythological frescoes dating from the seventeenth century and made by Genoese artists. This is the case of the Phaeton show, the most important of the Palace.
The grand salon or Phaeton salon
Unfortunately, we were not able to visit the main exhibition. It was closed due to the installation of an exhibition.
However, this room must be very interesting. Indeed, its ceiling represents “the Fall of Phaeton struck by Jupiter”. According to the legend, Phaeton, the son of the god of the Sun, borrowed his father’s chariot, but lost control of it, almost burning the Earth. Some aristocratic families consider themselves to be descendants of this demigod, and it is common to see this kind of representation in their residences.
The walls are decorated with hangings from the Aubusson workshops, representing the History of the Love of Antony and Cleopatra.
Conferences and concerts are frequently organized in this exhibition.
The antechamber or salon of Venus and Adonis
The visit continues in the antechamber, also called the salon of Venus and Adonis. Indeed, you can see on the ceiling Venus and her lover Adonis, sitting in a chariot pulled by Mercury. The scene is framed by an architectural frieze in trompe l’oeil.
You can see a hanging, but also “marines” above the doors. These paintings date from the 18th century and were installed in 2002. The original paintings disappeared during the Revolution.
The ceremonial room
You will undoubtedly be impressed by the richness of the decor in this room. The ceiling and its profusion of ornaments, representing Psyche carried by Mercury in Olympus, are characteristic of Genoese painting of the 17th and 18th centuries.
On the walls, two hangings dedicated to the story of Achilles after the models of Rubens, further enrich the decoration.
The furniture is sumptuous. We admired a Louis XIV chest of drawers, or a pair of gilded lacquered wood torches attributed to the Genoese workshop of Filippo and Domenico Parodi.
But what caught our attention the most was this partition with its stucco statues separating the alcove from the rest of the room!
The noble floor: the ceremonial apartments (west wing)
Then, after having crossed the antechamber of the chapel, you will find yourself in this space of meditation. The chapel was used for religious purposes (private services, weddings, baptisms…) by the Lascaris-Vintimille family until the 1750s. It was then transformed into a bedroom alcove, installed in the neighboring salon des saisons.
Once again, don’t forget to look up to admire the ceiling. Still in stucco but this time enhanced with gilding, we see an allegorical scene: “Wisdom defying Time and Death”. Athena stands next to Chronos, himself at the side of the angel, announcing death with the symbol of the scythe.
Finally, don’t miss the five portraits of Old Testament characters. Restored in 2021, these gilded leather panels from the 16th century have been found to be the oldest preserved in France!
Room or lounge known as “Knights of Malta”.
In this small salon are exposed portraits of personalities from Nice or Provence. All of them were members of the Order of Malta, as were many members of the Lascaris-Vintimille family.
A display case contains medals, crosses, and seals of the Order of Malta.
The living room of the seasons
Although this room became a bedroom in the mid-18th century, its late 17th century ceiling remains intact. It was made by workshops in Lombardy. We also owe them the decoration of the side vaults of the cathedral of Sainte-Réparate in Nice.
Take a look at the Louis XVI secretary with flap, on the marquetry decoration, you will see various musical instruments!
The stucco cabinet
The Lombardy workshops we mentioned earlier also decorated the ceiling of this small room.
On the platform, you can admire a wooden harp of the eighteenth century, attributed to Naderman. It comes from the Gisèle Tissier-Grandpierre-Institut de France Foundation collection, which occupies a large part of the museum.
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The antechamber of the chapel
Many musical instruments are displayed in this large room. They belonged to the harpist Gisèle Grandpierre-Desaux (1896-1988). This artist had a strong link with the French Riviera. From 1924 to 1926, she organized artistic and social events there. In 1948, she moved to Nice, at the foot of Mont-Boron. She acquires the Villa Beau-Site, in which she creates more than 400 musical compositions. She also stores her collection of musical instruments. The oldest ones date from the 17th century. Wishing to make her collection accessible to the public, she bequeathed it to the Institut de France at her death.
The signing of a deposit agreement between the Palais Lascaris and the Institut de France in 2013 allowed the museum to enrich its collection. 65 classified musical instruments, including 18 harps that belonged to the artist, are thus exposed.
The Gautier rooms
Two rooms on the second floor display the museum’s main collection of musical instruments, that of Antoine Gautier (1825-1904). This violinist from Nice formed a quartet with his brother, Raymond Gautier. He welcomed many famous musicians, such as Gabriel Fauré and Jacques Thibaud, to his home. Its collection consists of 225 musical instruments from all over the world. It is the 2nd most important in France. It allows us to understand the musical tastes of the upper middle class of Nice at the time, from which Antoine Gautier came.
We particularly liked the string instruments in these rooms. A wide variety of viols, mandolins, and cistres are on display. You will see unknown instruments that you have probably never seen before! Very old scores are also on display.
Our favorite instruments from the collection
Among the many instruments on display, here are our favorite pieces from the museum:
- The case: presented in the antechamber, this miniature violin was a real challenge for the violin makers. Used from the 16th to the 19th century by dancing masters or itinerant violinists, the pouch was appreciated for its practicality.
- The miniature clavichierium: next to the miniature violin, a miniature Florentine harpsichord, called a clavichierium, can be seen in the antechamber. Its painted decorations on gilded wood were much appreciated.
- The bird’s wing spinet: this spinet, a kind of harpsichord, dates from 1680. It is exposed in the living room of the seasons. This is one of the few known examples made by Pierre Rozet. This manufacturer, called a harpsichord maker, worked at the court of Versailles for great composers.
These few examples are among the many discoveries that have been made in the Lascaris Palace. If you too would like to see atypical instruments, plan your visit now!
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