It was established under Napoleon I at the beginning of the 19th-century as part of the popularisation of art. This museum is dedicated to fine arts, modern art and antiquities and is one of the largest and richest art museums in France.
When the museum initially opened in 1809 it was housed in a church confiscated from the Récollets, before being transferred to the city's town hall. Its current building is typical of the monumental architecture of the late 19th-century.
Fully renovated in 1997, it includes some noteworthy collections including European artwork, sculptures and various 17th and 18th-century ceramics. The museum also presents plans-reliefs (relief models) of 15 fortified towns in Northern France and Belgium, previously used by the French during battle.