Château d'If

Castle in Marseille

CC BY-SA 4.0 / Acediscovery

Nestled on the Île d’If, the smallest island of the Frioul archipelago and only 1.5 kilometers off the coast of Marseille, the Château d’If stands as a formidable fortress with a storied past. Constructed in the 16th century, it initially served as a prison until the late 19th century. In 1890, the fortress was demilitarized and opened to the public, quickly becoming a key attraction in Marseille.

The fortress is designed as a square structure, each side measuring 28 meters (92 feet) with three stories, complemented by three towers equipped with gun embrasures. Its construction was commissioned by King Francis I in 1516, who recognized the island’s strategic importance for defending the coast from sea invasions.

The Château d’If’s reputation as an inescapable prison due to its remote location and strong offshore currents made it a feared place for political and religious prisoners across France.

Its fame was further cemented by Alexandre Dumas’ 1844 novel “The Count of Monte Cristo,” where characters Edmond Dantès and Abbé Faria are famously imprisoned. The tale captures Dantès’ dramatic escape after fourteen years, adding a layer of mystique to the fortress’ history.

Opened to the public on September 23, 1890, the Château is accessible by boat from Marseille’s old port and remains a popular destination, particularly as the setting for Dumas’ novel. Mark Twain visited in July 1867, describing his tour in “The Innocents Abroad” and speculating on the legend of the “Iron Mask” purportedly held there, though this remains unverified.

Today, the Château d’If is celebrated as a “Historical Monument” and continues to draw visitors with its peaceful grounds, historical intrigue, and panoramic views of Marseille from its upper levels. It offers amenities like a café with outdoor seating where visitors can relax after exploring the prison cells tied to the Monte Cristo legend.

Why You Should Visit: Enjoy a scenic boat ride from the Old Port, explore historical cells, and unwind at the on-site café with spectacular views.

Tip: Take advantage of the Marseille City Pass for this trip, but remember the island may close in adverse weather or rough sea conditions. Make sure to explore both the upper levels for views and the base of the Château for a complete experience.

Important!:To get to the castle, you can take a ferry from the Old Port in Marseille (Vieux Port) which will take you to the Island of If. The price of this ferry is not included in the price of the ticket to Château d’If.

The Château d'If appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Marseille!

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Visiting Château d'If


April 1 to September 30

10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

October 1 to March 31

10 a.m. – 5.15 p.m.

Closed on Mondays


Adults €7

Address: Château d'If, Marseille, France
Duration: 1 hours and 30 minutes
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