Fort Saint-Nicolas

Castle in Marseille

Fort Saint-Nicolas Marseille
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Ainars Brūvelis

Fort St-Nicolas, a star-shaped fortress from the 17th century, stands watch over the southern side of Marseille’s harbor. Built by Louis XIV, this formidable structure was designed to guard the city and, notably, to keep its occasionally rebellious citizens in check—a fact underscored during the Revolution when locals attempted to destroy it.

History of Fort Saint Nicholas

Constructed between 1660 and 1664 under the reign of King Louis XIV, Fort Saint Nicholas was ostensibly built to protect Marseille’s port. However, its true purpose was also to suppress any local insurrections against the city’s governor. Unlike traditional fortifications designed to ward off external threats, the cannons of Fort Saint Nicholas, much like those at the nearby Fort Saint Jean, were aimed inward towards the city itself.

The fort was strategically positioned behind the Abbaye Saint-Victor, with construction commencing on March 2, 1660, during a visit from King Louis XIV. Remarkably, the entire structure was completed in just four years, a testament to the urgency and resources devoted to its construction.

In the 18th century, the fort served as a military prison and was fully garrisoned. It faced significant damage in 1790 when it was stormed by the people of Marseille during the French Revolution. The destruction was halted a month later by the intervention of the Assemblée Nationale.

Restoration efforts in the early 19th century introduced new sections made from grey bricks, distinguishing them from the original pink brickwork.

Fort Saint Nicholas Today

Today, Fort Saint Nicholas consists of two main parts: Fort Ganteaume, which borders the sea and currently accommodates a military circle and officers’ mess, and Fort d’Entrecasteaux, the higher part on the land side. While only parts of the complex are accessible to the public, those areas that are open offer a chance to walk the ramparts and enjoy breathtaking views of the port and Marseille itself.

The fort has been recognized as a Historic Monument since 1969, celebrating its architectural significance and historical importance to the city of Marseille.

The Fort Saint-Nicolas appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Marseille!

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Visiting Fort Saint-Nicolas



Winter: Saturday/Sunday

Summer: Wednesday – Sunday

12 p.m. – 10 p.m.

See their website.


€12 Booking Required

Address: Fort Saint-Nicolas, Montée du Souvenir Français, Marseille, France
Duration: 1 hours

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