In the 16th century, François I recognized the strategic advantage of an island fortress surveying the mouth of Marseille's vast harbor and built this imposing edifice. Its effect as a deterrent was so successful that the fortress never saw combat, and was eventually converted into a prison. It was here that Alexandre Dumas locked up his most famous character, the Count of Monte Cristo. Though the count was fictional, the hole through which Dumas had him escape is real
enough, on display in the cells. On the other hand, the real-life Man in the Iron Mask, whose cell is also erroneously on display, was not imprisoned here. The IF Frioul Express boat ride (from the Quai des Belges, €10; for information call 04–96–11–03–50) and the views from the broad terrace are worth the trip.
Marseille, 13001, France
Dec 6, 2009
Loved it. I was sitting on the wall by the ferry docks in Marseille on a Sunday afternoon and saw a ferry pull in. On impulse, I went to the ticket window and asked if the ferry was going to Chateau d'If. It was and I went. The ride both ways was fun with an interesting mix of people, families with picnic baskets, lovers, school children on an outing, and tourists, like me. The weather was perfect and I walked around the island, bought a sandwich
and drink at the small cafe, which I enjoyed high above the sea. After walking around the island I went through the prison/museum. It was patrimony day, so I didn't even have to pay! Very atmospheric. I had great sympathy for the prisoners who were locked in the small stone cells with only a tiny window from which to see boats passing on the beautiful Mediterranean. There is a small gift shop with interesting sounvinirs.