Saint-Nicolas Fort

A historic treasure in the heart of Marseille

The Saint Nicolas military fort, past and present


Built on the orders of Louis XIV between 1660 and 1664 by the Chevalier de Clerville, Fort Saint Nicolas was intended both to surveillance the city, and the Marseillais who were hostile to it, but also to protect it against attacks from the sea. The king was keen to have a citadel built in the “cleanest” part of the city. For its construction, stones from the old Porte Royale were used, as well as those from Cap Couronne.

Demolition and redevelopment

During the French Revolution, the people of Marseille, concerned about the threat the fort could represent, set about destroying it. The National Assembly ordered a halt to the destruction in order to preserve this defensive work. Restoration work began, with the grayish stone contrasting with the pinkish stone used in the past. In 1860, Fort Saint Nicolas was cut in two to allow automobile traffic on Boulevard Charles Livon, linking the Vieux Port and the Pharo district. Today still cut in two parts, the fort consists of a seaside portion: Ganteaume fort, and a landside portion: Entrecasteaux fort.


In 1823, following the Duc d’Angoulême’s expedition to Spain, many prisoners were confined at the fort. A few years later, in 1832, it was also used as a place of detention for sailors on the Duchess de Berry’s ship. Saint Nicolas Fort remained a prison until the end of the Second World War. From now on, Ganteaume Fort (on the seaward side of Saint Nicolas Fort ) housed the military circle and officers’ mess. Entrecasteaux Fort (on the landward side of Saint Nicolas Fort ), meanwhile, has a section open to the public for visits. You have the opportunity to climb the ramparts and enjoy the breathtaking view over the port and the town.

Visit Saint-Nicolas Fort

Usually, visits to Fort Saint-Nicolas are not possible; it is only open during certain events such as European Heritage Days, or on specific group requests. However, from June 1 until August 30, it will be possible to take a guided tour with the association La Citadelle de Marseille. Saint-Nicolas Fort will be opening the doors of its building wide to the public from spring 2024.

On arrival, be sure to observe the monument from the outside. To get there, you can take the M1 metro line and exit at Vieux-Port station, then walk about ten minutes. You can also come by bus, taking the 83 or 82S. You can also take your car and park in one of the nearby underground parking lots (Pharo or La Criée).