If castle

Fortress island between Legend and History

Built at the beginning of the Renaissance, under the reign of François I, the Château d’If stands with its towers and ramparts on an island in the Frioul Archipelago off Marseille. An impregnable fortress and formidable prison, the Château d’If is now one of the most visited tourist monuments in the city of Marseille. Discover a citadel that is part of Marseille’s heritage, where history is mixed with legend!

A citadel  to protect Marseille

The Mediterranean sea contributes to Marseille prosperity but was  also at the origin of tragic events.The city was besieged by the armies of the Holy Roman Empire in 1524 and only saved by its walls and the announcement of the  arrival of French reinforcements

François Ier,aware of strategic importance of the  city (prosperous port open to the  Mediterranean Sea), decide to  reinforce its defenses by  building an impregnable fortress on a islet beaten by the ‘Mistral’ but occupying a strategic position on the access road to the calanque of the  Lacydon  this massive and powerfully armed fortress  had  a triple function :

        Prevent an enemy fleet from invading the city by the sea, as was the case in 1423 by Aragonese troops.

  • To protect the royal arsenals, and to  cover the  exits and entrances of galleys anchored there
  • To reinforce the Royal hold, on a proud and independant minded city, which  became a part of the  kingdom at the end of the 15th century at the  same time as Provence.

Fortifications had been reinforced in 1702 by Vauban which included the  construction of  low coastal batteries and a new  barracks. This exceptional military architectural ensemble was classified as a historical monument on July 7th 1926.

A prison state where no one can escape

If castle is assigned with a new mission in the service of the  royal security, then imperial and republican. These massive walls prevent unwanted visitors from entering, but  also from  escaping when you  stay there. Surrounded by the sea, If castle is definitely an impregnable prison.  Prisoners should break their chain first, force the doors and walls, then  diving into a rough sea and manage to  swim 1.5 km in the midst of currents while escaping the  vigilence of the guardian!

Opponents of the regime had been locked up there between 1480 and 1871. The château d’If thus welcomed Protestants during the Wars of Religion, and Republicans after the riots of 1848 and the coup d’état of December 2, 1851 led by the future Napoleon III.

A  visit to the dungeon of the  Chateau d’If bears witness to the prisons past. During your walk in the heart of the building, you will be able to observe engravings made by former prisoners.

A rhinoceros in If Castle island

In 1516,  the king of Portugal sent an amazing gift to Leon X Pope: a living rhinoceros! On the  way to Rome, the animal landed on the island of If to stretch its legs. Unfortunately, the animal never made it to port: a storm sank the ship that was carrying it off the coast of Genoa. This exceptional event for its time was immortalised by several artists, including Albrecht Dürer, who made a famous woodcut of the animal.

The famous prisoners of If Castle

If Castle had  been home to several historical characters involved  in the history  of Marseille and France. Jean Baptiste Chateau, the  commander of the grand Saint-Antoine, the  ship that brought the  great plague of 1720 to Marseille, was  incarcerated here. The prison also housed Louis Auguste Blanqui, the Famous anarchist and author of the newspaper ‘Ni Dieu ni Maitre‘ whose name continues to embody the values of this movement.

Fiction and Legend have also made their way into the walls of Chateau d’If  .Edmond Dantès, the vengeful hero of the novel The count of Monte Cristo was  imprisoned in the chateau d’if by the pen of Alexandre Dumas. Tradition will tell us that the man in the iron mask, the unknown and mysterious prisoner whose  identity and secrets could have shaken the throne of Louis XIV stayed there. The film The Man in the Iron Mask released in 1998 in which the  famous Leonardo Di Caprio and Gérard Depardieu starred comes to mind.

Where does the story end ? When does legend begin? You need to make up your own opinion during your  visit to the Chateau d’If.

A breathtaking view of all of  Marseille

The experience of a lifetime is not just  about a discovery about  rooms.The terrace of the great tower offers a breathtaking  view on the ’archipel du Frioul‘,with Pomègues and Ratonneau. You can admire the  ruins of Hopital Caroline intended for quarantine of travellers arriving by sea.

The  city of Marseille can be admired.You will be able to see the Corniche, a promenade by the seaside dominates the  rocky coastline. If you  look  up, you  will see  Notre-Dame de la Garde, dominated by the statue of  the Virgin which is entierely covered in gold.

To the south, the Marseilleveyre massif and the first calanques display their peaks, their cliffs and their white limestone ridges, and are draped in a coat of scrubland. The island of Maïre and the island of Tiboulen de Maïre mark the gateway to the wildest creeks.

To the North you  can see the hills and creeks of la Côte bleue, where many very  well known beaches between Marseille and Martigues are  waiting for  you.

Practical information


Archipel du Frioul, Marseille 7ème


Full price7€
Group adults5,50€

Opening hours

  • Tuesday 10:00 - 18:00
  • Wednesday 10:00 - 18:00
  • Thursday 10:00 - 18:00
  • Friday 10:00 - 18:00
  • Saturday 10:00 - 18:00
  • Sunday 10:00 - 18:00
  • Monday 10:00 - 18:00
  • Tuesday 10:00 - 18:00
  • Wednesday 10:00 - 18:00
  • Thursday 10:00 - 18:00
  • Friday 10:00 - 18:00
  • Saturday 10:00 - 18:00
  • Sunday 10:00 - 18:00