On our trip to Marseille, one of the excursions we did was to visit the Chateau D’If. I highly recommend visiting Chateau D If as it is one of what to see in Marseille. In addition to visiting the museum and the Cathedral as part of our itinerary, we also definitely considered this chateau as a must see.
As a big fan of “The Count of Monte Cristo”, l was more than happy to visit the setting of that thrilling adventure. Federico had never heard of the story, so he was excited and curious, and he has seen the movie at least three times since we visited this ginormous, set on an island chateau.
Things to do in Marseille: Visit Chateau D’If
Chateau D’If History:
Chateau d if is a fortress that later became a prison and is a mile off the coast of Marseille. It was built on the orders of King Francis 1st who had decided it would be a strategic point to defend Marseille from attackers. The commenced building in 1524 and completed it in 1531.
The funny part was that Chateau D’If was never used in an attack. The closest it ever came to being invaded was in 1531 when the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V decided, but then gave up the idea of attacking it. This was a good thing because it turned out the rocks were pretty useless, the whole fortress had been built really badly with sub par rocks and would probably have fallen in an attack.
Chateau D’If meaning:
If is the French word for the Yew tree. Therefore the Yew Villa. I don’t remember seeing any trees on the island though, so maybe l was just not that observant.
Ferry boat Marseille: Our ride to Chateau D If
How to get to Chateau d’If from Marseille:
To access the island, you have to take a boat in. These tourist boats are moored at the Vieux Port in the old city centre. You can purchase your tickets from any of the many pushy salespeople in the area. You can also purchase the Marseille city pass which allows you to skip the line like we did. The views to and from there are simply stunning.
Marseille Castle France:
Chateau D’If made for an excellent, pretty much escape proof prison, thanks to its isolated location. A lot of prisoners were sent there to serve out their terms after conviction. The poor prisoners were kept on the bottom, where the cells were windowless.
The richer men were able to buy their way to private cells on the upper floor with windows to the outside world, even fireplaces which l can confirm would have been needed as the cells were cold and damp. The chateau reminded me of my Alcatraz visit in San Francisco with the look and feel.
The fact that you can watch what you are missing in the real world, i.e. freedom must have been devastating to the prisoners. We were “locked” in a cell during the Alcatraz tour and after a few minutes, I remember feeling claustrophobic and wanting to get out. One would have to be very strong to survive imprisonment.
The Count of Monte Cristo and Chateau D’If:
Alexandre Dumas, the French author, used Chateau D’If as a setting in his most work about Edmund Dantes, a falsely accused prisoner who managed to escape from the fortress after many years of internment. This was considered fiction of course, as no one is known to have escaped from the prison.
Apparently though, his story was based on a real life prisoner who had been a cobbler wrongly accused of treachery and was thrown in jail . There is a cell named for Edmond Dantes at the Chateau D’if to honor him for making the chateau one of the top tourist attractions in Marseille. A great revenge movie that should be seen
Our visit was a lot of fun, the boat was packed and the ride took about half an hour. We were able to skip the line to get in with our passes. I would have been completely miserable there as a prisoner :-( . The cells are so depressing and cold, but nobody ever said prison was supposed to be fun. We climbed the stairs to the top and it is quite an impressive 360 degree view.
The Chateau D’If has been open to the public since 1890 since being demilitarized. I enjoyed the tour very much, and l would definitely do it again. You know, we had so many people telling us to skip Marseille, but l am so glad we didn’t listen.
Marseille is a wonderful and delightful city with lots of history, and the people we found very warm, the city is certainly no more dangerous than any big city. If you have an opportunity to visit, you should :-) . Federico and l both agreed that we could live there. Yeah.. We liked it that much. The housing seems a bit pricey (we checked :-) ), but you can understand why when you see all it has to offer. For other fun stuff to do in Marseille, make sure to check out our chock full of good stuff Marseille guide.
Is Chateau D’If worth visiting?
Should you visit Le Chateau D If? Yes you should. It is one of the top highlights of Marseille with good reason. Wether Chateau D’If was built shabbily or not, it is still a very impressive sight. The fact that it is still standing after almost 500 years alone makes it amazing, not to mention seeing a bit of history into the cruel and inhumane conditions under which people were subjected. It’s hard to put into words how it feels to be in those cells.
Related Reading: Notre Dame Marseille
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Have you been to Marseille or Chateu D’If? If so, did you enjoy it? Would you recommend it for others?