Visiting Chateau d’If in Marseille

One of things which I was most looking forward to when visiting Marseille was a  trip out to the Chateau d’If.  It was built in 1529 as a naval fortress on the island of If, the smallest of the Frioul Islands, which lie a couple of miles west of Vieux Port in Marseille.

chateau d'if ferry arrives

The Frioul Islands ferry arrives in If

The Chateau later become a prison. The French author, Alexander Dumas, used it as the setting for the imprisonment of the main character of his novel, ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’.

If you buy a Marseille City Card, the ferry and entrance fee to the Chateau are included in the price of the card.

We had two day Marseille City Cards valid for the Saturday and Sunday. As Sunday was forecast to be wet, we decided to visit the Chateau d’If on the Saturday.  We arrived at the ferry ticket office around 40 minutes prior to the 11.05 departure. It appeared that everyone wanted to make the most of the sunny day, as the queue was so long, that when we arrived at the ticket window just before 11am, the next available tickets were for the 13.15 ferry.

That left us with the dilemma of what to do for the next couple of hours. We decided to take a ride on the road train to Notre Dame de la Garde. However, when we arrived at the starting point, there was a massive queue there too. To avoid standing in the queue later that day, we asked if we could pre-book tickets on a train for early evening, but were told that wasn’t possible. We then decided to have a quick look around the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM).

It was a bit of a rush to get back to embark onto the 13.05 ferry.

You get some great views as you as you head out of Vieux Port on the ferry.

chateau d'if leaving vieux port

Vieux Port from the ferry to Chateau d’If

chateau d'if looking towards marseille cathedral

Marseille Cathedral from the ferry to Chateau d’If

chateau d'if mucem and fort saint jean

MuCEM (black building) and Fort Saint-Jean from the ferry

chateau d'if ferry at sea

The Frioul islands ferry heads toward the island of If

I was glad that the 20 minute crossing was fairly smooth, although there was some heave as you left the shelter of the harbour.

chateau d'if ferry arrvies on the island

The ferry docked at If island

There are toilets, which are rather smelly, and a cafe, which we didn’t visit, on the island.

There’s a courtyard with a well when you enter Chateau d’If. There were some benches in the shade there.

chateau d'if well

Central courtyard at Chateau d’If

There are plenty of prison cells to explore.

chateau d'if door

Cell door at Chateau d’If

The best thing about visiting the Chateau are the views from the top.

chateau d'if looking towards lighthouse

Looking towards the lighthouse on the island of If

chateau d'if roof

The roof of Chateau d’If

chateau d'if view

View of the hills on the mainland from Chateau d’If

I’d recommend a trip out Chateau d’If if you’re visiting Marseille.

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About Karen Bryan

Hello, I'm Karen Bryan, I created Europe a la Carte in 2002 to highlight the best places to visit in Europe with travel tips, photos and no fluff reviews. I’m also an artist; my artworks are often inspired by my travels