Chateau d’If is the name of a fortress on the island of If, which is the smallest of all the islands that comprise the Frioul Archipelago. The island of If is approximately one mile from Marseille, in the Bay of Marseille in the Mediterranean Sea. Chateau d’If tours are one of the top attractions for tourists visiting this second largest city in France. You can take a group guided tour or a private boat out into the sea to explore the island of If and the other islands that surround the port city of Marseille. There are amazing guided tours that explicate the history of Chateau d’If Marseille, as well as all of the legends associated with it, including the foremost one in history, that of Alexandre Dumas’ The Counte of Monte Cristo. There are even Chateau d’If tours that take visitors to where the author’s main characters, (Edmond Dantes and Abbe Faria), are said to have been imprisoned according to the classic book.
Today, you can take Chateau d’If tours that depart from the Vieux Port in Marseille. The mile-long trip to the small island fortification takes around twenty minutes. There are also tours that include a second leg to the islands of Rattoneau and Pommegues. A seawall built during the time of Louis XVIII connects the two islands and has been turned into a resort area to a large extent with a wide variety of restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, and beaches.
The history of Chateau d’If Marseille began when King Francis I ordered a fortress built on the small island outside of Marseille to ward off attacks from abroad. It served primarily as a prison and was never actually used in any military struggles. Although many people thought the armaments to be a challenge to the central authority of Marseille at the time of its construction, it was thought to be a valuable deterrent by certain others. This is evidenced by the fact that Charles V, the Emperor of Rome at the time, decided against a planned attack on Marseille in 1531.
Although it is now a popular tourist attraction, the history of Chateau d’If Marseille does not always tell a pretty story. As a prison, it functioned as a place that was essentially impossible to escape from, and thousands of Huguenots (or French protestants) were sent to Chateau d’If for challenging the powerful authority of the Catholic Church in Marseille. The prisoners were effectively treated differently solely based on their financial status. If they could provide payment, they were oftentimes given private cells. The poorest of all the prisoners that were sent to this impenetrable jail were kept in the lowest levels of the prison, essentially dungeons with no windows or fresh air. In Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, the protagonist escapes the prison after a long and arduous stay inside its confining walls. In actuality, this is not known to have ever happened.
Taking a trip to the Chateau d’If is a wonderful way to spend some time on your vacation in Marseille. You can do some exploring at the chateau itself and then head along to the other islands where you can soak up some of the Mediterranean sun.