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Two years ago I visited Marseille to stay with French friends. During our stay my friends recommended a visit to the famous Chateau d'if. The Château is situated on a small Island about 1 mile off on the coast of Marseille. It is best known as the setting for the Alexandre Dumas novel, the Count of Monte Cristo. Getting there. ************ The Isle D'if is reached via a 20 boat trip from the old port of Marseille. The island is one of 3 that make up the Frioul islands. It is also possible to visit Port Frioul and Ile de Ratonneau. The ferry runs all year although it is more frequent during the busy summer months. It is worth noting that the castle is closed on Mondays. The cost of a ticket from the old port to Château D'if is 10 euros per adult return. There is a family ticket available for 2 adults and 2 children 3-12. Children under 3 are free. There is a separate charge to enter the castle of 5 euros. I didn't notice any concessions although my friend tells me that residents can enter for free! The chateau is a very impressive sight and takes up most of the small island on which it is situated. On arrival we were given a small leaflet in English with a brief history and explanation of what was on view. All the signs are in French so this was helpful! The chateau was built in 1524 on the instructions of King Francis 1st.It was originally intended to defend mainland France from any potential attack from the sea. However it soon became a prison as has housed numerous inmates. Although the count of Monte Cristo managed to escape in the fictional novel, in reality no-one has ever managed to escape from this formidable place! During its time as a prison the Chateau housed over 3,000 Huguenots (French Protestants) who were used as galley slaves. The unfortunate Monsieur de Niozelles was also imprisoned here for 6 years, for not removing his hat in the presence of King Louis XIV. Once inside the castle you are free to wonder around at your own pace. The château was the setting for the count of Monte Cristo and there is a screen that runs showing various scenes. The cells can be entered and is very sobering to look from behind the bars to the world outside. There is the cell of the captain of the ship accused of bringing the plague to Europe. There is a huge contrast between the cells with some being very small and dark with other being much larger with a sea view. Rich prisoners were able to pay for a room with a view! Once you have explored the inside of the castle including the cells and wardens quarters, then you can climb up to the top of the towers to get an amazing view of Marseille; don't forget to bring your camera! It is possible to swim from the island and there is a nearby underwater "path" with signs hung from buoys 25 metres apart, telling you about the floral and fauna. The signs are all in French. There used to be small café on the island but this is now closed and there is nowhere to buy any refreshments. It is essential to bring water in the summer as the island gets unbearably hot. We also packed a picnic and found a shady spot beneath the rocks to eat. Overall I would recommend a visit to the Chateau. It is a good place to get away from the madness that is Marseille! However the experience could be improved. Many of the cells are just empty shells with no objects of interest. When we visited there were several empty display cases. I suggest you allow about an hour to look around the Chateau and then spend time swimming and looking out to sea. I would also recommend you buy a ticket that allows you to visit the other 2 Islands.
Discover the château d'If lying just off the Marseille coast, a fortress built by François I and made famous by Alexandre Dumas' novel, The Count of Monte Cristo. Come and be captivated by the legends of the place and the outstanding views of Marseille and the Iles du Frioul.