The Chateau d'If on an island just off the coast at Marseille was the setting for Dumas' novel the Count of Monte Cristo which has has made it a popular tourist destination.
The Château d'If is a fortress (later a prison) located on the island of If, the smallest island in the Frioul Archipelago situated in the Mediterranean Sea about a mile offshore in the Bay of Marseille in southeastern France. The island became internationally famous in the 19th century when Alexandre Dumas used it as a setting for his book The Count of Monte Cristo.
The Château was built in the period between 1524-31 on the orders of King Francis I as a defence against attacks from the sea. It is a square, three-story building 28 m long on each side, flanked by three towers with large gun embrasures. The remainder of the island, which only measures 30,000 square meters, is heavily fortified and high ramparts with gun platforms surmount the island's cliffs.
The isolated location and dangerous offshore currents of the Château d'If made it an ideal escape-proof prison and it was one of the most feared and notorious jails in France. The château's use as a prison ceased at the end of the 19th century and it was demilitarised and opened to the public on September 23, 1890.
It can now be reached by boat from Marseille's old port. Its fame as the setting for Dumas' novel has made it a popular tourist destination. The journey takes about 15 minutes. Boats leave regularly from the quai des Belges in the Vieux Port at Marseilles. It is well worth a visit and there is a wonderful view of Marseille from the Island.
Picture © Marseille Tourist office.