Right at the beginning of this post, I have to confess: I have never read The Count of Monte Christo. Even though I love literature, I have never really opened this novel written by Alexandre Dumas. Seriously, never. But I have seen a four-part TV-series with my favorite actor Gérard Depardieu several times, and I´ve got the impression that the book is no longer worth reading when the story is so notorious known. And after my confession, I follow the philosophical question: would the fortress be so famous if Alexandre Dumas didn´t set the plot of his novel to this place?
The famous fortress Château d´If is standing on a rocky island off the coast of Marseille (the second largest city in France). It´s reachable by boat from The Old Port (Vieux Port) with ferries running to and fro every hour.
You don’t need to pre book, but if you want to avoid long lines to buy tickets, either start early or book the tickets online. The cruise to the fortress takes about 20 minutes. The boat trip there provided us with a beautiful view of the Marseille harbor. The return cruise lasts a bit longer because the ferry takes the visitors to the Frioul Islands.
If you decide to take a trip in the morning, you will certainly pass the fish market in the Old Harbor on your way to the ticket office.
The cost to get into the castle is 6 euros, children have free admission. The tour is not guided, you will get a paper leaflet at the entrance to the fortress (to our great surprise was also available in Czech!) where you will find all the important information.
Among other things, you will learn from the guide that the construction of the fortress began in 1529 on the orders of King Francois I and served to defend the Marseilles harbor, but after a few years, it began to serve as a prison for unwanted persons and opponents of royal power. The last prisoners of the fortress were German prisoners of war during the First World War.
In the ground-floor cells, there is an exposition describing the story of Edmond Dantes aka the Count of Monte Christo and his creator, Alexandra Dumas.
On the ground floor, you will also find the cell of Edmond Dantes where you can watch short edits from various movie adaptations of the novel (and I could see Gérard too ;))
Then it is only up to you, in which direction and pace you are going to explore the other rooms, the ramparts, the towers and the terraces of the fortress.
I didn´t have any great expectations before visiting Château d´If. Still, my impressions are a bit mixed. On the one hand, it’s a place with an incredible atmosphere – if you stand at the top of the main tower, let yourself get a fresh sea breeze, enjoy views and at the same time think about what was happening behind the thick walls of the fortress. On the other hand, there is not much to see in the former prison cells. Most (except a few exceptions) are empty rooms. With the cost of the ferry and admission, it’s a bit expensive for what you see (or you don´t actually see). However, our children enjoyed exploring former prison cells, climbing the stairs up and down, and if we added a boat trip, it was, in their view, a nice trip. And that’s the main rating for us 🙂
And what about you? Are you fans of Alexander Dumas’ novel? Or do you have a tip for a place connected with some other novel character? Tell me in the comments! And don´t forget to pin this for later!