Explore Fort Royal, a vast 17th-century structure perched on the cliffs of Île Sainte-Marguerite. The fortification has a fascinating and storied past, having held mysterious political prisoners. It was also occupied by the Germans during World War II. Explore the site today to see original buildings and eerie prison cells, as well as a museum dedicated to marine archaeology.
Discover the religious origins of the fort, which was first built at the behest of monks in the 1620s. The site’s history goes back even further, as the ruins of Roman water basins remain in the fort to this day. The Spanish military expanded the fort in 1635 after taking over the island and adapted it throughout the rest of the 17th century.
Visit the cell of its most famous inmate, the Man in the Iron Mask. The identity of this prisoner, who was made famous by the novelist Alexandre Dumas, remains unknown. Louis XIV transported the man to Fort Royal in 1687 and imprisoned him there for 11 years, forbidding the removal of his mask.
Learn about the prison’s other inhabitants throughout history, such as the Protestant church leaders who were kept here during the religious wars. Another inmate, Marshall Bazaine became the only the prisoner to escape the fort in 1873.
The fort is laid out in a pentagonal shape, with numerous 17th-century structures spread around the complex. Look for the Roman decantation tanks, a chapel and some artillery stores. Head to the terrace for views of Cannes and the Mediterranean.
The fort also hosts the Musée de la Mer (Museum of the Sea). Purchase an admission ticket to enter the museum and access prison cells, as well as exhibits on marine archaeology. Displays include shipwrecks from the surrounding waters, salvaged Roman ceramics and several aquariums.
Board a boat leaving from Cannes or Golfe-Juan to reach Île Sainte-Marguerite, then purchase a separate ticket for entry to Fort Royal. The fort is open daily from March to October and Tuesday to Sunday for the rest of the year.