Family Day at the Fort Saint-Jean
With its village, its gardens and its countless secrets, the Fort Saint-Jean is a joyous maze, where we recommend losing yourselves as a family! A historical tour? A scenic walk? A panoramic stroll? The Mucem offers you three free routes for self-guided tours!
Route 1 – Fort of History
- Set off for an encounter with knights, soldiers, navigators and kings!
Starting point: Entrance to the Fort Saint-Jean from the Old Port.
- Cour de la Commande: Welcome to the era of the Crusades
Did you know that the site of the Fort Saint-Jean was already occupied during the Crusades? Before the construction of the fort, there was a commandery here, built by the Knights Hospitaller of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. Today, we can still see the remains of the chapel at the Old Port entrance to the fort.
- Go up to the fort’s Place d’Armes.
- From Fanal Tower to King René Tower
One is round and the other is square. Can you recognize them? Fanal Tower (17th century) served as a lookout and a lighthouse: it got its name from the fire placed at its summit to guide ships into port. Its terrace also offers a superb view of the open sea! As for King René Tower (15th century), it was erected after Marseille was taken by the Spanish in 1453 (they even seized the chain used to close off the port!). Although it was used as a prison, its primary functions were to offer surveillance and defence: from its terrace overlooking the Old Port, a dozen cannons previously surveyed the view.
- Aerial walk along the Chemin de Ronde
Take the Chemin de Ronde along the ramparts, like soldiers on rounds protecting the fort! Built starting in 1668 – on the orders of King Louis XIV –, the fort rises 2- metres above the sea, towering above the city. It not only protected Marseille from outside threats, but also controlled the city, pointing its cannons inward in the event of a revolt… From the top of the ramparts, look out at the Mediterranean, Marseille and its 2,600 years of history while on your aerial walk!
Route 2 – Secrets of the Garden of Migration
As a family, embark on a quest for the ecological treasures of the Fort Saint-Jean!
- Scenic sensory walk through the Garden
How about exploring the fort... through nature? The Garden of Migration unfolds throughout the fort’s outdoor areas, unveiling a unique botanical collection of Mediterranean plants: here, you can look, sit, gently touch, and inhale the aromas of lavender, artemisia, rosemary and more. This garden walk offers 15 tableaux facing the city, the hillside or the sea: Wild Greens, Aromatic Trail, Mediterranean Kitchen Garden, Holm Oak Grove, and the list goes on. Can you find them all?
- Fort compass
What’s this strange sculpture holding court on Place du Dépôt? Entitled The Eye and the Spirit Wide Open to the Nimbus, its four faces represent the four cardinal points… One of them might just open up to reveal a small puppet theatre scene! But shhh... It’s a secret!
- Picnic under the shade of an olive tree
Bring a picnic or afternoon snack with you: orientation tables will help you find your way to the picnic area at the foot of the hill and shaded by olive trees, before you continue your exploration of the garden... Perhaps for dessert, you’ll want seconds of our panoramic views?
Route 3 – Top 3 Scenic Views
Feast your eyes on cityscape, nature and great architectural creations!
- Threshing floor: an amazingly panoramic view!
Turn left coming off the J4 footbridge: the most spectacular view of the emblematic lattice of Rudy Ricciotti’s building can be had from the threshing floor. All the more so given that, right next door, another fabulous architectural construction gives it a run for its money: the Villa Méditerranée (and its famous cantilevering), which was also inaugurated in 2013 on the J4’s esplanade, under the benevolent eye of Marseille Cathedral La Major, that has been keeping watch from afar since the late 19th century.
- Port horseman’s promontory: Marseille on a pedestal
Cross the Place d’Armes: after the fort’s café, take the stairs to the port horseman’s promontory. From there, let your eyes travel over the historic monuments of the Phocean City and the fort’s gardens before getting lost in the deep blue of the Mediterranean Sea. Don’t forget to wave to the boats sailing through the port!
- King René Tower terrace: final bouquet of panoramas
Take the inner staircase (76 steps) to the tower’s terrace. This 360° view will plunge you into the immensity of an unbeatable landscape between city and sea: Notre Dame de la Garde Church, Fort Saint-Nicolas, Palais du Pharo, Digue du Large sea wall, ferries, port facilities, CMA-CGM Tower, and more. But above all, this spot offers a unique view of the Old Port. The perfect place for a moment of quiet contemplation.
- Family deal
To visit the Mucem’s exhibitions as a family, a single package deal is available: the Family Pass, good for two adults and up to five children. Many children’s activities are also offered each afternoon at the museum.
Tip: Three entrances to the Fort Saint-Jean
Is the queue at the entrance too long? Don’t panic: there are three ways to get into the Fort Saint-Jean!
1 Via the J4 footbridge: located on the rooftop terrace of the J4, it offers a unique view of the city and the sea and connects you to the fort’s Place d’Armes, the upper section of the site.
2 Via the Saint-Laurent footbridge (accessible from the Panier district or the Old Port): this convenient aerial crossing is also particularly impressive, with its extraordinary views of the city.
3 Via King René Tower (201 Quai du Port): as you continue your stroll through the Old Port, you can access the lower part of the fort (Cour de la Commande) through the entrance located at the base of this large square tower.
Take your exploration further: Ask the Mucem Bookshop for a selection of books on the history of the Fort Saint-Jean.