Located on Cannes, Sainte-Marguerite Island, the Museum du Masque de Fer et du Fort Royal won us over with its rich collections and exceptional setting. Between the fortifications, the incredible views and the myth of the man in the iron mask, this is a must-see visit that combines mystery and history!
Here are our practical tips and photos to help you plan your visit to this historic site.
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This guide is completely independent, based on our experiences. We visited the region anonymously, making our own choices and paying our bills in full.
Is a visit to the Iron Mask Museum and Fort Royal worthwhile?
Yes, the Iron Mask and Royal Fort Museum is well worth a visit.
It houses a collection relating to the captivity and intriguing life of the Man in the Iron Mask. Learn more about the theories and speculations surrounding the identity of this mysterious individual, one of the most famous enigmas in French history!
Formerly known as the Sea museum, it also exhibits collections of regional underwater and terrestrial archaeology. From the fort’s ramparts, we enjoyed magnificent views over the island and the bay. This museum is featured in our article on the best things to do on Sainte-Marguerite island, as well as in our selection of must-sees in Cannes!
What you can see
We loved exploring the fort, which is an impressive example of military architecture, while discovering the fascinating legend of the Iron Mask! As you walk along the ramparts, you’ll discover cannonballs, sentry boxes with loopholes and other defensive structures. Thehistory of Fort Royal is an eventful one, even though the island belonged for several centuries to the peaceful community of the monks of Lérins.
A former prison
In a previous life, the fort served as a state prison. Now a listed building, it has seen hundreds of prisoners pass through its doors. As you explore the museum, you’ll discover narrow corridors and sturdy wooden doors with locks. We wouldn’t have liked to be locked in! Light filtered with difficulty through the bars of the dungeons.
The cell of the man in the iron mask
The history of Île Sainte-Marguerite is marked by the mysterious legend of theMan in the Iron Mask, who was imprisoned in Fort Royal for 11 long years. Disembarked on the island in 1687, he was locked up in a cell designed expressly for him under the orders of King Louis XIV. He was forced to wear an iron mask until his death in 1703. His identity remains a mystery to this day, even if historians have a few clues! At present, it is possible to visit his cell.
Paintings by Jean Le Gac
In July 1992, the painter Jean Le Gac locked himself in the Fort Royal prison with one objective in mind. He wanted to reinvest cells that had lost track of their former occupants. We really enjoyed this artist’s work, painted directly on the walls. They tell a different story of the fort and its prisoners.
The museum also offers information on the maritime history of Sainte-Marguerite island and the region. We discovered ancient objects found during archaeological digs, but also in shipwrecks. The Roman wreck of La Tradelière housed numerous amphorae, baked crockery and zoomorphic vases.
Several cisterns built during the Gallo-Roman period remain in the present-day fort. When you visit the museum, you’ll have the chance to see one. It is the only remaining component of the original hydraulic system. In this room, we also observed ancient objects discovered during archaeological excavations at Fort Royal.
Views of the island and the Bay of Cannes
Beyond the museum’s collection, you’ll enjoy magnificent panoramic views of the island and the Bay of Cannes. The fort boasts an exceptional setting combining history and nature! We were totally charmed by the view from both sides of the fortifications.
In our opinion, Île Sainte-Marguerite is one of the most beautiful islands on the Côte d’Azur.
Museum of Masque de Fer (Musée de la Mer) in Cannes: how to get there
Where is the Masque de Fer Museum?
- East of the Côte d’Azur,
- In the bay of Cannes,
- On Sainte-Marguerite Island,
- 900m from the landing stage.
Here’s a map to help you find your way around the Côte d’Azur:
From the old port of Cannes, ferries to the Îles de Lérins are relatively frequent and quick (20min). We advise you to book your return tickets in advance, as this is a very popular activity with tourists (especially during the summer season).
To reach the museum, you’ll need to climb 60 steps or follow a 350m-long gently sloping path. This road is indicated as being suitable for people with reduced mobility.
In our opinion, this historic site is very difficult to access, as the cobbled floor is uneven and the fort’s corridors are narrow.
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Practical tips for visiting the Iron Mask Museum
Schedules and prices
- open Tuesday to Sunday, October to March, 10:30am to 1:15pm and 2:15pm to 4:45pm,
- open Tuesday to Sunday, April to May, 10:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. and 2:15 p.m. to 5:45 p.m,
- open daily from June to September between 10am and 5:45pm.
- Full adult price: €6.50,
- Reduced rate (18-25 years): €3.50.
See the latest news on the official website here.
We recommend you allow between 45min and 1h to visit the Iron Mask Museum and the Royal Fort.
We advise you to visit this museum during the low season if you can. This way, you can bypass the crowds of tourists.
In summer, Lérins islands are very popular destinations. They are therefore very busy, especially in the afternoon. All the more so as Sainte-Marguerite island attracts more people than its neighbor,Saint-Honorat island. The ferries are quickly snapped up. We strongly recommend that you book your tickets early!
Direction of visit
There is no set direction. Nevertheless, we recommend you start by exploring the interior of the Iron Mask Museum, then finish with the exterior. In this way, you’ll be able to enjoy some superb scenery at the end of your journey.
Visiting with children
There are no educational tools for children.
However, the museum does offer workshops for young visitors aged 7 to 13 during school vacations. Find out more here.
You’re getting hungry, but you don’t know if there are any restaurants on the island. Don’t worry, you’ll find them close to the landing stage. They boast superb sea views. We recommend Snack Le Lerõnos if you’re looking for a quick, inexpensive meal.
In our opinion, the best option is to bring your own food. Throughout the island, you’ll find several picnic tables facing the Bay of Cannes. Ideal for a gourmet, natural break!
There are no hotels on Sainte-Marguerite island. However, we’ve put together a full article on the best establishments in Cannes. Alternatively, check out our selection of favorite accommodations below, organized by neighborhood:
WHERE TO STAY IN Cannes
See our reviews of the best hotels in Cannes (coming soon)