The Fort du Mont-Alban

The Fort du Mont-Alban. Source: ECPAD

Constructed in 1557, the fort du Mont-Alban flanks the citadel of St-Elme and the harbour basin of Villefranche-sur-mer, which were built at the same time.

In the middle of the 16th Century, Nice was one of the vital points in the defence system of the States of the Savoie against Turkish invaders who had been allied to the French since 1543. Because of its depth and sheltered position, the harbour at Villefranche-sur-mer was the region's principal commercial port until the port at Nice was opened in the 17th Century. It had also been the wartime port for the Savoie for four centuries.

In 1557, on the orders of Emmanuel Philibert, the Duke of the Savoie, the Fort du Mont-Alban was constructed by André Provana de Leyni, from plans by the architect and military engineer Domenico Ponsello.
This solid fortification was designed to complement the fortresses of Nice and Villefranche-sur-Mer, and to control access between them: to the north of Mont Boron, the Fort du Mont-Alban flanks the Saint-Elme citadel and the Villefranche-sur-mer harbour basin, which were built at the same time and protects the west of the city.
Built at the summit of a hill at an altitude of 220 metres, it offers a superb panoramic view over the surrounding area: the harbour at Villefranche-sur-Mer and the Italian borders on one side and the bay of Nice and Estérel range on the other. Polygonal in shape, the Fort du Mont-Alban has sides measuring about forty metres long and is especially adapted to the great unevenness of the terrain.
On the 21st March 1661, it surrendered to the troops of the Duke of la Ferté without a struggle. Later, it was taken several times by French troops, including once by the Prince of Conti in 1744. In 1792, it was once again occupied by the French. The fort served as a prison from the end of the 17th Century, before Nice became part of France again in 1860. In 1944, it was bombed during the battles for the Liberation. The walled enclosure and the surviving moats along the north, west and south sides were classified as historical monuments in 1913. Despite the numerous attacks to which it was subjected, and because of the absence of any major alterations since its construction, it remains a valuable example of a perfectly preserved 16th Century fortification.

Only the outside of the fort is accessible, as the inside is not open to the public. Links Nice Tourist Information and Congress Office 5, Promenade des anglais 06000 Nice Tel.: + 33 (0) 892 707 407 Fax: + 33 (0) 4 92 14 46 49 e-mail :

  • The citadel of Villefranche. Source: ECPAD

  • The Fort du Mont-Alban. Source: ECPAD

  • Aerial view of the Fort du Mont-Alban. Source: ECPAD