European Heritage Days
A French Initiative
The Ministry of Culture has been inviting the people of France to discover or rediscover the country’s rich heritage since 1984.
The initiative began as a la journée portes ouvertes des monuments (Monuments open house day). The project quickly fired the public enthusiasm for cultural legacy in both France and Europe. Subsequently, many European countries immediately followed France’s example.
In 1991, the Council of Europe officially launched the European Heritage Days (EHDs). France converted the popular day into an entire weekend in 1992. There are currently 50 European countries participating in this event.
The Entire National Legacy over a Weekend
Regarded as the leading fall event, the EHDs take place on the third weekend of September. Over two days, anyone can experience or relive the entire culture of France.
Arts, culture, archaeology, industries, agriculture, rivers, and even military... all traditions are celebrated.
About 17 000 places and over 20 000 events (conventions, concerts, or workshops) become accessible to the general public. The enterprise is carried out by both public and private institutions.
One Theme and Symbolic Places
Numerous places —including those normally closed to the public— are open to all (often offering guided tours): churches, castles, museums, banks, administrative centers, courthouses, chambers of commerce, city halls, private houses...
The EHDs are an opportunity to explore landmarks such as the Louvre, Château de la Loire, the Fortifications of Vauban, or Château de Versailles. Admission is either free or at a reduced fare.
Many unusual places also take part in the event: television stations headquarters, old prisons, factories, public transit backstage...
In Paris, even famous government institutions play along: the Elysée Palace (the presidential office and residence), the Luxembourg Palace (the Parliament Building), or Hôtel de Matignon (the office and residence of the Prime Minister).
Every year, the European Heritage Days theme changes to feature different aspects of France’s legacy.