The 39th edition of European Heritage Days (Journées du patrimoine) takes place this weekend (September 17 and 18) under the theme of “sustainable heritage”.
The annual event offers people the chance to visit historic buildings and monuments, many of which are often closed to the public. There are also thousands of other cultural and historical events organised around the country.
The idea began in 1984 in France and has now spread to around 50 other European countries.
Rima Abdul Malak, France’s minister of culture, said of this year’s event:
“Heritage has a role to play in creating a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future.
“By reexamining practices, lessons learned from traditions, and the continuity of know-how, heritage actors such as museums, historic monument centres, archivists, etc. are already acting today to strengthen the passing on of heritage.
“[There are] so many old-fashioned techniques, such as the use of local resources with recognised qualities, raw earth or dry stone, which inspire new, more sustainable construction methods to create the living environment of tomorrow.”
There are thousands of events, visits, guided tours, book readings, musical performances, etc. taking place around the country.
The easiest way to find what is going on near you is to use the map tool available on the Ministry of Culture’s website, which you can find here.
This lists all the events that are being held and all of the buildings open for visits.
Some of the events are aimed specifically at school children and take place on Friday (September 16), the day before the official start of the event.
This video explains how to use the map to find out what events are near you.
If you are overwhelmed with options, many local media outlets in France list some of their standout options.
If you Google Journées du patrimoine and the name of your department or region you will find many different articles explaining what is on.
For example, this article details the options available in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, such as guided visits around the Théâtre antique d'Orange in Vaucluse.
Or there is this article, detailing some of the 160 different events taking place in Calvados (Normandy).
Many of the events are free, although some are paid. Details can be found using the Ministry of Culture’s map.