8 ways to appreciate French heritage (and for free) this weekend

The European Heritage Days are a great opportunity to discover more about France. Here is our pick of eight activities or visits avalable in different regions, some of which are not often open or accessible to the public

17 September 2021

Museum of the Battle of Normandy ; Guimiliau Parish ; Fort de la Révère ; Cave of Domme Pic: Christophe F / andre quinou / Alberto Loyo / Elena Ellisseeva / Shutterstock

European Heritage Days is a huge cultural event - and hundreds of events (almost all free) will be taking place this weekend across France to celebrate it.

The event was launched in France in 1985 and has been a joint initiative of the Council of Europe and the European Union since 1999. 

This year it has been linked to the "European Year of Railways" and every region of France is offering various activities on the theme which is timely as France celebrates 40 years of the TGV.

Read more: 40 years of TGV: the train that changed the face of French rail travel

The house of Tante Léonie, where Marcel Proust spent his holidays as a child, inspired him to write his famous work 'In Search of Lost Time' Pic: DIDIER FOTO / Shutterstock

It also shows that France's heritage is not just about castles and churches and, for example, the house of Tante Léonie-Musée Marcel Proust is also in the spotlight with President Emmanuel Macron choosing it as the venue to speak about culture and heritage on September 15. 

This year is particularly important after the long period of closure of cultural venues due to the pandemic and there is a unifying theme of: "Heritage for all, together, let's bring heritage to life". 

Here is our pick of eight free events taking place this weekend. To find events near you see this website. :

1 - Attend a workshop to learn about the production of silk in Étoile-sur-Rhône, Drôme, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

Head over to Les Clévos, formerly a spinning mill and now a cultural centre, to explore the stages of making “textile gold” and try your own hand at it! 

More information

2 - Watch bird migration at the Fort de la Révère in Èze, Alpes-Maritimes, Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur 

This ornithological observatory was built in 1870 and opens its doors to visitors free of charge between 8:00 and 17:00 this weekend.

More information

3 - Visit the Fort de Cormeilles-en-Parisis in Val d’Oise, Île-de-France

The Fort de Cormeilles opens its gates to the public on Sunday September 19 and offers numerous activities to help you discover its forgotten heritage. Built in the second half of the 19th century, you will learn of its role in World War Two and discover its art, history and traditions.

More information 

4 - Visit the Museum of the Battle of Normandy in Bayeux, Calvados, Normandy

Visit this museum and retrace the stages of the battle, which took place between June 7 and August 29, 1944. Learn about the day-by-day progress of the forces, watch a 25-minute archive film and see the presentation of equipment and uniform. 

More information

5 - Explore the Caves of Domme, Dordogne, Nouvelle-Aquitaine

Come and explore the underground world of the largest cave of the Périgord Noir region. The educational visit includes quizzes and experiments for children to enjoy, too, so this is good for a family outing.
More information 

Statues in the Valley of the Saints Pic: Oligo22 / Shutterstock

6 - Admire the work of 21st century stone carvers in Guimiliau, Finistère, Brittany

You will be able to chat with the artists behind the ‘Valley of Saints’, watch the demonstration and even try your own hand at stone carving. 

These contemporary sculptors are the heirs of a long tradition that reached its peak in the 16th and 17th centuries in the Landivisiau region, where parish enclosures, calvaries and fountains flourished.

More information

7) Try your hand at textile printing with vegetable dyes in the Bourgoin-Jallieu Museum, Isère, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes 

Learn from archeologist and ethnologist Marie Marquet about the history of textile techniques as well as dye plants, then give it a go yourself!

More information

8) See a traditional boat exhibition in Nantes, Loire-Atlantique, Pays de la Loire

Stroll along the quai and marvel at old boats, including the Reine de Cordemais, replica of a 1920 Basse-Indrais canoe, and Anita, a traditional sail and oar boat.
You are also invited to join the volunteers who have organised a citizen’s waste collection of the river Erdre to celebrate World Clean Up Day.

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