Les Journées du Patrimoine, or European Heritage Days, are events happening in all across Europe which aim to promote visits of monuments or buildings normally closed to the public. This event finds its roots in France with La Journée Portes Ouvertes (Open Doors Day) which was held in 1984. Every year, nearly 12 million visitors participate in festivities all around Europe for the purpose of discovering or rediscovering cultural patrimony.
Organized by the Minister of Culture, this year Les Journées du Patrimoine will be held in September. Events are held in every department in Metropolitan France as well as in the overseas departments. In Paris alone, over the weekend there will be 2399 activities including exhibitions and guided tours in a wide variety of locations: embassies, museums, libraries, universities, cultural centers, churches and government buildings. See below for some of the most visited monuments that will open their doors exclusively for Les Journées du Patrimoine.
The Elysée Palace
Probably the most notable location one can visit during Les Journées du Patrimoine is the Hôtel d’Evreux, otherwise known as the Elysée Palace. This was the former residence of Louis XV’s famous mistress Madame de Pompadour during the 18th century. Since the Second Republic, it has been the palace where the French Presidents have lived, beginning with Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte (Napoleon III).
The free visits run from 8am to 6pm and include the formal salons, reception rooms, the interior courtyard and the park. Expect to queue for about 2 to 4 hours, but getting the chance to see this exceptional building and presidential residence is worth the wait!
The French Senate
The French Senate has its headquarters in the former Palais du Luxembourg, the 17th century palace built by Queen Marie de Medicis when she became Regent for her son Louis XIII. The palace was built in the Florentine style, recalling the Palazzo Pizzi from the Queen’s native city.
During Les Journées du Patrimoine one can visit the hemicycle, the library (with its paintings by Eugene Delacroix), the Conference Room (the former throne room). You can also visit the Chapelle de la Reine (The Queen’s Chapel).
The monument will be open from 9:30am to 5:30pm, and visitors should queue at the Odeon entrance to the Luxembourg Gardens.
Hôtel de Ville de Paris
The City Hall of Paris, rebuilt after the fire of 1871 will also be open for visits from 10am to 6pm during the weekend. One will be able to visit its Neo-Renaissance style reception rooms, salons and library. You can even visit the Mayor of Paris’ office. Visitors will also have the chance to participate in workshops centered around the theme of Art and Entertainment, where they will be able to learn the savoir-faire of artisans like florists, dressmakers, clockmakers, painters and chandelier makers.
The French National Assembly is located in the former Bourbon Palace, built in 1722 for the Duchesse de Bourbon (a legitimized daughter of Louis XIV and his mistress Madame de Montespan). Following the French Revolution, the deputies of the National Assembly have met here since 1798.
The monument is open from 9:30am to 5:30 pm and there will also be a exhibition dedicated to the French Revolution.
Enjoy your visit!
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