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French buildings fling open doors for ‘heritage days’

Kenzo Tribouillard, AFP | French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve welcomes visitors to his office during 'Heritage Days' in 2013

In what has become a popular annual tradition in France, millions of people across the country are getting a rare glimpse inside historic monuments, government buildings and other sites usually barred from the general public.


Organised by France’s culture ministry and part of a European-wide initiative, the so-called “European heritage days” will be the opportunity for people to discover 17,000 different sites for free this weekend.

Over 12 million people participated in the event last year, in which world famous buildings, like the Louvre Museum, as well as obscure architectural jewels, like the Château de la Reine Blanche (Chateau of the White Queen) in the 13th district of Paris, fling open their doors.

“[France’s] heritage must be alive, inhabited and accessible to people, so that it can inspire them and give them a sense of belonging,” the newly appointed French Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin told the daily Metro News on Friday in reference to the tradition.

For the 31st instalment of the event, the culture ministry has chosen to highlighting the great outdoors, with 7,500 “natural” sites welcoming visitors on Saturday and Sunday.

From prison to the president’s

Among buildings open to the public are France’s enormous culture and finance ministry buildings, and the luxurious residences London and Berlin’s ambassadors to France call home.

In a historic first, the French capital’s Santé prison – which has been temporarily vacated of inmates before vast renovations start – is allowing visitors a peek inside.

The Picasso Museum in France’s trendy Marais neighbourhood is reopening for two days this weekend after being closed for five years of renovation, and ahead of its official reopening in late October.

The Elysée Palace, home to France’s scandal-plagued president, François Hollande, is also on the list of sites to visit.

For those who can’t make it to Paris for the occasion, the Elysée is offering a virtual tour to mark heritage weekend.

For a full list of historic monuments, buildings and sites taking part in France’s heritage days, click on this link (French).

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