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European Heritage Days in Paris

Les Journées du Patrimoine

Once a year, nearly all historical and cultural monuments in Paris open their doors to the public, for free. This year, the event falls on September 21st and 22nd, so we're sharing a bit about its history and a few interesting places you might like to check out on the occasion.

This weekend is a particularly good time to be in Paris. Saturday and Sunday, September 21 – 22, 2019, mark the 36th edition of the Journées du patrimoine, also called the European Heritage Days.

During these two days, you’ll be able to enter many museums and monuments for free, and you’ll also get access to some interesting addresses which are typically closed to the public. Government buildings like the Palais de l’Elysée (the French version of the White House) and the Paris City Hall open their doors to visitors, as do many privately-owned mansions, letting locals and tourists alike discover the city’s rich historical, cultural, and architectural heritage.

This annual event doesn’t just take place in Paris though. Started in France in 1984 by France’s then-Minister of Culture Jack Lang, the celebration has since spread throughout the European continent and even around the world, often under the name Doors Open Days.

So where should you go if you happen to be in the capital on these special days? There are hundreds of different sights open on this occasion, but we’ve narrowed it down a bit to give you a few ideas of what to do for the European Heritage Days in Paris based on your potential interests.

Politically Minded:

Le Palais de l’Elysée, The President’s Residence

Reservation required
Each year, the Palais de l’Elysée opens it gold-gilded doors to the public on the occasion of the Journées du patrimoine, offering free tours of the French President’s office, state rooms, and gardens. As you can imagine, this is generally a wildly popular pick, so to avoid hours-long waits, the Elysée has decided to implement online registration this year.

Reserve your spot here.

Palais de l’Elysée, Salon d’Oré – vostok 91, CC BY-SA 2.0

Hôtel de Matignon, The Prime Minister’s Residence

The French Prime Minister’s home will be open to visit this weekend, offering tours of the beautiful main courtyard as well as of the Prime Minister’s office.

Saturday & Sunday, Sept 21 – 22, 2019, 10:00 – 18:00
57 Rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris

Assemblée Nationale, French House of Parliament

Reservation required
During the European Heritage Days, the French National Assembly (the country’s lower legislative body, equivalent to the House of Representatives in the United States) welcomes visitors into its home, the historic 18th-century Palais-Bourbon, as well as into its gardens and the residence of the Speaker of the House, the Hôtel de Lassay. In addition to seeing the ‘hemi-cycle,’ the impressive chamber where voting takes place, visitors will also enjoy an exhibition on the French Revolution.

Click here to reserve your spot here before September 19.

Saturday & Sunday, Sept 21 – 22, 2019, 09:30 – 17:30
128 Rue de l’Université, 75007 Paris

History Buffs:

Archives Nationales

Located in the Marais, the beautiful Hôtel de Rohan is home to the national French archives. Offering guided tours, conferences, demonstrations, and even a few kid-friendly activities, get a peek into the elegant, but usually closed ‘cabinets’. 

Saturday & Sunday, Sept 21-22, 2019, 11:00 – 19:00 
60 Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, 75003 Paris

Courtyard of Les Archives Nationales

Mad for Movies:

Movies’ Metro Station

Reservation required
This abandoned metro station in northeast Paris has come to be known as the ‘La Station Cinéma’. Hidden behind a door of the currently-in-use Porte des Lilas station, this platform has been closed to the public since 1939, for use only as a movie set, with roughly five filmings each year. The station will be open for the 2019 European Heritage Days, with music and additional animations, but registration is required.

Click here to reserve your spot – the exact address and additional details will be sent to you after registering.

Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé 

Housed in a contemporary construction tucked into a Haussmannian building whose façade was sculpted by none other than Auguste Rodin, this private foundation for the conservation of the French cinema giant’s collections opens its doors for free this weekend to welcome visitors to browse its permanent collection of antique equipment, take in a temporary exhibition on expeditions in cinema, and enjoy screenings of silent films accompanied by live, improvised piano.

Saturday & Sunday Sept 21 – 22, 2019, 10:30 – 17:30
Movies every hour on the half-hour from 10:30 – 17:30
73 Avenue des Gobelins, 75013 Paris

Le Grand Rex

Visit Europe’s largest movie theater to enjoy the impressive Art Deco architecture and get a sneak peek behind the scenes of the film industry. Le Grand Rex has a stock of movie memorabilia, including costumes, posters, props, and more, with free guided tours on the occasion of the Journées du patrimoine.

Saturday & Sunday Sept 21 – 22, 2019, 09:00 – 17:00
1 Boulevard Poissonnière, 75002 Paris 

The Main Auditorium of Le Grand Rex – A.hellman, CC BY-SA 4.0

Fans of Fashion:

Musée Bourdelle 

If you haven’t yet seen the exhibition by Palais Galliera Back Side / Fashion from Behind hosted in the intimate workshop-turned-museum of 20th-century sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, well this weekend is your chance to visit this must-see for free. An interesting examination of the human form, fashion, and sculpture, this one isn’t to be missed.

Saturday & Sunday 21 – 22, 2019, 10:00 – 19:00
18 Rue Antoine-Bourdelle, 75015 Paris

Language & Literature Lovers:

Institut de France 

Home of the famous Académie Française – the prestigious and fierce protectors of the French language – as well as the four other academies of this important public institution, the Palais de l’Institut de France welcomes visitors into its hallowed hallways again for the 2019 edition of the European Heritage Days. Discover the Cour d’Honneur, admire the beautiful dome, visit the beautiful Bibliothèque Mazarine, or even meet some of the ‘académiciens’ who will be signing their works. 

Saturday & Sunday, Sept 21 – 22, 2019, 09:00 – 17:00
23 Quai de Conti, 75006 Paris

Bibliothèque Mazarine

Within the Institut de France, you’ll find the oldest public library in France. Open to the public, during the Journées du patrimoine, you’ll be able to visit the Grande Galerie and also enjoy an exhibition of selected manuscripts and ancient books. 

Saturday & Sunday, Sept 21 – 22, 09:00 – 17:00
23 Quai de Conti, 75006 Paris

Reading room of the Bibliothèque Mazarine – Marie-Lan Nguyen, CC BY 2.0 fr

Budding Botanists:

Greenhouses of the Jardin du Luxembourg

Open exceptionally for the occasion, the greenhouses of the Luxembourg Gardens hold important collections of tropical plants, fruit trees, and also orchids. Gardeners will greet visitors, who will also enjoy installations on the theme of mosaïculture or bedding, the art of creating colorful, temporary flower beds.

Saturday & Sunday, Sept 21 – 22, 2019, 10:00 – 18:00
4 Rue Auguste-Comte, 75006 Paris

Serious Students:

La Sorbonne

On this special weekend, the world-famous French university opens its doors to more than just students. Discover the college’s history as well as its impressive amphitheaters and notable artworks. It’s also a unique opportunity to see inside the chapel, home to Richelieu’s tomb. Kids are welcome and will receive an activity booklet, although it might be in French.

Saturday & Sunday 21 – 22, 2019, 10:00 – 17:00
45-47 Rue des Écoles, 75005 Paris

Lycée Henri-IV 

Sitting just behind the Pantheon, this is one of the most prestigious public high schools in France. The Lycée Henri IV opens its doors for guided tours of the hallways and historic rooms dating back to the 12th century. Originally the Abby Saint-Geneviève before becoming a school in 1804, the institution boasts medieval and baroque artworks and architecture as well as an impressive library. Tours are most likely only offered in French and there are also many stairs to climb during the visit, but when else will you get to see inside a French school?

Saturday & Sunday, Sept 21 – 22, 14:00 – 17:45
23 Rue Clovis, 75005 Paris

Lycée Henri IV – Lucdew CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia

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