Each September during the European Heritage Days (Journées du Patrimoine) visitors and residents alike have the unique opportunity to discover museums, monuments, and private spaces that are otherwise closed to the public. These days provide a fantastic look into some of France’s most spectacular sites. This year, the Journées du Patrimoine are September 16th and 17th. We’re sharing some of our top picks for what to see during the 2023 European Heritage Days in France.
What To See During European Heritage Days 2023
The French Ministry of Culture created the Journées du Patrimoine 40 years ago. They take place on the third weekend of September and see approximately 12 million visitors annually. One of the purposes of the Journées du Patrimoine is to highlight the unique stories, histories, and collections of the 17,000 participating sites. These places include embassies, theaters, hospitals, schools, castles, factories and more.
Because of their popularity, the European Heritage Days can involve some time spent queuing in line. Since the pandemic, there has been a shift towards using a reservation system. While not every place has adopted this system yet, more and more places are starting to.
The 2023 European Heritage Days themes are “Living Heritage” and “Sports Heritage.” You can browse an interactive map of participating sites here.
Paris and Île-de-France
You’ll find options galore during the Journées du Patrimoine in Paris and the Île de France region. Some perennially popular places to visit include the Elysée Palace, Hôtel Matignon, the French Senate, and the Institut de France. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to explore places like the National Assembly, the greenhouses in the Luxembourg Gardens, and the Oratoire du Louvre.
This is also a fantastic time to visit some of the castles in the Île de France region surrounding Paris. You can visit rooms normally closed to the public at Château de Champs-sur-Marne, the dungeon at the Château de Vincennes, and the family-owned Château de Saint-Jean de Beauregard.
Where to Stay in Paris
This 5-star hotel in the 1st arrondissement is a design lover’s dream. The hotel is a tribute to the Parisian art de vivre and a combination of three buildings that date back from the 17th and 18th centuries.
The 32 rooms are the epitome of elegance and comfort. Each room contains bespoke headboards, handcrafted details, solid oak wall lights, fringed velvet, and manor-style woodwork. Each element adds to the setting, evoking an almost Gothic, angular and poetic Paris seen through the windows. The breakfast is served at the table to guarantee the freshness of the dishes.
Discover a reinterpreted French cuisine at the restaurant. The chef combines local produce with modern culinary skills to create exotic delicacies. Here, the dining experience permeates the art de vivre through even the smallest details.
The spa features a sauna as well as a heated pool where guest can relax on a heated day-bed.
There are plenty of ways to celebrate the 2023 European Heritage Days in Normandy. Visit La Poterie du Mesnil de Bavent to discover the finials and other ceramic decorations that adorn the villas on the coast. La Poterie du Mesnil de Bavent has been a specialist since 1842. Along with discovering the company’s savoir-faire, you’ll have the opportunity to visit and experience a craftsman village along with a market with both designers and second-hand dealers.
At famed French interior designer Jacques Garcia’s Domaine du Champ de Bataille there will be a special interactive program. Visit the fabulous apartments, tour the exceptionally open Moghol Palace, and visit the French gardens.
In Villedieu-les-Poêles, a town known for its copper production, you can visit the Cornille-Havard bell foundry. This is the foundry that produced the bells for the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.
In the Loire Valley, the Château de Chenonceau is offering a special visit for the 2023 European Heritage Days. Meet at the château at 7:00 am for an exclusive visit as the sun comes up and before the castle opens to the public.
At Château de Villandry you can tour the famous French gardens in a horse-drawn carriage. Experience a special guided tour filled with historical anecdotes. Master craftsmen will also be on site to enhance a visit to the château, and visitors will be able to test out some of the various techniques used.
Bordeaux and Southwest France
Unique offerings in Bordeaux include tours of forgotten theaters, an ironmaking workshop and demonstration, and a variety of cultural walks. A not to be missed visit is to the Hôtel de Basquiat, a historic building dating from the 18th century. It was built for Joseph Basquiat de Mugriet, adviser to the parliament of Bordeaux. This exceptional residence was completed in 1781 after three years of construction, supervised by the architect François Lhôte.
In Saint-Émilion, visit the largest monolithic church in Europe. Carved out at the beginning of the 12th century, the monolithic church is underground and only visible thanks to its bell tower that reaches 68 meters high. The building is hidden from the eyes of the visitors behind a gothic portal that only the guide can open. A must-see for the European Heritage Days!
In Sarlat, many places that are normally closed to the public will be open including the Lanterns of the Dead and private mansions. Don’t miss Saturday night’s “Heritage Under the Stars” in Sarlat to discover the city’s alleys illuminated by candles.
Where to Stay in Nice
This famous property has overlooked one of the French Riviera’s most beautiful bays for a century. Unique and timeless, it has been classified as a historical monument. Facing the Mediterranean Sea on the famous Promenade des Anglais, the hotel is a few minutes walk from Nice’s historical center.
The hotel has attracted a veritable “who’s who” of international clientele, kings of the old and the new world. Many of the world’s rich and famous have signed the guest book: Salvador Dali, Princess Grace of Monaco, the Beatles, Louis Armstrong, and Elton John. Staying at this hotel is stepping into French history and culture.
The perfect combination of historic and contemporary is the property’s trademark. Equipped and personalized with exceptional period furniture, each one of the 128 rooms and 26 suites draws its inspiration from the most remarkable French art periods. From Louis XIII style to modern art, five centuries of history are represented.
Have breakfast under the cupola imagined by Gustave Eiffel, lunch in the Rotonde restaurant surrounded by white horses, and dinner at the Chantecler, the Michelin star restaurant. In between, why not have a drink at the warm and welcoming bar?
In summer, enjoy the private beach just a few steps away from the hotel’s doors.
Provence and the French Riviera
The Provence region is filled with activities for the European Heritage Days. In Marseille you can exceptionally visit the Fort d’Entrecasteaux, which has been closed to the public since it was built in 1660.
In Nice, in the spirit of the “Sports Heritage” theme, visitors as young as 4 years old will be able to discover “All by Bike!” There will be an impressive collection of the Nice brand URAGO collector’s edition bicycles, a mandala bike animation that allows participants to create a work of art while pedaling, and a bike mission game that allows participants to learn how to repair a bike as well as learn safety practices.
Lastly, in Aix-en-Provence, take an exceptional guided tour around marble. Visitors will be able to see rare antique marbles, Bibémus marble, Aleppo breach and Tholonet marble.
The possibilities are almost limitless when it comes to celebrating the 2023 European Heritage Days in France. Each region puts its cultural gems front and center so that participants can have a deeper understanding of French heritage and culture. French Side Travel offers a whole host of itineraries focused around history and culture including the Provence and French Riviera Discovery Tour, the Highlights of Normandy by Train, and a Classic Tour of the City of Light.