If you’re going to be in Paris later this month and haven’t heard of the Journées du Patrimoine, or European Heritage Days, as it’s called in English, then let us bring it to your attention and give you a few ideas.
A “two days free” cultural event in Paris
This is the 31st year of the European Heritage Days, which began in France in 1984 as La Journée Portes Ouvertes, or “Open Doors Days.” It has since become a cooperative event of the Council of Europe and the European Commission and involves all 50 signatory states of the European Cultural Convention.
Heritage Days takes place on the 20th and 21st of this month! During the weekend you can take tours, attend workshops, or simply enjoy the culture and heritage of Paris at your own pace.
Plan your visits to renowned cultural landmarks, monuments and official buildings
During Heritage Days, government buildings, monuments, cultural landmarks, and other architectural wonders throw open their doors to the public for two days, giving you the opportunity to see places you would normally never have access to, for free.
There are literally dozens, if not hundreds, of places involved across the many arrondissements of Paris. Though many places are free to enter for this weekend only, making the best of two short days can be a real challenge. Moving about the city while looking for places to go can eat up precious time. So how do you make the best of it?
The trick is knowing how to plan your days, to create mini city adventures that suit your interests the most. One way to accomplish that is let a Parisian with inside knowledge of Paris’ finest cultural centers help you. We have some ideas suited to this year’s emphasis on “national heritage”, and the classic favorites (with a little spice) are always a good bet.
A selection of museums to consider
Heritage Days is an exceptional time to visit Paris museums, which offer a wide range of options, from world-renowned favorites like the Louvre, to classic art and literature to natural sciences to the odd special interest. Musée de l’Homme, for example, will be giving the public a sneak peak of its interior ahead of the museum’s 2015 grand opening. The Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits will present a display of calligraphy and origami as entry to its collection of authentic works of penmanship. And the Musée des Arts Forains might carry you away with its magical merry-go-rounds of years past. These and many other museums important to Paris and France are available to you.
But there are other experiences that await you as well, away from the crowds and the hassles of maps and GPS. Tours only knowledgeable guides can provide. Perhaps an insider’s tour of the chic art and galleries of the Rive Gauche (Paris’s famous “Left Bank” district) with art historian and Wonderful Time talent, Vladana. Or a personalized tour of art studios, galleries, and small museums throughout Paris with gallery director and Wonderful Time talent, Sylvie.
On the other hand, maybe you’re in the market to buy some art, or you’re simply curious how the art auctioning process works. Friend and Wonderful Time talent, Elsa, an art expert and certified auctioneer, can take you inside the most famous auction house in Paris, an up-close auctioning experience at the mythical Hôtel Drouot.
You like wine, right? Of course you do. Did you know you don’t have to leave the streets of Paris to learn about viticulture or visit wine caves? One place you might go is Bercy Village, an old wine market from the nineteenth century that was once considered the wine cellar of the world. But there’s a lot more to French wine than Bercy, and our friend Lionel, a French wine expert, can share with you the best that French wine offers. With multiple options, there’s certainly an experience to please you. In spirit of Heritage Days, the private wine journey or a behind the scenes experience with Lionel himself might be ideal.
Paris’ parks, private gardens, and secret getaways
If the hustle and bustle of busy Paris streets wears you thin, perhaps something more tranquil would appeal to you. For centuries, the parks and gardens of Paris have been a place for Parisians and visitors alike to take leisurely strolls, decompress, and find inspiration. You may know a few yourself and will certainly find the big ones if you wonder the city enough. But did you know some museums, like Rodin, have private gardens too? Hidden places of quietude — romantic and serene. These and many other small parks and gardens can be found off the beaten path. Paris is a trove of botanic gems waiting for your discovery. Let us introduce you to Sylvie , again, who knows these hidden oases intimately and can show you how to escape into the secret gardens of Paris.
Parisian brothels… Oh la la !
For something really different, but no less significant in the rich history of Paris, take an excursion to the dusky, perfumed boudoirs that were once fashionable pleasure palaces, where high society gathered and the demimonde prevailed. Though closed by the government in 1946, these buildings and many traces of their fanciful and exotic decor can still be found.
If you find yourself in front of Le Chabanais, former location of one of Paris’ most mentionable “maisons closes,” be sure to cross the street and see Au Bonheur du Jour, where artifacts and photos of Le Chabanais’ long lost interiors can still be discovered.
More Heritage Days events and Wonderful Times experiences
For more about activities in Paris during Heritage Days, see France’s official website, Journées du Patrimoine. For more personal experiences in discovering the culture and heritage of Paris, see our complete listing of Wonderful Time experiences, which are waiting for you any time of the year.