European Heritage Days in Paris

One-off openings, behind the scenes, little-known places ... one-of-a-kind free visits to explore Paris from a different angle.

Journées européennes du patrimoine 2021 - Affiche avec date, Paris

For 35 years, European Heritage Days have been inviting visitors to discover areas of iconic cultural sites and entire places in Paris that are not usually open to the public. An outstanding programme makes this weekend a highlight of the post-summer holiday period.

In 2021, Heritage Days take place on 18 and 19 September with the theme "Heritage for everyone. There is something for everyone and for all ages ... events in unusual places, discovery trails, workshops and more! Here is a little glimpse of what is in store for you:

Visit of the Paris Hôtel de Ville (City Hall)

Hôtel de Ville de Paris, extérieur façade © Fotolia - jorisvo

Registration required, Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 5.30pm

Paris City Hall offers two exhibitions on the history of Paris as well as tours of the reception rooms, the boardroom and the Mayor's office. Visitors can also discover the expertise of the crafts people of this listed building who ensure the upkeep of the City Hall - locksmiths, upholsterers, watchmakers, painters, light specialists, parquet floor experts, heating engineers, painters and industrialists. Alongside them, the Union Rempart association gives demonstrations of stonecutting. Also on the programme: Bergerie, by French Renaissance writer Catherine des Roches (1542-1587), a pastoral about love and friendship. Performances: Saturday anf Sunday, from noon to 4.30pm.

Visits of the Cité Universitaire pavilions

For 95 years now, students from all over the world have been coming to stay in the forty unique houses of residence on the campus of the Cité Universitaire Internationale. Many houses are organizing visits and special activities: photo exhibitions, films and a lecture on the city of Alcalá de Henares at the Spanish College; guided tour, concert and calligraphy workshop at the Bourguiba Pavilion; lecture on the painter Jalel Ben Abdallah at the Tunisia House; guided tours, documentary films and tour of the Grand Salon at the USA Foundation; photo exhibition at the Sweden House, and more.

Visit L/Oblique heritage centre with its permanent exhibition that tells the story of the International University: Saturday and Sunday from 2pm to 6pm.

Take a guided tour with Architects Without Borders and discover the history of the International University through its architecture. Tours leave from the garden of the Franco-British College, Sunday from 2pm to 3pm, from 4pm to 5pm and from 5pm to 6pm. Reservation required.

Franco-British College: guided tour of the ‘Gardens of the world’ installation, Saturday from 3pm to 4.30pm.

USA Foundation: Saturday and Sunday from 2pm to 6pm, Heritage and Daily Life tour to admire this Art Deco building.

Guided tour of the Lucien Paye residence: Saturday from 10am ro 11am. Visitor numbers limited.

Guided tour of the Île-de-France House: Sunday at 2pm and at 5pm. Reservation required.

Sweden House: photo exhibition celebrating the 90th anniversary of the founding of the house, Saturday from 2pm to 5pm. Free admission.

Spain House: photo exhibition Saturday from 2pm to 6pm; lecture about the city of Alcalá de Henares, Saturday from 4pm to 5.30pm. Free admission.

Guided tour of the Mexico House: Saturday from 2pm to 2.30pm, from 4pm to 4.30pm and from 5pm to 5.30pm. Number of visitors limited to 15 persons.

Italy House: Saturday and Sunday from 2pm to 6pm - Self-guided tour of the loggia and the 14th-century fresco San Francesco che riceve le stigmate e San Cristoforo.

Tunisia House: lecture on the painter Jalel Ben Abdallah, Saturday from 3pm to 4.30pmGuided tour every 30 minutes, Saturday and Sunday, between 2pm and 5pm. Reservation required.

Bourguiba Pavilion: guided tour Saturday and Sundayevery 30 minutes, from 2pm to 5.30pm ; calligraphy workshop, Sunday from 3.30pm to 4.30pm ; concert by Yasser Jeradi Sunday from 7pm to 9pm. Reservation required.

Guided tour of the Hellenic FoundationSaturday and Sunday, from 3pm to 4pm. Reservation required.

Canada House: guided tour and open-air exhibition of Canadian photographers. Saturday and Sunday : from 2pm to 2.45pm, from 3pm to 3.45pm and from 5pm to 5.45. Free admission.

Portugal House: recital of Portuguese music with Iria Perestrelo et Isabel Calado, Saturday from 4pm to 4.45pm guided tour Saturdayevery 30 minutes, from 3pm to 5.30pm. Reservation required.

Visit of the Institut de France

Institut de France, Paris © Thinkstock

Saturday and Sunday from 9.am to 6.pm. Self-guided tour.

The Institut de France, an institution as old as it is mysterious, invites you to step through its main door and discover the main courtyard, the Mazarine library, the various meeting rooms, the new auditorium, the Dome ... It is within these walls, some of which are 350 years old, that the five academies work: Académie Française, des Sciences, des Beaux-arts, des Sciences Morales et Politiques and des Inscriptions et Belles-lettres. Some academicians will be present to sign their work.

Visit of the Grand Rex

Salle Panoramique du Grand Rex, Paris © DR

Guided tour Saturday from 9am to 4pm, Sunday from 9am to 6pm. Reservation required.
Audio tour  Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 6pm, €5. Reservation required

The Grand Rex, an emblematic place for cinema and entertainment, is a listed historical monument and has the largest movie theatre in Europe! The history of its construction in the 1930s, anecdotes about the shows and a visit to its Big Auditorium are all worth discovering. A more in-depth tour takes you behind the scenes of a film studio, from the projection booth to the special effects room.

Visit of Galeries Lafayette

Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann - Façade HSM international la nouvelle Parisienne 2019

Saturday from 9.30am to noon. Tours are free of charge but places must be reserved on the website. Maximum 12 people per group. Tours last 90 minutes. Meeting point: the Lafayette Entrance of the Coupole store (40 boulevard Haussmann).

It will soon be 125 years since Galeries Lafayette Haussmann opened its doors, in the era of department stores and Art Nouveau. Discover the superb dome, dating back to 1912, the ironwork, various archives and an itinerary exclusive, through the store and up to the rooftop terrace with its view over Paris, providing a valuable insight into the development of this store – an emblem of Parisian fashion and commerce since 1894.

Visite of the Cité de la Musique

Cité de la musique - Philharmonie de Paris - Bâtiment, Paris

Saturday and Sunday from 2pm to 5.30pm. Free admission, limited number of slots available. 

Léo Guédy Jazz Quartet at 2pm, 3pm and 4pm
Zoxea at 2.30pm, 3.30pm ans 4.30pm
Solistes de l'Ensemble Intercontemporain at 3pm, 4pm and 5pm

This year the Philharmonie de Paris has invited three musical ensembles to interpret their versions of Félix Rozen’s graphic score Opus incertain. The artist worked at the intersection of music and painting. Visitors can enjoy a concert tour accompanied by a contemporary music ensemble, a jazz quartet and a rap artist (Léo Guédy Jazz Quartet, Zoxea, les Solistes de l’Ensemble Intercontemporain). The original score of Opus incertain was recently donated to the Philharmonie and is on view in its permanent collection.

Visit of the Université de la Sorbonne

La Sorbonne - Cour d'honneur, Paris

Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 5pm. Registration required from September 2021 on the Sorbonne University’s website

The magnificent architecture and fascinating history of the iconic Sorbonne University can be discovered through talks and a tour of the salons, statues, amphitheatres, the Chapel, the Library, and the Salle des Autorités. The route includes explanatory panels and features a selection of works by students at the Paris region’s art schools and colleges. This year, stencil artist Christian Guémy presents a series of paintings representing seven women who studied or taught at the Sorbonne, titled ‘To Great Women, the Sorbonne is grateful’.

Saint-Sulpice church

Eglise Saint Sulpice, Paris © Thinkstock

Self-guided visit : Saturday from 9am to 7pm and Sunday from 12.30pm to 7pm. Guide brochure available in eight languages. Audio-guide app (available in English) for smartphone: Les Pierres parlent.

Presentation of the Chapel of the Holy Angels (paintings by Delacroix): Saturday from 11am to noon. Free admission.

Presentation of the gnomon: Saturday and Sunday from 1.15pm to 2.30pm.

Presentation of Cavaillé-Coll’s great organ: Sunday from 3pm to 4.30pm. Free admission.

Guided tour : Saturday at 10am, 11am, 2.30pm, 3.30pm and 4.30pm ; Sunday at 2pm and 4.30pm.

Exhibition on Saint-Sulpice in Revolutionary Times: Saturday from 10.30am to 6.30pm ; Sunday from 12.15pm to 6.30pm.

Classified as a historical monument for more than 100 years, the Church of Saint-Sulpice was declared a listed monument more than 100 years ago and has treasures for every taste. An exhibition presents the history of this parish during the Fronde (1648-53), the French Revolution (1789-99), and the Paris Commune (1870-71); the astronomical gnomon is visible between 1.15pm and 2.15 pm when daylight falls on the meridian of Saint-Sulpice; several works are on show such as paintings by Delacroix (Saturday from 11am to 12 pm) and liturgical ornaments. Finally, the church organs will be played during a concert visible on a large screen.

Guided tour of the Boucheron jewellery store - Hôtel de Nocé

Place Vendôme - Boucheron, Paris

Please register for your guided tour - Sunday afternoon from 2pm to 5pm - by emailing journeesdupatrimoine.boucheron@boucheron.com. The Saturday is reserved for school groups.

The Maison Boucheron was founded in 1858 by Frédéric Boucheron; his first store was in the Palais Royal. Opened in 1893, the establishment at 26 place Vendôme was his second and the first jeweller’s to open in Place Vendôme, with its elegant architecture dating from the reign of Louis XIV. The maison Boucheron invites visitors on a guided tour of the Hôtel de Nocé, an architectural gem.

Tour of the Palais-Royal - Centre des monuments nationaux

Stage fencing demonstration: Saturday at 11am, at 2.30pm and at 5pm. Free admission.

Exhibition of coaches and carriages: Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 7pm.

Visit with commentary on Prostitution at the Palais-Royal : Saturday and Sunday, from 9pm to 10pm.

Built for Cardinal Richelieu by Jacques Lemercier, architect of the Sorbonne - the Domaine du Palais-Royal is favoured by Parisians and tourists alike as a place for a stroll. As part of the celebrations of the Bicentenary of the death of Napoleon, fencers from the Association Lames en Seine will give duelling demonstrations. Also on the programme: an open-air exhibition of Napoleonic-era coaches and carriages.

Palais du Luxembourg - Tour of the Senate

Famille au jardin du Luxembourg, Paris

Self-guided visit Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 6pm

Each year during the European Heritage Days, the French Senate open its doors to the public, offering a unique opportunity to visit the Palais du Luxembourg. Discover the Senate chamber, the library, painted by Delacroix, the Salle des Conférences, the Petit Luxembourg (where the President of the Senate works), the Queen’s Chapel, built by Marie de Médicis en 1625, and the eighteenth-century Boffran salons. Senate officials are on hand to offer further information and answer visitors’ questions.

Visit of the Ivry-Paris locomotive depot

Guided tour of the historic electric locomotive 2D2 5525, Sunday from 2pm to 6pm. Free admission, visits in small groups (formed on site).

Members of the COPEF association (Cercle Ouest Parisien d'Études Ferroviaires) take visitors on an exciting tour of the former steam locomotive depot in Paris-Ivry. These mechanical and industrial engineering enthusiasts also introduce the public to the historic 2D2 5525 locomotives, which was put into service in 1934 and classified as a historical monument in 1990!

Virtual tours of the Heritage Days in Paris

Memories France - Notre-Dame de Paris

If you can't make it to Paris for the 38th edition of the Heritage Days, you can still enjoy them from home. Many of the participating venues are setting up a digital version of the event to be found on their websites and social networks. It's the perfect way to experience this great annual event from the comfort of your own sofa!

This year, RATP is launching a new board game, in which participants are invited to follow a route from the WebApp and answer thematic questions about RATP's heritage. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of high-speed rail travel in France, the SNCF is offering a digital device including podcasts, virtual tours and commented archive images.

The Élysée Palace, star of the Heritage Days, offers a virtual tour on its website. Paris Musées offers numerous virtual tours of the collections of its Parisian museums. To discover or rediscover the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral, closed for restoration, go to the dedicated site. Visitors are transported to different parts of the monument: from the nave to the balcony, from the forecourt to the roof and even into the air, carried by the sound of the cathedral's famous Cavaillé-Coll organ.

To access more than 1,600 masterpieces from your tablet or smartphone, the Digital Museum is the reference cultural offer within the Micro-Folies de la Villette project. Thanks to it, all audiences can admire the works of the Louvre, the Centre Pompidou, the Grand Palais, the Château de Versailles, the Musée national Picasso-Paris, the Philharmonie, and the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie.

Go for a philosophical escapade at the Maison Alain in Le Vésinet, which presents a conference on the philosopher Alain and his work. And for those with a passion for numbers, the Cour des Comptes offers a range of digital activities on social networks: a guided tour of the Palais Cambon, historical videos on the creation of the Cour des Comptes by Napoleon, 180-second report presentations, unusual videos, etc. In the same spirit, UNESCO is putting eleven episodes of the Campus series online, a question-and-answer format in which experts from the institution take an interest in heritage.

Finally, several virtual visits offer the possibility of entering the heart of various major restoration sites and dedicated videos are broadcast during the event on the Heritage Days Facebook page. With Studi Sherlock, dive into the heart of restoration know-how and discover how great Parisian buildings are being restored. Another site to be discovered on this occasion is the Bleus de Bar theatre, built in 1900 and until recently considered an endangered heritage site. The visit is offered for broadcasting on the website of the association behind its renovation.

The complete programme of the European Heritage Days