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European Heritage Days: Cultural sites open their doors for free this September

The Arc de Triomphe in Paris
The Arc de Triomphe in Paris Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By Jonny Walfisz
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You can visit museums free of charge and participate in fascinating cultural workshops in 50 European countries.

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European cultural sites have opened their doors this September for European Heritage Days. The European Union and Council of Europe initiative sees thousands of monuments and sites open for free when they’d usually be closed to the public.

Running throughout September, European Heritage Days takes place across the 50 states signed up to the European Cultural Convention Treaty. This includes the UK, as well as the non-Council of Europe states Belarus, the Holy See, Kazakhstan and Russia.

Established in 1984, European Heritage Days are a great way to explore a part of local culture that wouldn’t usually be accessible.

We’ve listed some of the events that have piqued our interest, but these are just a smattering of the vast number of exciting sites and events on offer.

France

Boasting a huge array of events, you can barely move in France this month without coming across a European Heritage Days offer. France’s European Heritage Days are on 16 and 17 September.

Known as 'Journées européennes du patrimoine', you can check out an extensive library of the events here. For our money, we couldn’t help but be intrigued by the opportunity to go down into the maturing cellars of Roubaix to appreciate the history of cheese making in the northern city.

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Yummy old cheeseCanva

In the capital, there are tons of great Parisian museums and monuments that have opened their doors for free. It may be a bit busy, but for a cheap day out in culture this weekend, you can’t go wrong.

Italy

On 23 and 24 September, Italy is celebrating its European Heritage Days with guided tours and gallery openings across the country. Italy has taken this year’s “Living Heritage” theme with full force, emphasising the way values and traditional knowledge are passed down through generations.

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Tons of heritage to see in Bologna, one of the world's oldest university townsCanva

Sites like the Roman Theatre of Bologna to Rome’s Imperial Forums will be open for the public to explore the remarkable millennia-old heritage of Italy. There are also contemporary joys to be had with artist studio tours and cookery classes. Search for something close to you here.

Spain

Missed out on the opportunities in France and Italy? Spain’s regions are holding its European Heritage Days slightly later in the calendar, with Catalonia taking up the 7-9 October.

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Unique tile work in BarcelonaCanva

Looking at the Catalonia region specifically, there are activities for all ages, from a workshop for children at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Barcelona, to a past and future history tour of the impressive Santa Pau castle in the countryside.

Germany

While there are plenty of European countries offering a wide array of options, it’s worth checking right away whether your local heritage site is still open. Take Germany for example, whose European Heritage Days were last weekend.

From 8-9 September, 5,000 sites were open free of charge. Operating under the motto “Culture for All!”, national landmarks held workshops and tours aimed at anyone from toddlers to seasoned historical buffs.

UK

Defying expectations, here’s a vibrant European initiative that the UK hasn’t immediately turned its nose up at, preferring to stew in its own muck.

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Groomsport in Northern IrelandCanva

In fact, there are some really fun looking activities around. In Scotland, you can learn about stained glass window creation at the All Saints Challoch church. While over in Northern Ireland, you can clue yourself up on the history behind the fishing village culture of the Cockle Row Cottages in Groomsport.

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