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A Very Cultural Weekend: European Heritage Days

What are the most prominent cultural facets of your country? How do you commemorate or celebrate them, if at all?

In France, the European Heritage Days are a manifestation nationale (“national event”) set aside for exploring French culture and history. From free wine tastings and tours to elaborate music festivals, there’s an experience for everyone! 

In this article, you’ll learn all about European Heritage Days and pick up some useful vocabulary. Let’s get started!

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1. What are the European Heritage Days?

miniature French flags hung on a line near a lamp post for European Heritage Days

European Heritage Days, (also called European Heritage “Open” Days), are an annuelle (“annual”) celebration of the unique heritage each European country possesses. The Ministère de la Culture Française (“French Ministry of Cultural Affairs”) launched this celebration in 1984 at the initiative of Minister Jack Lang, and many other European countries soon followed suit. Today, under the Council of Europe and European Commission, every state in the European Cultural Convention celebrates a form of Heritage Day. 

Still, perhaps no European country has a more substantial celebration as France. At the time of this writing, there are forty-two UNESCO World Heritage sites in France alone, and over 400,000 protected monuments and sites. Add to that the country’s intensive history, magnificent foods and wines unmatched the world over, and the lovely French language. It should come as no surprise that this holiday has met with such success, drawing in millions of tourists each year. 

To keep the excitement alive, the European Heritage Days Assembly announces a special theme for the holiday each year. In 2020, the theme is going to be “Heritage and Education.”

2. The Date of EHD Every Year

The European Heritage Days begin during the third weekend of September. For your convenience, following is a list of this holiday’s date for the next ten years.

  • 2020: September 19 to September 20
  • 2021: September 18 to September 19
  • 2022: September 17 to September 18
  • 2023: September 16 to September 17
  • 2024: September 21 to September 22
  • 2025: September 20 to September 21
  • 2026: September 19 to September 20
  • 2027: September 18 to September 19
  • 2028: September 16 to September 17
  • 2029: September 15 to September 16

3. Traditions & Celebrations for European Heritage Days

a child looking at paintings in a museum

France is crowded for European Heritage Days, especially in areas that are already significant tourist hotspots (a.k.a. Paris).

This is because museums and certain historical sites that are typically closed year-round are open to the public over the weekend to promote cultural education. European Heritage Days in Paris means gratuit (“free”) entry into a number of major sites—an opportunity you can’t miss! 

Schools often take advantage of this holiday to educate their students on the cultural marvels of France. Museums host free European Heritage Days tours for school groups on the Friday prior, giving students and teachers the opportunity to explore and learn without the hassle of large crowds.

For European Heritage Days, Paris also provides an array of culture-oriented workshops and guided tours for the general public. Examples include a stroll through a cemetery, a walk-and-talk with a major academic, and the chance to win prizes and exclusive tours! 

    → See our list of the Top 10 Weekend Activities to learn how else the French might spend the weekend (because who likes crowds?). 

4. Visiting? Here are Some Must-See Places.

a tourist taking a photograph

There are a couple of places we highly recommend you visit if you’ll be in France for the holiday weekend.

Bercy Village

Bercy Village is known for its old-fashioned charm, combined with its penchant for modern architecture. 

In Bercy Village, European Heritage Days are the perfect chance to explore the green fields of Bercy Park, the Ministère de l’économie de l’industrie et de l’emploi (open exclusively for this weekend), and the gorgeous cafes and outdoor shopping stalls. 

In 2020, Bercy Village will also have a unique flower presentation all summer long, ending in mid-October. 


During the European Heritage Days, Bordeaux is the place to go to watch grape-harvesting ceremonies, attend music festivals, and sip on wine while taking night tours of a castle. (Yes, you read that right.)

You can read more about what to expect in Bordeaux here, and learn The Top Tourist Attractions in France with 

5. Essential EHD Vocabulary

French Ministry of Cultural Affairs

Let’s review some of the vocabulary words and phrases from this article: 

  • Museum – Musée [noun, masculine]
  • Country – Pays [noun, masculine]
  • National event – Manifestation nationale
  • Annual – Annuelle [adjective]
  • Fifty – Cinquante [adjective, masculine]
  • Open day – Journée portes ouvertes [feminine]
  • Historical monument – Monument historique [masculine]
  • French Ministry of Cultural Affairs – Ministère de la Culture Française [masculine]
  • End of August – Fin août [feminine]
  • Beginning of November – Début novembre [masculine]
  • Free – Gratuit [adjective]

Remember that you can hear the pronunciation of each word on our French European Heritage Days vocabulary list! 

Final Thoughts

What do you say? Are wine tastings, flowers in the sky, and free museum entry enough to convince you to visit France? Let us know in the comments!

Before you head out, though, you’ll need to have some basic French knowledge:

To learn even more about French culture and holidays, see the following blog posts on, or visit the archive:

We hope to see you around!

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