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European Heritage Days: the opportunity to visit rarely seen monuments

Every year more than 20 million people enjoy access to thousands of rarely opened sites and unique events as part of European Heritage Days, which take place every September in 50 countries across Europe. This locally-led initiative is supported by the European Commission and the Council of Europe.

It gives the public a rare opportunity not only to visit historical buildings normally closed to the public but also lets them take part in cultural events that highlight local skills and traditions, architecture and works of art.

An outstanding and often unknown variety of events and monuments are open to the public thanks to European Heritage Days. They range from guided visits to rarely-open sites to open-air performances and exhibitions highlighting events in European history.

Each year, national and regional events are organised around a special theme. These themes may vary in each country from year to year. They include such topics as:

  • specific forms of heritage (e.g. farmhouses, musical instruments, culinary traditions, garden architecture);
  • distinct periods in history (e.g. the Medieval heritage, the Baroque heritage);
  • society’s approach to heritage (e.g. heritage and citizenship, heritage and youth).

The themes bring countries together to highlight the European dimension of the event or raise awareness of heritage at the crossroads of artistic, scientific and commercial life.

The aims of the European Heritage Days

The European Heritage Days aim to:

  • raise the awareness of European citizens to Europe's richness and cultural diversity;
  • stimulate an appreciation of the rich mosaic of European cultures;
  • counter racism and xenophobia and encourage greater tolerance in Europe and beyond the national borders;
  • underline the need to protect cultural heritage against new threats;
  • invite Europe to respond to the social, political and economic challenges it faces.

The Days have since 1999 a permanent slogan: "Europe, a common heritage".

Background

Launched in 1985, the European Heritage Days have been organised since 1999 as a joint initiative of the European Union and the Council of Europe, in close cooperation with the group of national coordinators.

The 50 signatory states to the European Cultural Convention take part in the European Heritage Days by putting new cultural treasures on view and opening up historic buildings which are normally closed to the public.

The cultural events highlight local skills and traditions, architecture and works of art, but the broader aim is to promote mutual understanding among citizens. From their launch at European level onwards, the European Heritage Days have gained each year in importance and the Days have proved a success among the public.

To find out more:

European Heritage Days' events listed by country: www.ehd.coe.int

European Heritage Forum: http://www.4ehf.pl 

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