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3 Sep, 2012

European Heritage Days: 50 Countries Open Rarely Seen Sites


Brussels, 03 September 2012, European Commission Press release – Over the coming month, more than 20 million people are expected to take advantage of free access to thousands of rarely opened sites and special events as part of the European Heritage Days, which take place every September in 50 countries across Europe.

“The European Heritage Days provide a wonderful opportunity for people to discover cultural treasures which are often right on their doorstep. Some they may not even be aware of, while others are seldom accessible to the public. By opening their doors, these sites open our eyes and minds to the shared and diverse cultural heritage that is the jewel in Europe’s crown,” said Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth.

Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, said: “This joint initiative is enormously praised by our fellow European citizens. Its success, over a 20-year history, comes from being driven at local level by municipal and regional communities. Every year, communities across Europe become part of a ‘cultural family’ celebrating our immensely rich cultural heritage.”

A stunning variety of sites and events will open to the public. They range from France’s ‘hidden heritage’ – rarely seen or unexpected examples of heritage concealed in walls, underground or in the landscape, the Leeds-based archives of Marks & Spencer, the UK chain-store famed for its underwear and sandwiches, examples of Germany’s enduring love affair with timber in all its forms since Neolithic times, and a celebration of the ‘art of building’ in Brussels, Belgium, highlighting engineering and technical advances that led to the evolution of architecture.

A number of countries are producing joint events to emphasise the European dimension of the initiative. Spain, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, for instance, have created a website which will link wine museums across Europe; the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Slovenia, France and Belgium are cooperating on a youth exchange and heritage education event.

In parallel, a photographic competition Wiki loves monuments, is taking place in 21 European countries with the aim of encouraging the public to discover the cultural, historical and scientific significance of their neighbourhood.

Next steps

On 14-16 October, the 5th European Heritage Days Forum will be held in Nicosia, Cyprus, in the presence of Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou. The forum will focus on the role of information and communication technologies in facilitating access to cultural heritage and in encouraging people to work for its preservation.

Background on the European Heritage Days

Launched in 1985, the European Heritage Days have been organised since 1999 as a joint initiative of the European Commission and the Council of Europe. The 50 signatory countries 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 showcase local skills and traditions, architecture and art, as well as seeking to promote mutual understanding among European citizens.

Further info:


List of events