Some 10 million people will get a chance poke around inside some of the country's most interesting sites this weekend (September 19th and 20th) as part of the annual heritage days (Journées du Patrimoine). And best of all, many of the visits are free of charge.
While it may be interesting to get a look at some of the popular attractions like the Senate and the Elysée Palace (the president's home), there are a string of odd and incredible sites to take in as well.
Here are ten fascinating places you shouldn't miss this time around.
Incity Tower, Lyon, Saturday only
Take a sneak peek at the new Incity Tower in Lyon. Still under construction, this skyscraper already offers magnificent views of the city — and the Alps if the weather's good enough. Visits to this project with a seriously environmentally-friendly tinge are free and take place from 9am to 12pm Saturday but you'll need to pre-book
. Entrance is from Rue Garibaldi.
France Télévisions studios, Paris, Saturday and Sunday
France's national broadcaster is opening up its doors to the public this weekend, with visitors getting a behind the scenes look at how their studios operate. There will also be a chance to meet presenters. Visiting hours are from 9am to 7pm, but this is one of the most popular tickets in town and you'll need to be in the queue by noon to get in (18 rue du Professeur Florian-Delbarre).
Pincevent archeological site
Under excavation since 1964, the Pincevent site is well known for its early modern human remains, such as stone artifacts. It's near the town of Montereau-Fault-Yonne, and is open to the public with three tours daily at 9.30am, 1.30pm and 3.30pm. Tours are limited to 20 people and you'll need to email [email protected]
to book a spot.
French National Assembly, Paris, Saturday and Sunday
If you want to see where the everyday battles of French politics take place, visit the neoclassical pile that houses the French National Assembly. Here is where the country's lower house deputies take pot shots at each other from their traditional positions on the left and right sides of the house. The building is open to the public from 9am to 6pm on Saturday and Sunday, and visits are free (35 quai d'Orsay, and 128 rue de l'Université).
(Photo: Richard Ying and Tangui Morlier
Dermatological museum, Paris, Sunday only
The Hôpital Saint-Louis – Musée des Moulages Dermatologiques (Dematalogical Museum) hosts four collections of nauseatingly realistic wax casts of different types of skin diseases.
The museum, which is located on Avenue Claude-Vellefaux in Paris’s 10th arrondissement, has more than 4,800 casts. You can visit from free from 12pm to 6pm on Sunday.
Chateau de Clérans, Saturday and Sunday Dordogne
Here's one you might not have heard about. This historical chateau, which was built in the 11th century, boasts a real mix of medieval and new, with a dungeon, a chapel, contemporary decor, and huge gardens.
There's also an art exhibition featuring the works of John Adams and Emmanuel Griefen Gatti. The chateau is the home of Joris Van Grinsven, and is only open to the public on European Heritage Days.
Cité radieuse, Marseille
Love him or hate him, Le Corbusier continues to be one of the most influential architects of the 20th century, and among his best-known buildings is the Cité radieuse in Marseille. Known locally as La Maison du Fada (‘the nutter’s house), this building houses 337 apartments, a hotel and a restaurant. You can visit for free this weekend (9am to 5pm) and even take a look at some of the apartments (280 boulevard Michelet).
(Photo: Crookesmoor/Wikimedia commons
Ferme Mazier, Paris, Saturday only
Take a step back in time by visiting the Ferme Mazier that used to provide Paris’s main markets with cabbage, beetroots, carrots and other vegetables.
Described as an oasis in the city, it can be found on Rue Heurtault and Rue Edgar-Quinet in Aubervilliers, in France’s outer suburbs. The only chance to visit is 11am on Saturday. Email [email protected] for more information, and to register.
For a full searchable list of the sites open to the public during France's annual heritage days, click here (in French).