Famous French heritage sites to open doors (though not all)

France is ready to open the doors to thousands of historic or significant buildings to the public, but like every big event in France these days, security fears mean it will feel a little different.

Famous French heritage sites to open doors (though not all)
Photo: AFP

France's 33rd annual “Heritage Days” (Journée du Patrimoine) event, when sites of interest including the Elyséé Palace open their doors to the public, will not quite be as “open” as usual this year.

Terror fears and the need for heightened security at many of the buildings mean that some of them are pulling out of the festival and won't be accessible to the public.

The annual events sees some 10 million visitors take up the unique chance to visit some of France's most famous buildings that are normally out of bounds to the public.

And some buildings including the headquarters and regional offices of France Television will remain closed.

And ever since France's state television company pulled out a number of other sites have also decided to stay closed.

The abbey at Soligny-La-Trappe in the Orne department, that has taken part in the event since the beginning, will not open to the public.

“I just can't envisage asking the visitors to open their bag or jacket to be searched,” a monk named Father François told Europe1 radio.

Other withdrawals include the theatre in Castres and the prefecture in Lille.

The mayor of Beaulieu-sur-Mer decided to cancel everything because he couldn't afford the costs of all the security guards needed. Other mayors say they need financial help from the state to cover the costs of barriers and extra shifts for security guards.

France's Ministry of Culture however insists the number of cancellations are limited. 


The French government is keen for the popular event to go ahead as normal and as a result some 15,000 buildings will be open over the weekend.

The Ministry of the Interior is obviously taking security seriously.

Thousands of police and soldiers will be mobilised and the government has appointed a special advisor to take charge of security.

The nominated prefect Hubert Weigel has visited all the main sites to give instructions on how security should be handled.

He also also advised local authorities to close roads to traffic in streets adjacent to sites, with concrete blocks to be placed in the way to prevent vehicles from being able to access the streets.

Searches have also been required.

“Everything is being put in place so that the European Heritage Days remain a festive, cultural and popular event, that allows everyone to discover the wealth and beauty of our heritage,” said a statement from Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Wednesday.

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