Next week-end, 20 and 21 September, government palaces, privately owned castles, locked chapels and churches will open their door to the public. European Heritage Day, which France initiated 25 years ago as "Journees du Patrimoine", is a unique opportunity to visit such historical landmarks as the Prefecture palace in Marseilles, the Knights Templar fortress in Greoux-les-Bains or the 16th century castle of Allemagne-en-Provence, 16 miles east of Cadarache.
Attendance at the Journees du Patrimoine has been steadily growing since 1984 and reached an all time high last year with 12 million participants.
While private places will welcome visitors all week-end, public monuments and museums will make a special effort to entertain them: guided tours and conferences, special activities and temporary exhibits are scheduled in almost every French town and village.
Marseilles' 17th century City HallIn Marseilles, mayor Gaudin will play tour guide to the public in person, welcoming them into his private office and showing them around the city's 17th century Hotel de Ville. So will the Prefet de Region, wearing his grand uniform, in his monumental 19th century palace.
There are about 43.000 "Protected Historical Monuments" in France, half of them privately owned. In terms of architectural heritage, whether Roman, Medieval or Classical, Provence, with close to 2,200 monuments, comes second only to the Paris region. Considering the offer, choosing a destination may prove difficult. These official web pages will help you make your selection: