European roots

Heritage Open Days was established in 1994 as England’s contribution to the European Heritage Days.

A joint action by the Council of Europe and the European Commission, the scheme was initiated in 1991 by the Council of Europe to raise appreciation for Europe’s rich and diverse cultural assets and their need for care and protection. The central principle was as simple as it was compelling: to throw open the doors to historic monuments and buildings, in particular those normally closed to the public. One of the key requirements was to offer free access to all properties taking part in the European Heritage Days.

Today, European Heritage Days are held annually in September in 50 signatory states to the European Cultural Convention. From the Baltic to the Balkans, from Iceland to the Iberian Peninsula, thousands of events not only highlight the dazzling diversity of Europe’s heritage, but also its intercultural links. As varied as the cultural landscapes are the approaches in putting the idea into practice.

For more information about the European Heritage Days, visit

UK family of open days

In the UK, there are altogether five open day schemes that are part of European Heritage Days: