History

Established in 1994, Heritage Open Days is England's contribution to the European Heritage Days and has since grown into the country's largest community heritage festival.

European roots

In 1991 the Council of Europe and the European Commission set up European Heritage Days 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. Today, they are held annually in September in 50 signatory states to the European Cultural Convention. Each country running it in their own way, the festival not only highlights the dazzling diversity of Europe’s heritage, but also its intercultural links. 

Anniversary celebrations

In 2019 we celebrated 25 years of People Power to mark HODs' silver anniversary. Cakes were cut and glasses raised to toast the festival, particularly its incredible volunteers, at a series of anniversary celebrations. 150 people came to the national party in the stunning 2 Temple Place, while many more attended events in the regions. A special book was produced to celebrate the impact Heritage Open Days has had and all that its volunteers have achieved, whilst in the media we highlighted both festival pioneers and some new friends

Today

Expanding and diversifying from 701 events at its launch to over 5,500 today, Heritage Open Days continues to flourish with more events every year, reflecting the rich and diverse cultural heritage of England and its communities. Spanning the public, private and voluntary sectors, the festival is a unique and powerful partnership. Working with organisations and individuals across England, Heritage Open Days is our national local festival. There are always new stories to tell and new places to open. It’s a chance for communities nationwide to come together to learn, explore and have fun by sharing the treasures on their doorstep.