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 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

2014 marked the 20th anniversary of Heritage Open Days and a special reception was held at The Freemason's Hall, London.  The evening celebrated the programme and recognised some of the amazing people and organisations that help make it happen across the country. Check out our Videos page for footage from the night as well as two special creative celebrations of the festival produced in collaboration with Met Film: Road Trip and Happy Birthday HODs.

Today

Expanding and diversifying from 701 events at its launch to over 5,000 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.