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European Commission - Press release

European Heritage Days: 50 countries open rarely seen monuments

Brussels / Strasbourg, 9 September 2011 – Over the coming month, more than 20 million people are expected to enjoy access to thousands of rarely opened sites and unique events as part of European Heritage Days, which take place every September in 50 countries across Europe. This locally-led initiative is supported by the European Commission and the Council of Europe, which promote awareness-raising at EU level.

"Cultural heritage is an essential part of our cultural diversity and shared history. The European Heritage Days encourage people to discover cultural gems on their doorstep. They also help us to better appreciate that our 'national' heritage often has a European dimension. Our ancestors, for example, were frequently inspired by developments in other countries when they were building the houses and gardens that we treasure today," said Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth.

Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, Director General for Education, Culture, Heritage, Youth and Sport at the Council of Europe, said: "This joint programme is prized by governments. Its evident success, over a 20-year history, comes from being driven at local level by municipal and regional communities. Every year, communities across Europe become part of a ‘cultural family’ celebrating our common European heritage."

This year, an outstanding variety of events and monuments will be open to the public during European Heritage Days. They range from the world's largest balloon factory in Bristol, UK, to an open-air performance of Les Misérables, inspired by Victor Hugo's masterpiece, near the site of the 1815 Battle of Waterloo in Belgium. In the German capital, there will be guided visits to preserved sections of the Berlin Wall, transformed by painting and graffiti by more than 100 artists from 20 countries, and an exhibition dedicated to Erasmus of Rotterdam in Strasbourg, France.


Several countries are working together to highlight the European dimension of the event. Lithuania, Norway and Switzerland are promoting "hidden treasures", inviting visitors to witness rarely seen or an unexpected face of heritage concealed in walls, underground or in the landscape. France, Ukraine, Cyprus and Finland are spotlighting "cultural routes" to raise awareness of heritage at the crossroads of artistic, scientific and commercial life. For instance, a European wine museum map will be inaugurated in Odessa, Ukraine.

In parallel a photographic competition, "Wiki loves monuments", is taking place in 16 European countries with the aim of encouraging the public to rediscover the cultural, historical and scientific significance of their neighbourhood. Europeana, Europe's digital library, is promoting a European Prize for Art Nouveau.

Taking stock of this year's events, the 4th European Heritage Days forum will be held in Wrocław, Poland on 10-12 October on the topic "Value the Heritage! European Heritage and Economic Development". It will bring together policy-makers, heritage experts and national coordinators for the Heritage Days to discuss the value of cultural heritage for the European economy, particularly in times of economic crisis. The forum will be opened by Bogdan Zdrojewski, Polish Minister of Culture and National Heritage.

Launched in 1985, the European Heritage Days have been organised since 1999 as a joint initiative of the European Union and the Council of Europe. The 50 signatory states to the European Cultural Convention take part in the European Heritage Days by putting new cultural treasures on view and opening up historic buildings which are normally closed to the public. The cultural events highlight local skills and traditions, architecture and works of art, but the broader aim is to promote mutual understanding among citizens.

To find out more:

European Heritage Days' events listed by country:

European Heritage Forum:

Contacts :

Dennis Abbott (+32 2 295 92 58)

Dina Avraam (+32 2 295 96 67)

Council of Europe: Giuseppe Zaffuto (+33 686 32 10 24)

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