This weekend is the 27th annual Journées Européennes du Patrimoine, when all of the historic monuments are open free to the public, including all museums and buildings normally closed, such as embassies, government offices, and privately-owned properties. There are always huge lines to visit the Palais de l’Elysée, but there are many other interesting buildings to see around town. Here are five on my own list:
– Hôtel Coulanges (1bis Place des Vosges, or 11 rue Birague, 4th). The 2300m² birthplace of Madame de Sévigny, unoccupied since 1963, has been squatted by the lobbyist group Jeudi Noir, who try and raise awareness for the problem of finding decent, affordable housing within the city limits. They’re giving tours of the immense property of brick, stone (and the first wrought iron staircase in France) this weekend by an expert on 17th-century Marais buildings. No idea what the opening hours will be, but as their squat is quite precarious, I’d get there sooner than later!
– The Pavillons de Bercy (53, avenue des Terroirs de Franc, 12th) just behind Bercy Village, these historic wine warehouses now house a private museum rarely open to the general public, the Musée des Arts Forains (Carnival Arts Museum), the Théâtre du Merveilleux, the Salons Vénitiens, and the Théâtre de Verdure. There is a special exhibition of 300 carnival masks for the weekend. This one is not free, entry is €7. Open Sat-Sun 10am-7pm.
– The Credit Municipal (55 rue des Francs Bourgeoise, 4th), known as “ma tante” (my aunt), the oldest lending institution in France dating back to 1777, you can still get a temporary loan using things like jewelry, silver, artworks, or antiques as collateral. Learn about the historical figures who came here, visit the tower of the Philippe Auguste city wall (12th century), and buy a pot of honey made from the hives on the roof (€3). Open Sat-Sun, 10am-6pm.
– Maison Boucheron (26 Place Vendôme, 1st), the 19th-century jewelry boutique was the first to open on the Place Vendôme in 1893. The interior decor dates back to Louis XV. Free entry, open Sat-Sun 10:30am-5pm. You have to email to reserve your spot: firstname.lastname@example.org
– Hôtel de Charost: the British Ambassador’s Residence (39, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 8th), This gorgeous 18th century building was once home to Napoléon’s sister Pauline for eleven years. Her Empire furniture was sold along with the house to the British Ambassador, the Duke of Wellington in 1814, and still decorates the residence today.Open Saturday only, last entry at 4:30pm.
The official program is here, but there are a few places that I know are open which aren’t listed here, so if there’s a historic building you’ve always wanted to see on the inside, take a chance and stop by this weekend. You might get lucky.