History of the European Heritage Days
The European Heritage Days originated in Granada (Spain) on 3 October 1985, during the 2nd Council of Europe Conference of European Ministers responsible for Architectural Heritage. On this occasion, the French Minister of Culture suggested extending to a European level the
"Monuments’ Open Doors" initiative launched in France in 1984. Several European countries, such as The Netherlands, Luxemburg, Malta, Belgium, the United Kingdom (Scotland) and Sweden soon set up similar events.
In 1991, the Council of Europe officially launched the European Heritage Days with the support of the European Commission. In 1999, this initiative became a joint action of the Council of Europe and the European Commission. Throughout Europe, during the weekends of September, the European Heritage Days open the doors of numerous monuments and sites, many of them usually closed to the public, allowing Europe’s citizens to enjoy and learn about their shared cultural heritage and encouraging them to become actively involved in the safeguard and enhancement of this heritage for present and future generations.
Today, the European Heritage Days can be considered an essential instrument for fostering a tangible experience of European culture and history in addition to raising the awareness of the public about the many values of our common heritage and the continuous need for its protection. All 49 States parties to the European Cultural Convention actively take part in the initiative and the number of annual visitors is now estimated to be around 20 million at more than 30,000 participating monuments and sites. The European Heritage Days have succeeded in stimulating civil society’s participation, the specific involvement of youth, voluntary work and cross-border cooperation, thereby promoting the core principles of intercultural dialogue, partnership and civic responsibility.
Directorate General IV – Education, Culture and Heritage, Youth and Sport of the Council of Europe, in close cooperation with the Directorate General for Education and Culture of the European Commission, ensures the general orientation, definition and execution of the tasks to be achieved within the framework of the European Heritage Days. The Secretariat of the European Heritage Days is carried out by the Council of Europe's Directorate of Culture and Cultural and Natural Heritage, under the responsibility of its Steering Committee for Cultural Heritage and Landscape.
From their launch at a European level onwards, the European Heritage Days have gained each year in importance. The 49 European States parties
to the European Cultural Convention of the Council of Europe all participate and these Days have proved a success among the public.