France opens doors of historic sites amid tight security

France opens doors of historic sites amid tight security

Security in France was heightened on Saturday as some 17,000 heritage sites, many of them closed to the general public throughout the rest of the year, opened their doors to millions of visitors for the 33rd edition of the European Heritage Days.

The annual event, also known as the ‘Journées du Patrimoine’ in French, offers a rare glimpse inside thousands of historic monuments, government buildings and other sites across the country.

The public can peek behind the normally firmly closed doors of the Elysée presidential palace, the National Archives and have a look at the world’s oldest basketball court on Rue de Trévise in Paris.

However, with the French state of emergency still in place due to the recent terror attacks, this year’s edition is accompanied by a major security operation. This has resulted in some sites, including broadcaster France Télévisions and the Abbey de La Trappe, electing not to take part. The abbey in northwestern France opted out of the event for the first time in 33 years because of what the increased focus on security would mean for visitors.

“I can’t imagine asking visitors to open their bags or jackets [before entering],” Monk Father François told radio station Europe 1.

However, the Philharmonie de Paris has improved its event by opening its rooftop gazebo to the public for the very first time.

Ahead of the September 17-18 event, which attracts an average of around 12 million visitors a year, the French government had said “particular attention” would be paid to ensure security at the most popular sites.

France was the first country to launch the event in 1984, but other European countries have since followed suit with dozens of nations now taking part.

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