Wednesday 14 September 2016

Ten suggestions for the Journées du Patrimoine

In France, the third weekend in September is synonymous with the Journées du Patrimoine (heritage days), which offer free access to culturally or historically significant buildings and sites that are generally off limits or off the radar.

Typically this can mean long queues outside the various hôtels particuliers that are used today as ministerial offices, but you needn't waste your weekend this way. Instead, you can whizz between the following queue-free locations!

To locate these suggestions and for more details on opening times, use the official JEP map:  
  • La Java: The oldest night-club in Paris - once a haunt of Edith Piaf and Maurice Chevalier - is opening its doors for the first time during the Journées du Patrimoine. Hourly guided visits are being organised, with reservation obligatory:
  • The French Communist Party HQ: This Oscar Niemeyer construction is at once futuristic and elegantly retro. From the underground auditorium to the rooftop terrace, it is a wonderful and playful building to discover.
  • The chapelle de l'Humanité: Europe's only surviving humanist chapel is a curiosity that combines obsessive love, Brazil and a touch of kitsch. Combine the visit with a trip to Auguste Comte's apartment, an extremely well-preserved touch of 19th century austerity.
  • The Magasins Généraux, Pantin: Not long ago a spectacular graffiti covered urban ruin, this old grain warehouse has been transformed into the HQ of an ad agency. The Journées du Patrimoine give the first chance ever to get inside, and above all on the roof and balconies, for spectacular views on the canal and across the east of Paris.
  • Saint Germain de Charonne: One of only three churches in Paris that still has its adjoining cemetery, this ancient building has only recently reopened after years of vital strengthening work.
  • Bazaar de la Charité memorial: This micro-museum and place of remembrence to a fire in which 130 people - mostly female members of the aristocracy - lost their lives, is only ever very exceptionally open to the public.
  • The world's oldest surviving basketball court: Not only old, but extremely strange with its two metallic posts in the centre and a cycling ring above. It is testament to the global reach of the YMCA in the 19th century.
  • Saint Jean Bosco: What is the best-preserved art deco building in Paris? Surprisingly, the answer may well be a little-known neighbourhood church in the 20th arrondissement.
  • The Palais d'Iéna: Auguste Perret's stylish and graceful building is a joy to visit, even if it still seems to be searching for its real purpose in life.
  • "Le Droit-Humain" maconic lodge: A rare chance to get inside an impenetrable and austere building that nevertheless preaches (on its facade) equality and openness.



Carol McFarland, Arcata, CA said...

Next April, my annual Paris visit will include as many on your list as I can manage during that month. Thanks for the brief sketches and pointers to places that most visitors will probably miss. Discovery is the greatest joy of being a visitor.

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