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7 places to visit in France for free with this weekend’s Heritage Days

We list some sites that are not yet full for reservations - but be quick

The Opéra-Théâtre of Metz, the oldest working opera house in France, will be open for visitors this weekend Pic: mihaiulia / Shutterstock

The European Heritage Days (Journées Européennes du Patrimoine) take place in France this weekend with many museums, historical sites, shows and cultural events on offer for free. However many require reservations and are full - we list here seven places to visit, from history to culture, food and sports, which still have places available. 

1. Watch acrobats on the roof of the Palais Royal in Paris

The former royal palace in the heart of Paris, the ‘Palais Royal’ is now home to the Ministry of Culture, the Conseil d’État, and the Conseil Constitutionnel.

This weekend its roofs will be the stage for an acrobatic show by the troop L’Oubliée, which is known for its leaps and balancing acts, all without any safety equipment.

The palace courtyard will be open for entry for free one hour before each show, which start at 19:00 this Friday night, 17:00 and 19:00 on Saturday 16 and Sunday 17.

Address: Palais Royal à Paris, 8 Rue De Montpensier, 75001 Paris, France

2. Learn about Norman arts and traditions in a 15th century castle (Seine-Maritime)

The Museum of Norman traditions, arts and crafts will offer guided and free tours of all its collections this Saturday.

The museum is set in a 15th-century castle surrounded by beautiful gardens. For the occasion, the castle gardener will also be offering visits and answering questions on the arts of gardening.

Both the permanent and temporary collections are free to visit during opening hours on Saturday 16 and Sunday 17, from 10:00 to 12:30 and 14:00 to 18:00, 18:30 on Sunday.

For guided tours, which are also free but must be booked in advance, the following are available:

Saturday from 11:00 to 12:00 for the ‘treasured collection’.

Saturday from 15:00 to 16:00 and Sunday 17 from 10:30 to 11:30 for the permanent collection

From 14:00 to 18:00 Saturday and Sunday for a guided tour of the bee hives

From 14:30 to 16:30 Saturday and Sunday for a guided tour of the gardens

From 14:00 to 18:00 Saturday and Sunday for questions to the gardener

Address: Château de Martainville – Musée des Traditions et Arts Normands, 76116 Martainville-Epreville

Reservations: 02 35 23 44 70

3. Practise archery, ball dancing and calligraphy in a 13th century Catalan castle (Perpignan)

Majorca was a prosperous small kingdom of the 13th century, with Perpignan as its capital. The royal castle was built with a mixture of mediterranean and gothic architecture and fought over by French and Spanish nobility over centuries.

On Saturday 16, from 10:30 to 12:30, traditional Catalan archers will offer free initiations to archery. At the same time, there will be lessons on mediaeval calligraphy with quills.

From 20:00 to 22:00, performers will demonstrate mediaeval dances in historical costumes.

The castle itself will be freely accessible from 10:30 to 18:00 with guided tours.

Address: Palais des Rois de Majorque Rue des Archers, 66000 Perpignan, France

Contact: 04 68 34 96 26, 04 68 34 64 93, 04 68 35 89 11

4. Visit the oldest working opera house in France (Metz)

The Opéra Théâtre of Metz is the oldest working opera house in the country, and one of the oldest in Europe. Built in the mid 18th century, this monument of neo-classical architecture will be open to the public for free.

Visits are free 14:00 to 18:00 on Saturday and 10:00 to 18:00 on Sunday.

Address: Opéra-Théâtre - Eurométropole de Metz, 4-5 place de la Comédie, 57000 Metz

Contact: 03 57 88 36 66

5. Visit the inside of a roman aqueduct and buy some tasty onions (Gard)

The Roman bridge of Gard is an archeological monument from the 1st century. 48 metres tall, this aqueduct brought water to Nimes for over five centuries.

This weekend, the site is organising guided tours that will take you inside the aqueduct. If you stay until nightfall, you can also see the bridge in lights, and a drone show at 22:30.

You will also have free access to a nearby cultural centre, where local artists expose their work.

There will be farmers selling the local variety of gargantuan onions called ‘oignon de Vers-Pont-du-Gard’. These onions are sweeter than average and can grow to up to 1.8 kilograms. It is an heirloom species that almost became extinct 40 years ago.

Visits begin 30 minutes from 10:30 to 12:00, then 14:30 to 16:00 on Saturday and Sunday, free and no sign-up required, paid parking for 9 euros per day.

Address: Pont du Gard, 30210 Vers-Pont-du-Gard, France

Contact: 04 66 37 50 99

6. Learn about oyster farming in a museum surrounded by oyster farms (Charente-Maritime)

Regularly cited as a must-see museum in Charente-Maritime, La Cité de l’Huître is a museum dedicated to oysters and oyster farming.

You will be able to visit the nearby oyster farms on guided tours, learn about the life cycle of oysters, their benefits for the environments and the ecosystems that surround them.

Throughout the day, a number of activities will be organised and free to access. If you want a taste of these same oysters, the museum serves them fresh for lunch at its own restaurant.

Visits are open for free on Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 to 19:00

Address: Cité de l’Huître, Chenal de la Cayenne, Rue des Martyrs. 17320 Marennes.

Contact: 05 46 36 78 98

7. Watch, learn and practise celtic sports (Loire-Atlantique)

Two sports associations will be giving free demonstrations and invitations in Loire-Atlantique, around 15 minutes away from Nantes.

The first association practises Gouren, a traditional form of wrestling from Brittany. The sport was brought to the region by migrants from Cornwall and Wales in the early Middle Ages.

Participants fight over wood chips and try to make both of their opponent’s shoulders touch the ground at the same time.

The second sport’s association present will showcase Gaelic football, an Irish sport that is comparable to rugby. The sport is slowly gaining popularity in France, especially in Brittany.

Entry is entirely free and open to all ages, on Saturday 16 from 14:00 to 18:00.

Address: Centre culturel breton - Yezhoù ha Sevenadur

12 avenue de l'angevinière 44800 Saint-Herblain, Loire-Atlantique, Pays de la Loire, France

Contact: 07 82 70 15 14

 

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