European Heritage Days launched in Prague

French Embassy in Prague

This year, for the fifteenth time, cultural and historical sites are being opened to the public for free as part of the European Heritage Days - a tradition that aims to increase public awareness of the importance of heritage. This year, the Europe-wide event was launched in Prague - for the first time in a post-communist country.

Photo: CTK
A procession marching from Vysehrad, a mythical princely throne site, to Prague Castle, the seat of the kings of Bohemia, commemorating the 650th anniversary of the coronation of Charles IV as Holy Roman Emperor, was one of the first events held as part of the European Heritage Days, launched in the Czech capital last Friday. Guilherme d'Oliveira Martins is General Coordinator of the European Heritage Days.

"Since the beginning of September until October we will have all over Europe in this pan-European initiative of the Council of Europe 40,000 initiatives. Monuments, museums, houses, villages will be open to the public to the people because memory and heritage are factors of understanding and peace."

The Council of Europe says it created the event to bring people closer to their cultural heritage by throwing open the doors to historic monuments and buildings - preferably those which are usually either closed or are only partly accessible to the general public. Daniel Therond of the Council of Europe.

"The Heritage Days is a success story. Launched by the Conference of Ministers of Culture and Heritage in 1985, a very long time ago, the project has been implemented since the 1990s with a successful development. Involving only six countries at the very beginning we can say that today all the countries on this continent are participating in the programme."

In each country the European Heritage Days have a different theme. In the Czech Republic this year it is "New Life in Historical Surroundings". From this coming Friday until the following Sunday people in the Czech Republic will have a unique opportunity to explore hidden and curious places in different cities, towns and villages. Among the 1,000 or so monuments will be the French Embassy in Prague, the government's lounge at Prague's Main Railway Station, an old hydro-electric power plant in the town of Pisek and a monastery in Cesky Krumlov, to name but a few. But as Deputy Culture Minister Zdenek Novak says the European Heritage Days are not only about historic monuments.

"We understand as heritage not only monuments, museums, collections and so on but we understand as heritage also the so-called intangible heritage which is for instance folk songs, folk dances, and also the old ways of producing things which we in fact don't need in our modern life but we like them in our free time. We like them as souvenirs not only from our journeys but souvenirs of our grandfathers, grandmothers and so on."

The complete catalogue of monuments open to the public in the Czech Republic as part of the European Heritage Days can be found at