Saint-Denis. Art workshop of the Réunion des musées nationaux (RMN). | DR

This weekend is dedicated to European Heritage, and sites all over France are open to the public either free or at a special rate. What’s even more intriguing is that besides the fantastic museums and monuments, there are some places that are open for just this fleeting window of time.

2013 marks 100 years from the enactment of the law for the protection of national monuments in France so the theme this year is “100 Years of Protection”. The Journées du Patrimoine brings an opportunity to visit a wide variety of well-known  historical monuments, some well known,  some unusual and some that are not open to the public at any other time.

With so much choice and just two short days to do it, how do we choose the most interesting or surprising spots to visit? Le Monde has compiled a list of top picks and  Le Figaro has a handy interactive map to locate the sites all over France.

Paris:

In Paris you can visit the traditional staples like the Panthéon, the catacombs under the parvis Notre-Dame, and also places that offer a very exclusive treat, like the Yves Saint Laurent creative studios, for the first time open to the public just for this occasion. Located at 5 avenue Marceau in the 16th arrondissement, the ateliers will be open 10am to 6pm Saturday and Sunday, and offer a glimpse into the backstage world of the celebrated fashion house. Admission is free.

Regional:

There are hundreds of sites all over France, specially open for the occasion. For example you can head to Chambord (Loir-et-Cher), for the special parade of the Republican Horse Guard, or the inauguration of the new Victor Hugo Musem in Besançon, (Doubs), in the house where he was born, or head to the television studios of France 3 Rhône-Alpes or Brittany to explore the production of news, documentaries, shows and special event presentations on a special guided tour.

Horse Guards at theChâteau de Chambord. Photo L’Express – afp.com/Alain Jocard

So whatever your choice, there’s absolutely no question of spending the weekend in your pyjamas with a good book. There’s too much to see out there. Experts, professionals and volunteers have been planning and working for months to prepare these unique experiences for you. Get out into the world, there’s a French cultural treasure waiting for you with open doors.

Les Journées Européenes du Patrimoine

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