Welcome to the most accessible weekend in Europe!
September 2021 will see museums, churches, galleries and other venues all across Europe open their doors to the public, free of charge. Accessible attractions across the continent will offer special events. This continent-wide festival is known as the ‘Journées du Patrimoine’ or ‘European Heritage Days’, and is celebrating its 38th year. The event is focused around the weekend of 17th – 19th September, but some countries will host events throughout the month.
Originating in France, hence the French name, the festival aims to make culture more accessible and to celebrate European heritage. Venues often hold special events such as workshops or concerts to encourage visitors to engage with the past and to learn about the area they live in.
The theme of this year’s European Heritage Weekend is ‘Heritage For All’, with venues placing an emphasis on making the events accessible to everyone, especially people with disabilities. This year will be the most accessible European Heritage Day yet, and visitors will travel from far and wide to explore their region like never before.
Here’s our round-up of the seven most fun accessible cultural activities to enjoy this European Heritage Weekend:
Join a guided tour of the UNESCO heritage sites of Luxembourg, which has been specially adapted for wheelchair users and for people with visual impairments. The tour covers 19 sites that are all situated within the Old Town of Luxembourg, which is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The tour is 1.9 km long and is mostly on flat, smooth surfaces that can be navigated independently, but assistance will be available if necessary. There is an audio guide to accompany the tour and also an app for visitors which gives the tour commentary in Dutch, French, English, German and Luxembourgish sign language.
- Tours from 26 September to 2 October
- Call (+352) 22 28 09 to reserve a ticket
- Address: Tour departs from Boulevard Prince Henri, Ville-Haute, 1125 Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Cervia, in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, is a seaside town that used to be a center for the salt mining industry. The mines were famous for producing a sweeter salt, without the bitter taste of normal salt. Although today the production of salt is industrialized and no longer happens in these smaller mines, Cervia’s local Salt Museum pays homage to the traditional methods used by the miners.
This accessible tour of the museum focuses on all of the senses, as visitors will be able to touch, taste and smell the salt and listen to workers at the museum talk about the impact that the salt mines had on the region’s history and cuisine.
- The event will take place throughout the day on September 26th
- Address: Via Salara, 48015, Cervia
The regional government of Aragon, located in the north-east of Spain, has been developing an app to make the area’s cultural and historical sites as accessible as possible for people with disabilities. The pilot version of the app will be launched in conjunction with European Heritage Weekend, with an event taking place at Loarre Castle. The castle is the most well preserved Romanesque castle in the world and is situated in Loarre, Huesca Province. During the event, the tourism board will also discuss their accessibility strategy for the region and its cultural assets.
- The event will take place on 19 September
- Address: Carretera al Castillo de Loarre, 22809, Spain
This accessible sound and light exhibition, held in the underground crypt of Saint Augustine Church in Valletta, Malta, was created as a result of a collaboration between a Maltese and a Chinese company and aims to fuse the cities of Beijing and Valletta together through the senses. There are four works of art that use LED lights and sound effects to contrast the two cities, highlighting their similarities and differences.
- The event will take place daily from 23 September to 2 October, from 11:00 to 22:00
- Address: Old Bakery Street, Il-Belt Valletta, Malta (Entrance from Old Mint Street)
Edinburgh has historically been an important center for the deaf community as the world’s first school for deaf children was founded there in 1760. Edinburgh was also the first city to provide church services for the deaf. Deaf Action, a society for the deaf, will hold an exhibition of artworks by deaf artists in the chapel, accompanied by refreshments. The event will also be wheelchair accessible.
- The event will take place on 25 September and 26 September
- Address: Deaf Action, 49 Albany Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3QY
Grandmont Priory, classified as a historical monument, is situated in Soumont in the south of France. The 12th-century priory is surrounded by parklands, which contain megalithic monuments dating from 2500 BC. To celebrate European Heritage Weekend, volunteers are leading an off-road guided tour of the grounds of the priory using joelette wheelchairs. The tour will last approximately 3 hours and will give wheelchair users a chance to discover the countryside and the history of the region.
- The event will take place on 19 September from 14:00 to 17:00. Call 06 43 70 26 18 to book a place.
- Address: Domaine de Grandmont, 34700 Soumont
Villa Stiassni was built for the textile manufacturer Alfred Stiassni in 1929 by noted Brno architect Ernst Wiesner. The villa is set in 3 km of gardens and, before becoming a national monument in 2009, it was also used as a government villa for state visits, hosting notable guests such as Fidel Castro. On Sunday 19th September, there will be an accessible tour of the villa reserved for people with visual impairments, focusing on describing the interior and offering as many tactile displays as possible.
- The event will take place on 19 September from 14:00
- Address: Hroznová 14, 603 00 Brno-střed, Czechia
While many of these events are occurring for the month surrounding European Heritage Day, it’s possible to visit these same places year-round. If you’re planning on visiting some of Europe’s most accessible heritage sites, you can find and book nearby places to stay with accessibility guaranteed, here.