Heritage Open Days is England's biggest heritage festival involving 40,000 volunteers. It celebrates our fantastic history, architecture and culture; offering people the chance to see hidden places and try out new experiences - all of which are FREE to explore.
Every year on four days in September, the bunting is unfurled and buildings of every age, style and function throw open their doors. It is a once-a-year chance to discover the often hidden or forgotten gems on our doorsteps and enjoy a wide range of tours, events and activities that bring local history and culture to life.
Free of charge and right on people’s doorstep, Heritage Open Days is an event for everyone, whatever their background, age or ability. From castles to city halls, tunnels to tower tops, police cells to private homes, workshops to woodland walks, the variety of places and ways to discover them are endless.
Heritage Open Days is organised by a huge network of people who share a passion for places, history and culture. Locally, over 1,500 organisations and some 40,000 volunteers organise thousands of site openings and events, jointly attracting over 3 million visitors. They make Heritage Open Days England’s biggest voluntary cultural event.
On a national level, the programme is managed by the National Trust and funded by players of the People's Postcode Lottery and Historic England.
Heritage Open Days celebrates what makes local communities and neighbourhoods special. By stimulating curiosity and discovery, the event connects people with their local places and helps foster a sense of belonging and pride.
After a first pilot in Gosport proved a success, the now defunct Civic Trust established Heritage Open Days in 1994 as England’s contribution to the European Heritage Days.
Starting out with some 700 sites, Heritage Open Days has since developed into Britain’s largest and most popular grassroots heritage event, with participation more than doubling during the first decade of the millennium.
Read more about the event’s European links.