The French embassy in Phnom Penh has announced that it will open its doors to the public free of charge on September 16 to mark the end of the EU’s European Heritage Days.

According to a September 10 embassy statement, the embassy grounds will be open from 8am until 4pm.

“After welcoming more than 1,400 visitors last year, the embassy is pleased to announce that it will once more open its doors to the public.

“This European Heritage Day, the public can once again rediscover the building steeped in history and the magnificent grounds of the embassy. Covering an area of 4.7ha, it is one of the most important green spaces in Phnom Penh. It is home to exceptional biodiversity, including 200 trees of more than 50 different species and a large number of animal species, a census of which is currently underway,” it said.

It added that the public will also be able to view the original gates of the embassy, which were the focal point of Francois Bizot’s celebrated novel The Gate, about the 1975 fall of Phnom Penh.

“In addition, as this year’s heritage days celebrate the theme of living heritage, we will use the occasion to put the famous French baguette in the spotlight. As it was recently added to the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage, we will celebrate with the participation of Eric Kayser Bakery,” it said.

In addition, the public will also be able to view a photographic exhibition on the walls of the embassy, held to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Pasteur Institute in Cambodia, and then visit the Monument to the Fallen of the Great War, which pays tribute to the Cambodians and French people of Cambodia who died during World War I. The monument was recently reconstructed by the Cambodian government.

Kong Samneang, president of the Cambodian Education Services Federation, saw this as a rare opportunity for the public, especially students, to visit and learn about the culture and achievements of the embassy.

“It is rare for an embassy to arrange open days, but the French embassy welcomes the public every year. This is a great opportunity for students and teachers to learn more about the culture of France, as well as that of its long-standing relationship with Cambodia. I urge the public to take advantage of this opportunity,” he said.

The embassy has arranged guides that will provide tours three times a day in French, Khmer and English. Admission is free, and there is no need to pre-register.

The heritage day is taking part within the framework of the European Heritage Day celebrations, which were initiated by France and are currently observed in more than 50 countries. In addition to the embassy, several other unique heritage buildings will also be open to the public on September 16, including the Royal University of Fine Arts, the Angkor Conservancy and the UNESCO Phnom Penh office.