Some 200 historic buildings across Switzerland are throwing open their doors this weekend in celebration of European Cultural Heritage Day.This content was published on September 8, 2001 - 10:38
The event, which is being held for the eighth time in Switzerland, gives members of the public a rare opportunity to visit some of the country's most celebrated buildings free of charge.
One of the highlights of the cultural event is a public viewing of "The Minaret" in Neuchâtel, which dates from around 1865 and is recognised as the oldest Islamic monument in Switzerland.
Constructed by the chocolate maker Philippe Suchard, the building was a souvenir of his travels overseas and a symbol of his lifelong interest in Islam.
Parts of the former residence of the famous painter, Balthus, who died in February, are also to be opened to the public for the first time.
Built between 1752 and 1756, the residence is one of the largest wooden homes in Switzerland, and has welcomed such illustrious guests as Victor Hugo and Alfred Dreyfus.
More than a half of all registered buildings in Switzerland are in the hands of private owners, and access is not normally permitted to many of these properties.
Organisers of the two-day "open doors" event are hoping this year's event will attract even more people than in 2000, when around 50,000 took advantage of the free access weekend.
Nearly 50 countries took part in the event last year, giving more than 20 million people the chance to visit 32,000 different monuments around the world.
swissinfo with agencies
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