On the occasion of European Heritage Days, a remarkable opportunity awaits history and architecture enthusiasts when the French Residence in Ho Chi Minh City opens its doors to the public on Saturday.
This exquisite French Residence, a shining example of 19th-century Indochina architecture, offers visitors a chance to immerse themselves in its rich history, explore lush gardens, and savor delightful French culinary delights.
A digital journey through history
What sets this year's European Heritage Days apart is the introduction of an immersive digital experience. Throughout the virtual tour, QR codes in three languages - Vietnamese, English, and French - will guide visitors on a captivating journey, providing insights into the palace's storied past and intriguing anecdotes.
Additionally, visitors will receive postcards enhanced with augmented reality (AR) technology, allowing them to witness the evolution of the mansion over time.
A glimpse into the past
Constructed in 1872 by Navy engineers, the French mansion stands as a testament to the architectural marvels of its era.
It shares its historical significance with other iconic landmarks in Ho Chi Minh City, including Norodom Palace (1868-73), now known as Reunification Palace, St. Joseph's Seminary (1863), and Notre Dame Cathedral (1877-80). Only the Saigon Central Post Office was built later, between 1886 and 1891.
Nestled in the heart of the historic downtown, this mansion initially served as the residence of the governor of the colonial army.
Subsequently, it housed the commander-in-chief of the French army in Cochinchina, and after 1954, it became the French ambassador's palace in the old regime in the city.
In 1975, the French consul general took up residence here.
The mansion's living room area, now used for events hosted by the French Consulate General, features an exquisite arrangement of furniture from the Nguyen Dynasty (1802–1945) in Hue City.
The antique artifacts on display offer a glimpse into the decorative and spiritual art of Vietnam during the 19th and 20th centuries. One of the highlights is the stunning lacquer painting titled 'Dam Ruoc' (The Procession), created in 1939 by the renowned artist Nguyen Gia Tri.
Beyond its architectural grandeur, the French Consulate General Palace boasts a private park spanning over 1.5 hectares. This lush oasis is home to ancient trees, some dating back to the Tu Palace era, and shelters a thriving ecosystem. Rare species of ferrets, squirrels, and birds have chosen this tranquil sanctuary as their nesting grounds.
European Heritage Days: A celebration of culture and history
European Heritage Days, originally a French initiative, began in 1984 under the auspices of the French Ministry of Culture.
This annual event allows the public to explore sites typically closed to visitors due to their administrative, diplomatic, or economic functions. Its resounding success led the European Council to expand the event's reach to the entire European Union in 1985.
In 2000, the event was officially renamed 'European Heritage Days.'
This year marks the 40th anniversary of European Heritage Days, and the celebrations will center around the themes of 'Living Heritage' and 'Sports Heritage.'
It is a testament to the enduring appreciation for cultural and historical treasures, such as the French Palace in Ho Chi Minh City, and the profound impact of this event on preserving and showcasing shared heritage.