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European Capital of Culture

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The logo used by European Commission for European Capital of Culture

A European Capital of Culture is a city designated by the European Union (EU) for a period of one calendar year during which it organises a series of cultural events with a strong pan-European dimension. Being a European Capital of Culture can be an opportunity for a city to generate considerable cultural, social, and economic benefits, and it can help foster urban regeneration, change the city's image, and raise its visibility and profile on an international scale. Multiple cities can be a European Capital of Culture simultaneously.

In 1985, Melina Mercouri, Greece's Minister of Culture, and her French counterpart Jack Lang came up with the idea of designating an annual City of Culture to bring Europeans closer together by highlighting the richness and diversity of European cultures and raising awareness of their common history and values.

The Commission of the European Union manages the title, and each year the Council of Ministers of the European Union formally designates European Capitals of Culture: more than 40 cities have been designated so far. The current European Capitals of Culture for 2024 are Tartu in Estonia, Bad Ischl in Austria and Bodø in Norway.

Selection process[edit]

Melina Mercouri

An international panel of cultural experts is in charge of assessing the proposals of cities for the title according to criteria specified by the European Union.

For two of the capitals each year, eligibility is open to cities in EU member states only. From 2021 and every three years thereafter, a third capital will be chosen from cities in countries that are candidates or potential candidates for membership, or in countries that are part of the European Economic Area (EEA)[1][2]– an example of the latter being Stavanger, Norway, which was a European Capital of Culture in 2008.

A 2004 study conducted for the Commission, known as the "Palmer report", demonstrated that the choice of European Capital of Culture served as a catalyst for cultural development and the transformation of the city.[3] Consequently, the beneficial socio-economic development and impact for the chosen city are now also considered in determining the chosen cities.

Bids from five United Kingdom cities to be the 2023 Capital of Culture were disqualified in November 2017, because the UK was planning to leave the EU before 2023.[4]


The European Capital of Culture programme was initially called the European City of Culture and was conceived in 1983, by Melina Mercouri, then serving as minister of culture in Greece. Mercouri believed that at the time, culture was not given the same attention as politics and economics and a project for promoting European cultures within the member states should be pursued. The European City of Culture programme was launched in the summer of 1985 with Athens being the first title-holder.[5] In 1999, the European City of Culture program was renamed to European Capital of Culture.[6]

List of European Capitals of Culture[edit]

Tartu (Estonia), the European Capital of Culture for 2024
Bad Ischl (Austria), the European Capital of Culture for 2024
Bodø (Norway), the European Capital of Culture for 2024
European Capitals of Culture
Year # City Country Notes/Links
1985 Athens  Greece
1986 Florence  Italy
1987 Amsterdam  Netherlands
1988 West Berlin  West Berlin City under Western Allied occupation until 1990; territory was claimed by the Federal Republic of Germany. The name "European City of Culture" was used instead of "Capital" in order to not provoke the East German government.[7][8]
1989 Paris  France
1990 Glasgow  United Kingdom Glasgow Garden Festival
1991 Dublin  Ireland
1992 Madrid  Spain
1993 Antwerp  Belgium
1994 Lisbon  Portugal
1995 Luxembourg City  Luxembourg
1996 Copenhagen  Denmark
1997 Thessaloniki  Greece
1998 Stockholm  Sweden
1999 Weimar  Germany
2000 Avignon  France The year 2000 was called the millennium year and treated in a special way, in order to emphasize the enduring heritage and contribution of European cities to world culture and civilization. Because of that, nine locations were chosen, including two cities of states that were to join the EU on 1 May 2004.[9]
Bergen  Norway
Bologna  Italy
Brussels  Belgium
Helsinki  Finland
Kraków  Poland
Prague  Czech Republic
Reykjavík  Iceland
Santiago de Compostela  Spain
2001 Rotterdam  Netherlands
Porto  Portugal
2002 Bruges  Belgium
Salamanca  Spain
2003 Graz  Austria
2004 Genoa  Italy
Lille  France
2005 Cork  Ireland Cork Caucus
2006 Patras  Greece
2007 Sibiu  Romania
Luxembourg City  Luxembourg
2008 Liverpool  United Kingdom
Stavanger  Norway
2009 Vilnius  Lithuania
Linz  Austria Linz 2009
2010 Essen  Germany Representing the whole Ruhr as Ruhr.2010.
Istanbul  Turkey
Pécs  Hungary
2011 Turku  Finland
Tallinn  Estonia
2012 Guimarães  Portugal
Maribor  Slovenia
2013 Marseille  France Marseille-Provence 2013
Košice  Slovakia
2014 Riga  Latvia
Umeå  Sweden
2015 Mons  Belgium
Plzeň  Czech Republic
2016 San Sebastián  Spain Donostia 2016
Wrocław  Poland
2017 Aarhus  Denmark Aarhus 2017
Paphos  Cyprus Pafos 2017
2018 Leeuwarden  Netherlands
Valletta  Malta Valletta 2018
2019 Matera  Italy
Plovdiv  Bulgaria Plovdiv 2019
2020 – April 2021 Rijeka  Croatia Rijeka 2020
Galway  Ireland
2022 Kaunas  Lithuania Kaunas 2022
Esch-sur-Alzette  Luxembourg Esch-sur-Alzette 2022
Novi Sad  Serbia Novi Sad 2022 (Coronavirus postponement)
20231 Veszprém  Hungary Veszprém 2023
Timișoara  Romania Timișoara 2023 (Coronavirus postponement)
Eleusis  Greece Eleusis 2023 (Coronavirus postponement)
2024 1 Tartu  Estonia Tartu 2024
2 Bad Ischl  Austria Salzkammergut 2024
32 Bodø  Norway Bodø 2024
2025 Nova Gorica/Gorizia joint bid  Slovenia
GO! 2025
Chemnitz  Germany Chemnitz 2025
2026 Trenčín[10]  Slovakia Trenčín 2026
Oulu  Finland Oulu 2026
2027 Liepāja  Latvia Liepāja 2027
Évora  Portugal Évora 2027
2028 1 České Budějovice[11]  Czech Republic České Budějovice 2028
2 Bourges[12]  France Bourges 2028
32 Skopje  North Macedonia Skopje 2028
2029 TBA September 2024[13]  Poland shortlisted:[14] Bielsko-Biała, Katowice, Kołobrzeg, Lublin
TBA December 2024[15]  Sweden shortlisted:[15] Kiruna, Uppsala
2030 1 TBA  Cyprus deadline 13 December 2024[16]
2 TBA  Belgium deadline 2 August 2024[17] /
potential candidate cities: Brussels[18] Leuven,[19] Liège, Kortrijk, Ghent
32 TBA TBA deadline 16 August 2024[20]
2031 TBA  Malta potential candidate cities: Tarxien, Cottonera, San Giljan, Sliema, & Gozo
TBA  Spain potential candidate cities: Burgos, Cáceres, Granada, Jerez de la Frontera
2032 TBA  Bulgaria potential candidate cities: Veliko Tarnovo
TBA  Denmark potential candidate cities: Næstved[21]
2033 1 TBA  Netherlands potential candidate city: Heerlen[22]
2 TBA  Italy potential candidate city: Turin[23]

1 The European Capital of Culture was due to be in the UK in 2023. However, due to its decision to leave the European Union, UK cities would no longer be eligible to hold the title after 2019. The European Commission's Scotland office confirmed that this would be the case on 23 November 2017, only one week before the UK was due to announce which city would be put forward.[24] The candidate cities were Dundee,[25] Leeds, Milton Keynes,[26] Nottingham and a joint bid from Northern Irish cities of Belfast and Derry and the town of Strabane.[27]

2 A new framework makes it possible for cities in candidate countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine), potential candidates for EU membership (Kosovo) or EFTA member states (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland) to hold the title every third year as of 2021. This will be selected through an open competition, meaning that cities from various countries may compete with each other.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Decision No 445/2014/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2014". 3 May 2014. Archived from the original on 21 December 2017. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  2. ^ "European Capitals of Culture 2020 to 2033 — A guide for cities preparing to bid" (PDF). European Commission. Archived (PDF) from the original on 3 June 2019. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  3. ^ Palmer, Robert. "European Cities and Capitals of Culture" (PDF). ec.europa.eu. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 April 2015. Study prepared for the European Commission
  4. ^ "Brexit blow to UK 2023 culture crown bids". BBC News. 23 November 2017. Archived from the original on 26 March 2018. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  5. ^ Kiran Klaus Patel, ed., The Cultural Politics of Europe: European Capitals of Culture and European Union since the 1980s (London: Routledge, 2013)
  6. ^ "History – UNeECC". Archived from the original on 17 July 2021. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  7. ^ "From a divided city to a capital city : Berlin's cultural policy frameworks between 1945 and 2015". 5 December 2016.
  8. ^ "Tanz im August | International Festival Berlin | Berlin - European Capital of Culture 1988". www.tanzimaugust.de.
  9. ^ "Association of European Cities of Culture of the Year 2000 – KRAKOW THE OPEN CITY". krakow.pl. Archived from the original on 1 March 2021. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  10. ^ "Trenčín to be the European Capital of Culture 2026 in Slovakia". europa.eu. 10 December 2021. Archived from the original on 29 December 2021. Retrieved 29 December 2021.
  11. ^ "České Budějovice to be the European Capital of Culture 2028 in the Czech Republic". European Commission. Retrieved 1 July 2023.
  12. ^ "Bourges to be the European Capital of Culture 2028 in France". European Commission. Retrieved 15 December 2023.
  13. ^ "Designated European Capitals of Culture". European Union. Retrieved 24 January 2024.
  14. ^ "Raport z pre-selekcji konkursu o tytuł Europejskiej Stolicy Kultury 2029" (in Polish). Ministry of Culture and National Heritage (Poland). 6 December 2023. Retrieved 17 December 2023.
  15. ^ a b "Kiruna och Uppsala vill bli kulturhuvudstad". Kulturrådet (in Swedish). Retrieved 21 February 2024.
  16. ^ "Πολιτιστική Πρωτεύουσα της Ευρώπης για το έτος 2030". Cyprus Miinistry of Culture. Retrieved 24 January 2024.
  17. ^ "European Capital Of Culture 2030 Belgium". ECOC2030BE. Retrieved 24 January 2024.
  18. ^ "Let's make Brussels the cultural capital of Europe!". Brussels2030.
  19. ^ "Leuven stelt zich kandidaat als Europese Culturele Hoofdstad 2030". demorgen.be. 15 December 2017. Archived from the original on 19 September 2018. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  20. ^ "Call for applications for the 2030 European Capital of Culture title for cities in EFTA/EEA countries, in candidate countries and in potential candidates for EU membership". European Commission. Retrieved 24 January 2024.
  21. ^ "Vild plan: Vil gøre Næstved til europæisk kulturhovedstad". 11 January 2022. Archived from the original on 8 February 2022. Retrieved 8 February 2022.
  22. ^ Steen, Paul van der (8 March 2023). "Heerlen wil culturele hoofdstad van Europa worden" – via www.nrc.nl.
  23. ^ "Torino Capitale europea della Cultura nel 2033? Il Consiglio comunale dice "sì" alla candidatura". Torino Oggi. 19 April 2021. Archived from the original on 21 April 2021. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  24. ^ Brady, Jon (23 November 2017). "Brexit destroys Dundee's hopes of being European Capital of Culture in 2023". Evening Telegraph. Archived from the original on 23 November 2017. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  25. ^ Lorimer, Scott. "The latest news and sport from Dundee, Tayside and Fife". Evening Telegraph. Archived from the original on 19 June 2015. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  26. ^ "European Capital of Culture". www.milton-keynes.gov.uk. Milton Keynes Council. Archived from the original on 6 June 2017. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  27. ^ Meredith, Robbie (5 July 2017). "NI councils make bid for European Capital of Culture title". BBC News. Archived from the original on 9 July 2017. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  28. ^ "European Capitals of Culture". European Union. 6 February 2021. Archived from the original on 2 March 2021. Retrieved 6 February 2021.

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