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.

The logo owned by European Commission for European Capital of Culture.

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. It is strongly believed that the ECoC significantly maximises social and economic benefits, especially when the events are embedded as a part of a long–term culture-based development strategy of the city and the surrounding region.[1]

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 are Galway, Ireland and Rijeka, Croatia. Initially, Novi Sad, Serbia was selected to be the 2021 European Capital of Culture. However, on 23 December 2020, the European Parliament adopted a proposal by the European Commission to postpone its term until 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, Galway and Rijeka, the 2020 Capitals of Culture, were allowed to prolong their title until April 2021.[2]

Selection process

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)[3][4]– 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.[5] 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.[6]


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.[7] In 1999, the European City of Culture program was renamed to European Capital of Culture.[8]

List of European Capitals of Culture

Rijeka (Croatia), the European Capital of Culture for 2020
Galway (Ireland) is the European Capital of Culture for 2020
European Capitals of Culture
1985Athens Greece
1986Florence Italy
1987Amsterdam Netherlands
1988West Berlin West GermanyBerlin since German reunification in 1990
1989Paris France
1990Glasgow United Kingdom
1991Dublin Ireland
1992Madrid Spain
1993Antwerp Belgium
1994Lisbon Portugal
1995Luxembourg City Luxembourg
1996Copenhagen Denmark
1997Thessaloniki Greece
1998Stockholm Sweden
1999Weimar Germany
2000Avignon FranceThe 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
2001Rotterdam Netherlands
Porto Portugal
2002Bruges Belgium
Salamanca Spain
2003Graz Austria
2004Genoa Italy
Lille France
2005Cork Ireland
2006Patras Greece
2007Sibiu Romania
Luxembourg City Luxembourg
2008Liverpool United Kingdom
Stavanger Norway
2009Vilnius Lithuania
Linz AustriaLinz 2009
2010Essen GermanyRepresenting the whole Ruhr as Ruhr.2010.
Istanbul Turkey
Pécs Hungary
2011Turku Finland
Tallinn Estonia
2012Guimarães Portugal
Maribor Slovenia
2013Marseille FranceMarseille-Provence 2013
Košice Slovakia
2014Riga Latvia
Umeå Sweden
2015Mons Belgium
Plzeň Czech Republic
2016San Sebastián Spain
Wrocław PolandWrocław 2016
2017Aarhus DenmarkAarhus 2017
Paphos CyprusPafos 2017
2018Leeuwarden Netherlands
Valletta MaltaValletta 2018
2019Matera ItalyMatera 2019
Plovdiv BulgariaPlovdiv 2019
2020 – April 2021Rijeka CroatiaRijeka 2020
Galway IrelandGalway 2020
2022Kaunas LithuaniaKaunas 2022
Esch-sur-Alzette LuxembourgEsch-sur-Alzette 2022
Novi Sad[10] SerbiaNovi Sad 2021
20231Veszprém HungaryVeszprém 2023
Timișoara RomaniaTimișoara 2023 (Coronavirus postponement)
Eleusis GreeceEleusis 2023 (Coronavirus postponement)
20241Tartu EstoniaTartu 2024
2Bad Ischl AustriaSalzkammergut 2024
32Bodø NorwayBodø 2024
2025Nova Gorica/Gorizia joint bid Slovenia
GO! 2025
Chemnitz GermanyChemnitz 2025
2026TBA SlovakiaTBA end 2021[11]
shortlisted cities: Nitra, Trenčín,[12]Žilina[13]
Oulu FinlandOulu 2026
20271TBA Latviapotential candidate cities: Valmiera,[14] Kuldiga, Cesis, Daugavpils, Jurmala,[15] Liepāja[16]
2TBA Portugalpotential candidate cities: Aveiro, Braga,[17] Coimbra, Évora, Faro, Guarda, Leiria, Oeiras, Ponta Delgada
2028TBA Czech Republicpotential candidate cities: Brno,[18] Broumov[19]
TBA Francepotential candidate cities: Clermont-Ferrand, Rouen, Bourges
2029TBA Poland
TBA Sweden
20301TBA Cyprus
2TBA Belgiumpotential candidate cities: Leuven,[20] Liège, Kortrijk, Ghent
2031TBA Maltapotential candidate cities: Tarxien, Cottonera, Sliema, & Gozo
TBA Spainpotential candidate cities: Cáceres, Granada, Jerez de la Frontera
2032TBA Bulgaria
TBA Denmark
20331TBA Netherlands
2TBA Italypotential candidate city: Turin[21]

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.[22] The candidate cities were Dundee,[23] Leeds, Milton Keynes,[24] Nottingham and a joint bid from Northern Irish cities Belfast, Derry and Strabane.[25] This caused anger amongst the UK candidate cities' bidding teams due to the short notice of the decision, and because of the amount of money they had already spent preparing their bids.[citation needed]

2 A new framework makes it possible for cities in candidate countries (Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey), potential candidates for EU membership (Bosnia and Herzegovina, 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.[11]

See also


  1. Burkšienė, V., Dvorak, J., Burbulytė-Tsiskarishvili, G. (2018). Sustainability and Sustainability Marketing in Competing for the Title of European Capital of Culture. Organizacija, Vol. 51 (1), p. 66-78
  2. "European Capitals of Culture". Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  3. "Decision No 445/2014/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2014". 3 May 2014.
  4. "European Capitals of Culture 2020 to 2033 — A guide for cities preparing to bid" (PDF). European Commission.
  5. Palmer, Robert (2004) "European Cities and Capitals of Culture" Part I. Part II. Study prepared for the European Commission
  6. "Brexit blow to UK 2023 culture crown bids". BBC News. 23 November 2017. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  7. Kiran Klaus Patel, ed., The Cultural Politics of Europe: European Capitals of Culture and European Union since the 1980s (London: Routledge, 2013)
  8. "History – UNeECC". Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  9. "Association of European Cities of Culture of the Year 2000 - KRAKOW THE OPEN CITY". Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  10. "Novi Sad to be a European Capital of Culture in 2022". Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  11. "European Capitals of Culture". European Union. 6 February 2021. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
  12. "Trenčín sa chce stať Európskym hlavným mestom kultúry" [Trenčín wants to be the European Capital of Culture]. (in Slovak). 1 June 2020.
  13. "Žilina sa chce uchádzať o Európske hlavné mesto kultúry 2026" [Žilina wants to apply for the European Capital of Culture 2026]. (in Slovak). 20 February 2020. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  15. "Jūrmala startēs titula "Eiropas kultūras galvaspilsēta 2027" iegūšanai". Retrieved 29 October 2020.
  16. "Liepaja to put its name to become European Capital of Culture in 2027". The Baltic Course. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  17. "RUM". Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  18. "Brno Steps Up Preparations For 2028 European Capital of Culture Bid". Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  19. "Broumov vies for Ecoc 2028 in Czech Republic". Retrieved 8 February 2021.
  20. "Leuven stelt zich kandidaat als Europese Culturele Hoofdstad 2030". Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  21. "Torino Capitale europea della Cultura nel 2033? Il Consiglio comunale dice "sì" alla candidatura". Torino Oggi. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  22. Brady, Jon (23 November 2017). "Brexit destroys Dundee's hopes of being European Capital of Culture in 2023". Evening Telegraph. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  23. Lorimer, Scott. "The latest news and sport from Dundee, Tayside and Fife". Evening Telegraph. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  24. "European Capital of Culture". Milton Keynes Council. Archived from the original on 6 June 2017. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  25. Meredith, Robbie (5 July 2017). "NI councils make bid for European Capital of Culture title". BBC News. Retrieved 5 July 2017.