European Capitals of Culture 2024 Unveiled

European Capitals of Culture 2024 Unveiled

European Capitals of Culture 2024: Unveiling vibrant cities rich in arts and heritage, set to dazzle with cultural festivities and innovation.

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by Tour Europe

In the wake of Timișoara in Romania, Veszprém in Hungary, and Eleusis in Greece being crowned as Capitals of Culture in 2023, a new trio of cities is set to dazzle Europe in 2024. Heading north, the coveted title of "European Capital of Culture" will be proudly claimed by Bad Ischl Salzkammergut in Austria, Tartu in Estonia, and, for the very first time, a city beyond the Arctic Circle, Bodø in Norway.

Since its inception in 1985, the prestigious "European Capital of Culture" honour has been annually bestowed upon two European cities through an open competition. However, every three years, an extra Capital of Culture is selected from outside the European Union, and this year, Bodø proudly takes the spotlight.

Bad Ischl Salzkammergut, Austria: A Cultural Collaboration

Following in the footsteps of Graz (2003) and Linz (2009), Bad Ischl Salzkammergut, Austria, is gearing up to shine as the European Capital of Culture 2024. What makes this occasion unique is 23 neighbouring communities' collaborative efforts to craft a cultural masterpiece. In 2024, the Salzkammergut region will unveil its rich history and contemporary diversity under the theme "Culture is the new salt." Delving into the past, present, and future prospects of the region's cultural tapestry, the program will also explore its connections with Europe and the world.

With its mesmerising blend of mountains, forests, and urban charm, the Salzkammergut region has long been an inspiration for renowned artists like Gustav Klimt, Johannes Brahms, and Franz Schubert. The name itself, "Salzkammergut," alludes to the vast salt deposits that have shaped the area's heritage. "Culture is the new salt" aptly encapsulates the region's essence, as it blends the historical significance of salt and water with a vibrant cultural identity.

In the coming year, the European Capital of Culture 2024 will focus on four key program priorities: power and tradition, cultural identity, sustainable tourism development, and intergenerational dynamics. These themes promise to address pressing questions at both regional and global levels.

Nestled amidst this cultural tapestry is the charming health resort of Bad Ischl, renowned for its parks, including the exquisite Sisi Park, the former summer residence of Emperor Franz Joseph I and Empress Elisabeth (Sisi) of Austria. On the north bank of Lake Traunsee lies Gmunden, with its picturesque lakeside castle, a historical gem dating back to 909.

Getting there: Traveling to these enchanting towns is convenient, with accessible options such as trains, buses, and cars. The nearest airports include Salzburg, Linz, Graz, Munich, and Vienna.

Tartu, Estonia: The Cultural Gem of the Baltics

Tartu, Estonia's second-largest city, nestled in the southern reaches of the Baltic state, proudly holds the title of the country's cultural capital and intellectual epicentre. With a population of around 100,000 residents, Tartu boasts one of Northern Europe's oldest universities. Situated along the banks of the Emajõgi River, the city beckons visitors with a treasure trove of attractions.

Highlights include:

  • The Estonian National Museum.
  • A vibrant city centre.
  • The Kissing Students Fountain on the Town Hall Square.
  • The university building.
  • The picturesque park on Toompea Hill.

Tartu also offers a slice of street art culture, with districts like Karlova and Supilinn showcasing intriguing history, captivating architecture, and colourful graffiti created in collaboration with city authorities.

Known as the cradle of Estonian culture, Tartu has a rich heritage that birthed the first newspapers, cultural associations, and, in 1870, the country's inaugural professional theatre. Sports enthusiasts can find their thrills on cycling and inline skating routes, adventure parks, and motorsport centres.

Tartu caters to families with numerous playgrounds, parks, playrooms, and water parks, alongside a diverse array of cafes and restaurants offering local and international cuisine. For those seeking relaxation, the city offers an array of spas, water and sauna experiences, whirlpools, and swimming pools.

As the European Capital of Culture, Tartu faces off against its more renowned sibling, Tallinn, which previously held the title in 2011. However, Tartu promises a vibrant program with hundreds of cultural and sustainable events in 2024. Highlights include the mass kissing event "Kissing Tartu" featuring drag queen Conchita Wurst, the sauna debate festival "Naked Truth," and a theatrical production delving into Danske Bank's massive money laundering scandal in Estonia.

Getting there: Tartu is easily accessible by bus or train from Tallinn or Riga (Latvia). Both cities are reachable by plane, train, and ferry (Tallinn) from Stockholm or Helsinki.

Bodø, Norway: The Arctic Gem

The third jewel in this cultural triad is Bodø in Norway, making history as the first European Capital of Culture situated north of the Arctic Circle. With approximately 52,000 residents, Bodø earned the title of Norway's most attractive city in 2016, as bestowed by the Norwegian Ministry of Local and Regional Development.

Bodø offers a captivating cityscape and a wealth of picturesque surroundings, including the Lofoten, Vesterålen, Salten, Ofoten, and Helgeland regions, as well as Norway's national mountain, Stetind. The city boasts a stunning coastal landscape with a backdrop of majestic mountains, such as Lurfjelltindene and Børvasstindene.

The surrounding islands, Landegode and Straumøya, house the world's largest and densest sea eagle population's nesting grounds. Just 30 kilometres east of the city lies the Saltstraumen, the world's most powerful tidal current, where 400 million cubic meters of water rush through a narrow inlet every six hours.

Bodø offers a plethora of recreational sports opportunities, including boating, fishing, diving, hiking, cycling, and even witnessing the northern lights from September to April. Cross-country skiing enthusiasts can explore 30 kilometres of trails, while ski slopes cater to both beginners and experts.

In 2024, Bodø will host over 1,000 events, featuring a sustainable festival, a Midsummer Eve fireworks extravaganza, a Sámi theatre trilogy, a peace festival, and a concert in a sunken cave. The city's cultural calendar is brimming with vibrant activities for all tastes.

Getting there: Bodø is a short 90-minute flight from Oslo and is also accessible by boat, train, or car. The polar night (December 15th to 29th) and the midnight sun (June 2nd to July 10th) are particularly popular times to visit.

In 2024, the European Capitals of Culture promise to be more captivating and diverse than ever before as Bad Ischl Salzkammergut, Tartu, and Bodø prepare to unveil their unique cultural treasures to the world. These three cities are set to shine as beacons of creativity, history, and innovation in the European cultural landscape.

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