Leeuwarden and Valletta – European Capitals of Culture in 2018

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The Dutch city of Leeuwarden and Malta’s capital city Valletta will share the title of “European Capital of Culture” in 2018. They take over the title The Danish and Cypriot cities of Aarhus and Pafos which have celebrated the European cultural heritage in 2017.

In 2018, Leeuwarden-Friesland celebrates its European Capital of Culture year with a rich vein of cultural programming, hosting hundreds of magnificent and unique events. Among the array of festivals, shows, performances and concerts taking place in Frisian cities and across the expansive rural landscapes include the first visit to the Netherlands of the towering Giants of Royal de Luxe, exhibitions focusing on visionary Frisian icons like Mata Hari and M.C. Escher, and the erection of 11 fountains created by 11 world-class visual artists in each of the region’s historical cities.

The year-long extravaganza will break down borders as people from around Europe come together to confront big themes: sustainability, identity, integration and community, all while exploring Friesland’s unique nature and culture. After a grand opening on the weekend of 27 and 28 January 2018, more than 50 major projects and hundreds of community initiatives begin, and the countryside and cities transform into the perfect stages to showcase Leeuwarden-Friesland’s many attractions.

Valletta 2018’s Cultural Programme initiatives will bring culture closer to the people, celebrating island life through the best way we know – that of the traditional Maltese festa.

During Malta’s opening celebrations, Valletta’s four main squares will be filled with joy, music and reverie with the Catalan group La Fura dels Baus blurring the line between audience and performer with their outdoor acrobatics, ZfinMalta with contemporary dance performances, with digital projections, video art, choral symphony and much more. All over Valletta, performers and traveling bands will take the festivities to the streets, drawing residents and visitors all over the Maltese Islands to participate. Our ECoC celebrations will kick off on January 14, 2018, and will culminate in the opening ceremony on January 20, 2018, where Malta officially receives this prestigious title.

Every year, the EU selects a few cities from different countries, which have the chance to host cultural events for one year. During this time, the chosen city can show its cultural life and its cultural development on the European and international scene.

The predecessor of the current Capital of Culture programme was known as the “European City of Culture”, which was launched by the European Council of Ministers in 1985, when Athens became the first selected city. The current programme was only launched in 2000, when nine cities obtained this prestigious nomination.

The decision is also verified by the European Parliament and is voted by the Council of Europe. In 2019, cultural capitals in Europe will be Matera (Italy) and Plovdiv (Bulgaria), Rijeka (Croatia) and Galway (Ireland) in 2020 while Timisoara (Romania), Elefsina (Greece) and Novi Sad (Serbia) will be the three European Capitals of Culture in 2021.