14th February 2024

Meet the 2024 European Capitals of Culture

By Jane Patrick

Are you looking for travel destinations to add to your bucket list? Every year, the European Union (EU) names its European Capitals of Culture to bolster tourism in lesser-known cities and allow them to showcase their heritage.

If you’re thinking about experiencing the year’s programme of events lined up in a city you might not have heard of, here’s more about 2024’s three Capitals of Culture.

1. Bad Ischl, Austria

Located in the Salzkammergut region of Austria, Bad Ischl is known for its breathtaking alpine mountains and 70 lakes, and the good news is it’s easy to access by train.

Their year of festivities is sectioned into four themes: Power and Tradition, Culture in Motion, Sharing Salzkammergut, and GlobalLokal, the last of which is their project to connect the countryside to the world.

The events wish to bring together the young and old generations through unique art exhibitions and other activities that aim to help us understand global identities as they change and evolve. With activities aimed at all age groups, there’s something for the whole family to get stuck into.

During your trip, explore beautiful salt mines, experience the magnificent mountain views from the famous cable cars, or relax in a luxurious outdoor spa. Even the royal family is linked to the area, with Emperor Franz Joseph and his family holidaying there in the summer for nearly seven decades.

2. Bodø, Norway

Every few years, EU-related countries are also allowed to hold the prestigious title of Capital of Culture. Although Norway isn’t in the EU, they are a European Free Trade Association (EFTA) member country.

As the first city located north of the Arctic Circle to hold the title, Bodø is focusing on the coastal culture of northern Norway. Many people know the city as a stop along the famous Hurtigruten coastal voyage or on the journey to the Lofoten islands, but Bodø is rapidly expanding into one of the biggest cities in Norway.

A key aspect of the events running throughout 2024 is the celebration of Sámi culture.

The Sámi are the indigenous people of northern Scandinavia and have their own parliaments that focus on the preservation of the Sámi languages and tradition after years of erasure.

Alongside the concerts, lectures, and sledging competitions you can enjoy as part of the celebrations, you can also head over to the Norwegian Aviation Museum or the Stormen Library to learn more about their history.

For the outdoorsy travellers, you can also enjoy beautiful hikes around the Saltstraumen or up Mount Rovnik – and see if you can spot a moose along the way!

3. Tartu, Estonia

Tartu is considered the academic heart of Estonia. Home to the country’s oldest and most renowned school – the University of Tartu – the city has been at the core of scientific and creative culture for decades.

Their Capital of Culture events are themed around “The Arts of Survival”, which they classify as uniqueness, sustainability, awareness, and co-creation. The year-long celebration of their history aims to champion the knowledge, skills, and values that could improve humanity’s future.

There are exhibitions and demonstrations taking place throughout 2024, including art from popular Estonian artists such as Ilmar Malin alongside music festivals, walking tours, and open houses.

As the second largest city in Estonia after the capital, Tallinn, there are plenty of attractions to explore during your trip. For example, a visit to the AHHAA Science Centre is a brilliant day out for adults and kids alike, with themed exhibitions and a hands-on approach to teaching.

Tartu’s old city is also a gorgeous place to stroll around, with beautiful architecture and unusual shops hiding around every corner. Visit the iconic Kissing Students fountain, or wind through the narrow streets to peruse their selection of museums, cafes, and parks.