What is it?

The European Capital of Culture program was created in 1985 by the European Commission and it soon became the biggest cultural event in Europe and one of its most emblematic programs. Since then, 62 cities across the European Union were awarded the title, such as Athens, Liverpool, Istanbul, Florence, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, Dublin, Madrid, Prague or Marseille.

In Portugal, three cities have already been part of this European program: Lisbon in 1994, Porto in 2001 and Guimarães in 2012.

Annually, two cities, in two different countries, are awarded the title of European Capital of Culture. The decision is known five years in advance, after an application and selection process conducted by independent experts.

The selection of the cities follows a previously defined rotation system. These are the cities which will be European Capitals of Culture until 2026:

2020 – Rijeka (Croatia) and Galway (Ireland)

2021 – Timișoara (Romania), Elefsina (Greece) and Novi Sad (Serbia)

2022 – Kaunas (Lithuania) and Esch (Luxembourg)

2023 – Veszprém (Hungary)

2024 – Tartu (Estonia), Bodø (Norway, EFTA/EEA country) and Bad Ischl (Austria)

2025 – Chemnitz (Germany), Nova Gorica (Slovenia)

2026 – Oulu (Finland) and Trenčín (Slovakia)

In 2027 a Portuguese city and Liepaja (Latvia) will be European Capital of Culture.

The process

The European Capital of Culture programme aims to promote European cultural diversity and free and democratic access to all forms of artistic and cultural expression. A candidature for the European Capital of Culture is thus a long, complex and demanding process. It is not a matter of identifying a set of infrastructures and events, but rather of designing an innovative, open, diverse and inclusive cultural programme, supported by aggregating concepts and sustainable urban development strategies, contributing to a large community participation and to the reinforcement of the international attractiveness of the city.


The evaluation of a city candidacy to be European Capital of Culture is based on six criteria:

Long term strategy

  • The existence of a cultural strategy for the city;
  • Plan to reinforce cultural and creative sectors capacity, including long term connections between cultural, economic and social sectors;
  • Foresee the long term impact of the program in the cultural, economic and social ambience, including urban development;
  • Plans to monitor and evaluate the impact of the title in the candidate city.

European dimension

  • Activities that promote European cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and a wide comprehension between European citizens;
  • Activities that highlight common aspects of European culture, heritage and history as well as current European issues and integration;
  • The quality of the activities in which European artists take part, the cooperation between operators and other countries’ cities and international partnerships;
  • A strategy to attract the interest of a wide European and international audience.

Cultural and artistic content

  • An evident vision and an artistic strategy coherent with the cultural program;
  • The participation of local artists and cultural organizations in the process of conception and accomplishment of the cultural program;
  • The scope and the diversity of the proposed activities and their global artistic quality;
  • The ability to combine local cultural heritage and traditional forms of art with new, innovative and experimental cultural expressions.

Delivery capacity

  • Wide and solid political support driven by a sustainable effort by the local, regional and national authorities;
  • Suitable and solid infrastructures.


  • The local community and civic society participation in the process and application and in the program’s execution;
  • The creation of new and sustainable opportunities, in order to promote the participation and presence of a wide range of citizens in the cultural activities with special attention to youngsters, volunteers and marginalized and disadvantaged people, including the minorities, the disabled and the elderly.
  • Global strategy to enlarge audiences, paying particular attention to education and school participation.


  • Both fund raising and budget strategy’s viability;
  • Administrative structure and foreseen execution;
  • Marketing and communication strategy;
  • Execution structure that includes the need of competent and experienced staff to plan, manage and implement the cultural program.