Discover 10 cultural cities that are still off the grid
Posted on 14/03/2020
Created in 1985, the European Capital of Culture programme celebrates art and culture throughout Europe and aims at regenerating areas, particularly industrial cities. It has boosted more than 60 cities' popularity since its creation, including Glasgow, which was the UK's first capital of culture in 1990.
This year, it is Galway in Ireland and Rijeka in Croatia that share the title, and they hope to really benefit from it. Unfortunately, the UK won't be able to be part of the programme any more after Brexit, which is sad for Dundee, Nottingham and Leeds that were preparing for 2023. Liverpool, which was the UK's second European Capital of Culture in 2008 will therefore be the last one. But if major cities such as Berlin, Paris and Madrid have had the title, there has been many smaller cities as well, that you might not even know or consider as cultural cities.
Bergen in Norway got it in 2000. Surrounded by seven hills, fjords and hiking trails, it is also home to the Hanseatic Museum, to four art galleries and to charming colourful wooden houses and alleyways in Bryggen, the Unesco-listed old wharf quarter. You can also visit the Edvard Grieg House, which is where the famous composer lived.
With two cathedrals, the old and the new, the baroque Plaza Mayor - or central square, and the Art Nouveau and Art Deco Museum, it is no wonder that Salamanca won the cultural city title in 2002. It offers plenty of churches and monasteries to visit, as well as the Casa de las Conchas, which is decorated with hundreds of scallop shells.
Boasting 3,000 years of history and the biggest church in Greece, Patra is its third-largest city and offers plenty of options for visitors, such as the archaeological museum, a medieval castle, the Roman Odeon and the neoclassical Apollon theatre. The Rio-Antirrio Bridge, which is 2,880 metres, is also an impressive sight, being the world's longest multi-span cable-stayed bridge.
Once guarded by 39 towers, Sibiu is a fortified and charming city, that features the gothic St Mary's Evangelical church and the Council Tower. Today it is a festival hotspot, hosting a big theatre event in June, as well as art, film, jazz and rock festivals. It got its cultural title in 2007, and was also ranked as "Europe's 8th-most idyllic place to live" by Forbes in 2008.
Hosting a festival every September with concerts, exhibitions and screenings, Linz is a pretty cultural and creative city. It is also a great place for street art - graffitis are all over the port and tourists can even take a course with spray cans and stencils.
With plenty of museums, a buzzing food scene for New Nordic cuisine and many indoor and outdoor concerts, Turku is a great place for culture in Finland. And it is worth visiting for nature too, as it is on the edge of an archipelago of about 20,000 islands.
Guimarães is a place with plenty of cultural options, that range from a 1,000-year-old castle, arts spaces such as the Plataforma das Artes e Criatividade, Michelin-starred restaurants such as A Cozinha, and even a beautiful viewpoint accessible by cable car.
Pilsen, Czech Republic
Pilsen is the traditional Czech beer that has been brewed in the city of the same name since 1842. Visitors can therefore visit the Brewery Museum, go on brewery tours, and taste the drink in some of the many pubs of the city. There's also a gothic cathedral, a Grand Synagogue, and many interesting food and fashion events.
With its canals, observation tower and famous Iceberg building, Aarhus is a wonder in terms of architecture. There's also the ARoS art gallery with its rainbow-coloured skywalk, the Infinite Bridge, and the Aarhus Street Food market that offers many options for foodies, including four Michelin-starred restaurants.
Built on caves, Matera features limestone churches, monasteries and palaces, making it a pretty picturesque place to visit. You can also see the chiese rupestri (rock churches), the Palombaro Lungo (a water cistern), and Musma, which is the Museum of Contemporary Sculpture.