(CN) – The Danish city of Aarhus and Pafos on the island of Cyprus will ring in the new year as the 2017 European capitals of culture.
Initiated in 1985 – and one of the most popular European Commission projects with EU citizens – the capitals of culture program highlights two cities each year with deep roots in European culture. The program allows cities to put themselves on the world map and “rethink their own development through culture,” according to a statement by the commission.
Aarhus, Denmark’s second-largest city and at its geographical heart on the eastern coast, traces its roots back to the 8th century, when it was founded as a fortified Viking settlement. The city will celebrate its tenure as a capital of culture with rooftop Viking saga performances, an art exhibit stretching across the city and its coastline and an international children’s literary festival.
As the first Cypriot city to be a capital of culture, Pafos plans to embrace its multiculturalism and proximity to the Middle East and North Africa with the theme “Linking Continents, Bridging Cultures.” The city of 32,000 will celebrate thousands of years of cultural life beginning with the opening ceremony in late January featuring a retelling of the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea, whose son founded the city.
Aarhus and Pafos replace the 2016 capitals of culture, Wroclaw, Poland, and San Sebastian, Spain.
The commission noted that one of the program’s benefits is an uptick in tourism, by 12 percent on average compared with the year before a city held the title.