Cultural capitals: discover this year's picks Aarhus and Pafos


Aarhus in Denmark and Pafos in Cyprus are Europe's cultural capitals for this year. Since the capitals of culture initiative was launched in 1985, 54 cities around Europe have had the honour. The aim is to highlight the richness of Europe’s cultural diversity and looks at its shared history and heritage. Read more about this year’s cultural capitals.


Aarhus is Denmark's second-largest city with a population of 331,558. Founded as a Viking settlement in the 8th century, it is both the oldest and the youngest city in the country as 13% of its population is made up of students. Popular attractions in Aarhus include the Aros art museum, the Old town, which is an open-air museum, and Moesgaard Museum, which has a large archaeological collection. The city is also notable for its musical history.

For its stint as cultural capital Aarhus has adopted the theme of Rethink and will be using art and culture to rethink the challenges of tomorrow. The aim is to encourage sustainable development.

Danish Greens/EFA member Margrete Auken still thinks fondly of the city where she lived as a baby: “I was baptised in Aarhus Cathedral in February 1945. It was the last phase of the Second World War. The party afterwards was held at Marselisborg Hospital because my parents, who were doctors, lived there. Of course it was impossible to get any good wine at this point, but rumour has it, it was still a fun party.

"Even though my family moved to Copenhagen when I was one and a half years old, I still feel so deeply attached to the city and especially Aarhus Cathedral. The Second World War and the resistance movement played a great part in the stories I was told throughout my childhood and thereby played a great part in my imagination and my life.”


Pafos in Cyprus was the country’s capital during Hellenistic and Roman times. Today the city counts 88,266 inhabitants and has a rich historical legacy with many cultural heritage sites.

The city's concept for this year is Open Air Factory, based on a tradition spanning thousands of years when culture was enacted out in the open air. In addition the city’s geographical proximity to the Middle East as well as to the European mainland, puts Pafos in a great position to act as a link for cultural exchange.

Cypriote GUE/NGL member Takis Hadjigeorgiou praised the city's illustrious past: “Pafos is more than just another city. Its history stretches back four thousand years and it was the capital of Cyprus in Hellenistic and Roman times. Its long history combined with multicultural openness of this prime tourist destination give it a special glow. Pafos castle, and theatre, the tombs of the Kings and the famous mosaics are all part of the city as Capital of Culture for 2017. It is no coincidence and it is an honour for both Cyprus and Europe that Unesco has included the archaeological sites of the New Pafos and Palepafos in its list of World Heritage Monuments.”

Source: European Parliament