Three cities short-listed for European Capital of Culture 2026 in Finland

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Oulu, Savonlinna and Tampere have been shortlisted in the competition for the title of European Capital of Culture 2026 in Finland.

A panel of twelve independent experts recommended the shortlist from competing Finnish cities at the outcome of a 2-day (partially digital) meeting in Helsinki. In 2026, Finland will host the European Capital of Culture for the third time, after Helsinki in 2000 and Turku in 2011.

Finland invited applications from interested cities in April 2019. Three cities submitted applications by the deadline of 5 May 2020: Oulu, Savonlinna and Tampere.

Being shortlisted for the European Capital of Culture title can result in significant cultural, economic and social benefits for the cities concerned, if their bid is part of a longer-term culture-led development strategy.

Once the relevant Finnish authorities formally endorse the panel's recommendation, cities will have until early 2021 to complete their applications. The panel will then meet again in Helsinki in spring 2021 to recommend the Finnish city to become the European Capital of Culture 2026.

In the same year, there will also be another European Capital of Culture in Slovakia. The pre-selection round in Slovakia will take place in early 2021 and the final selection in the end of 2021.

The next European Capitals of Culture

Rijeka (Croatia) and Galway (Ireland) are the European Capitals of Culture in 2020. Hardly hit by the COVID19 pandemic, which put their activities to a standstill, Rijeka and Galway 2020 hope to deliver part of their projects later in 2020 despite the exceptional circumstances.

Following Rijeka and Galway in 2020, these will be the European Capitals of Culture during the next five years:

  • 2021: Elefsina (Greece), Timisoara (Romania) and Novi Sad (Serbia, candidate country to EU membership);
  • 2022: Kaunas (Lithuania) and Esch-sur-Alzette (Luxembourg);
  • 2023: Veszprém (Hungary);
  • 2024: Tartu (Estonia), Bad Ischl  (Austria) and Bodo (Norway, EFTA/EEA country)

How cities become European Capitals of Culture

According to the current system for designating the European Capitals of Culture, the selection has two rounds:

  1. a pre-selection round, following which candidate cities are shortlisted, and
  2. a final selection round approximately nine months later. The selected city is then officially designated by the Member State concerned.

A panel composed of 12 independent experts examine the applications.

The relevant Finnish authorities appoint two experts to the panel while the European Union institutions and bodies (European Parliament, Council, Commission and Committee of the Regions) appoint ten experts.

According to the selection criteria, cities should prepare a cultural programme with a strong European dimension, which fosters the participation of the city's different communities and attracts visitors from the whole country and Europe. The programme must have a lasting impact and contribute to the long-term development of the city as well. Selected candidates must also show that they have the support from the relevant local authorities and the capacity to deliver the project.


Born in 1985 from an idea of the then Greek Minister of Culture, Melina Mercouri, the European Capitals of Culture have grown into one of the most ambitious cultural projects in Europe and one of the best known – and most appreciated – activities of the EU. Their objectives are to promote the diversity of cultures in Europe, to highlight the common features they share and to foster the contribution of culture to the long-term development of cities.

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