With an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most possible spellings of its name, Leeuwarden in Friesland in the north of Holland is the focal point for the region and its eleven main towns, where over 60 projects will celebrate the European Capital of Culture ethos of culture as a medium for change.
Rotterdam is an atypical Dutch city. Emerging from its bombed out WWII ruins – reconstruction began just two weeks after the war ended, although the ‘fire boundary’ is still marked today by small lights in the pavement in the shape of red flames – rather than rebuilding in the image of its past, the city made a clean break with it and opted for modern architecture, with light, air and space the watchwords.
One of the world’s finest contemporary art galleries can be found in Amsterdam. Or Barcelona. Or Monte Carlo. Or Lisbon or Copenhagen or Tallinn or St. Petersburg or Helsinki or Stockholm or… Wait, you ask, it’s in all these places? Well, yes, if Holland America Line’s magnificent cruise ship Koningsdam happens to be in port.
The Sunday Times’ description of Nantes as ‘the loopiest city in France’ belies a serious strategy: to reinvent a city through art and culture. In Nantes this has been a roaring success. From being laid low in the 1980s by the collapse of its ship-building and freight industries, it has emerged as a fun and creative city revitalised by cultural tourism.
Few city names in the world are as evocative as Vienna. The birthplace of dynamic artistic and intellectual movements, the city of Haydn, Klimt, Freud, Strauss and a host of others (including Beethoven, who called Vienna home for the last 30-odd years of his life) was for a century or more the centre of European cultural life.
The contemporary art scene in Istanbul has witnessed an explosion in recent years. Some estimates place the number of commercial galleries at over 200 compared to just a dozen a decade or so ago and a stroll around the modern city reveals a proliferation of small, independent spaces.
Art has woven itself into the fabric of Chicago. Monumental pieces dominate its downtown plazas, some of its finest civic buildings are filled with it, galleries and art centres have helped transform neighbourhoods and tourists visiting its museums are spreading the news of its growing reputation.
We have Attila the Hun to thank for Venice. When his rampaging hordes entered Italy in the 5th century AD upon the collapse of the Roman Empire, the good citizens of the northeast plain took refuge on a hundred or so flat, marshy islands out in the lagoon at the edge of the Adriatic Sea.