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European Commission - Press release

Wroclaw and San Sebastian: European Capitals of Culture in 2016

Brussels, 31 December 2015

The Polish and the Spanish cities will mark the 31st year of one of the most popular EU projects.

Wroclaw (Poland) and San Sebastian (Spain) are the European Capitals of Culture in 2016. The cultural programme will officially begin on 17 January in Wroclaw in the presence of Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport; and on 23 January in San Sebastian.

Tibor Navracsics said: "Being a European Capital of Culture helps cities create a sense of community and brings long-lasting benefits to their citizens and their economies. I wish Wroclaw and San Sebastian every success as they showcase their cultural programmes in the coming year."

The opening of Wroclaw 2016 will take place over the weekend of 15-17 January with almost 100 cultural events such as concerts, exhibitions and shows. The main event on Sunday 17 January will see parades setting out from four corners of Wroclaw and converging on the central Rynek marketplace for the grand finale. The parades will be led by artists representing the four Spirits of Wroclaw (the Spirit of Many Faiths, the Spirit of Innovation, the Spirit of Rebuilding and the Spirit of Flood), stopping along the way to recount the city’s rich history. More than 2,000 artists, singers and musicians will take part.

The motto of Wroclaw 2016 is Spaces of Beauty. This is based on the ideas of metamorphosis and diversity, drawing on the city's unique history of transformation. Hundreds of inhabitants of Wroclaw will perform in major public events in 2016. Citizens were invited to run part of the programme through a "microgrant scheme". During the year, the city will also become UNESCO World Book Capital, with a special edition of the European Literature Night. The programme also includes the International Jazz Day, the Singing Europe Festival and the International Theatre Olympics.

European Capitals of Culture are one of the most recognised EU projects. They were launched in 1985 on the initiative of the then Greek Minister of Culture, Melina Mercouri.

San Sebastian will launch its European Capital of Culture year with a series of events over five days starting on 20 January when the city's grand fiesta, the Tamborrada, will take on a European flavour. The official opening ceremony will take place on Saturday 23 January, in the Victoria Eugenia Theatre, followed by a concert. The "Constelaciones Gaur" exhibition will be inaugurated the day before.

The Donostia-San Sebastian 2016 programme "Cultura para la convivencia" (Culture for co-existence) promotes better ways of living together through art and culture. Three lighthouses will reflect the values underpinning the programme: the Lighthouse of Life (the individual and society), the Lighthouse of Peace (respect and co-existence), and the Lighthouse of Voices (diversity and mutual understanding). Programme highlights include the Peace Treaty, an exhibition of how peace and violence have been depicted in Europe; "Travelling Embassies", a project that will bring artists of different nationalities to several European cities by ship, bus and bicycle to create, share and spread works of art which express linguistic diversity, among others. The 'Waves of Energy' programme will finance cultural projects proposed and evaluated by the citizens themselves throughout the year.


Initiated in 1985 by the then Greek Minister of Culture, Melina Mercouri, the European Capital of Culture is one of the most high-profile cultural initiatives in Europe. The cities are selected on the basis of a cultural programme that must have a strong European dimension, foster the participation and active involvement of the city's inhabitants and contribute to the long-term development of the city.

It is also an excellent opportunity for the cities to change their image, put themselves on the world map, attract more tourists and rethink their own development through culture.

The title has a long-term impact, not only on culture but also in social and economic terms, both for the city and for the surrounding region. For example, a study has shown that the number of tourists visiting the city for at least one night increased by 12% on average compared with the year before the city held the title.

The current rules and conditions for hosting the title are set out in a 2006 decision (1622/2006/EC) of the European Parliament and the Council of the EU.

Following Wroclaw and San Sebastian in 2016, the future European Capitals of Culture will be Aarhus (Denmark) and Pafos (Cyprus) in 2017, Valletta (Malta) and Leeuwarden (Netherlands) in 2018 and Plovdiv (Bulgaria) and Matera (Italy) in 2019.

For more information

Wroclaw 2016 – European Capital of Culture

Donostia San Sebastian 2016 – European Capital of Culture

European Capitals of Culture – Thirty years of achievements brochure

European Capitals of Culture factsheet


Press contacts:

General public inquiries: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 67 89 10 11 or by email

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