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Brussels, 27 September 2011

The twenty-one European Destinations of Excellence (EDEN) in ‘Tourism and Regeneration of Physical Sites’

Twenty-one tourist destinations from across Europe were awarded the title of ‘2011 European Destination of Excellence in Tourism and Regeneration of Physical Sites’ at a Gala Awards ceremony in Brussels on 27 September 2011. EDEN is the acronym for 'European Destinations of Excellence', a European Commission initiative promoting sustainable tourism development models across the European Union. The project is based on national competitions that take place every year and result in the selection of a tourist “destination of excellence” for each participating country.

The twenty-one European Destinations of Excellence 2011 are:

AUSTRIA - City of Gmünd / Carinthia

Nestled within the green valley of the Nockberge national park, Gmünd is a historical notable European Walled Town known by locals as an "artist's city. Thanks to its citizens proactive community initiatives, 15 of the town's medieval buildings have been meticulously restored and transformed into arts, cultural and green spaces playing host to local and international works by skilled master craftsmen and women, artists and sculptors. The surrounding landscape is a hiker and biker's paradise.

BELGIUM - Marche-en-Famenne

To be discovered either on two wheels or in a traditional horse-and-carriage, the distinctive municipality of Marche-en-Famenne and its villages offer history-loving visitors insight into this 13th century trading town. Restored buildings include the fortress tower of Juniesse, now a lutherie school, the Old Granary House and old Carmes convent and the fairytale-turreted Jemeppe Castle with its moat. Marche-en-Famenne has a young and dynamic population proud of its rich historical heritage.

CROATIA - Pustara Višnjica

This handsome and sprawling 19th century horse-breeding estate in Eastern Slavonia is surrounded by woods of lime, chestnut and maple trees. Pustara Višnjica is today the only working Pustara, or horse-breeding farm, left in Croatia. Rural tourism thrives in this little known area with local herbs, grains and plants being cultivated, traditional jewellery crafts revived and plenty of healthy outdoor pursuits to offer the visitor from horse-riding to biking.

CYPRUS - Kalopanagiotis

Located by thermal springs visited in late Antiquity by King Solomon and the Byzantines, Kalopanagiotis is an idyllic Cypriot hill village clinging to the rugged hills of the Troodos mountain range. A real get-away-from-it-all tranquility pervades the atmosphere of this stunning town. Its ancient chapels, monasteries and residential buildings have undergone careful renovation, and now house impressive collections of Byzantine art and museums of local history. Visitors come to be soothed by the healing waters, enjoy a peaceful natural setting all year-round and the walking the trails that surround Kalopanagiotis.


Take a ride along the restored and beautifully maintained 65-mile waterway, the Bat'a Canal. The canal winds through the lush forests and verdant landscapes of Slovácko, marked along the way by museums and monuments, highlighting the rich heritage of this mining and wine-making region. This is the land of the "verbunk" traditional dance, awarded UNESCO status in 2005 and also some of the Czech Republics finest and oldest vineyards. Taste your way through this beautiful region, discover its Moravian fortified settlements and Gothic structures such as the impressive Buchlov Castle.

ESTONIA - Lahemaa National Park Manors

Three manors, each distinct in colour, dating from different eras yet sharing a common style reflecting Estonian grandeur and classical Baroque architecture, sit in the glorious "land of bays" of Lahemaa National Park. Restored using environmentally-friendly materials, all three manors offer tourists different experiences - Vihula is a country club and spa, Palmse an open air museum, Sagadi a Nature School and Forest Museum. In the vicinity of these elegant buildings, visitors can visit the atmospheric Viru Bog, or take a Viking long-boat trip in the small seaside village of Kasmu.

FRANCE – Roubaix

Part of the industrial era's wealthy textile triangle of Lille-Roubaix-Tourcoing in the north of France, Roubaix has undergone an exciting urban development scheme to become a vibrant, artistically active town built on sustainable foundations. Its many industrial and urban landmarks have been transformed - the municipal swimming pool is now a museum of fine arts, an old garage now an independent theatre. A bike-hire scheme allows visitors to head out of the town into its many redeveloped green spaces.

GREECE - Municipality of Delphi

Home of the famed "Oracle" and in Greek mythology the location of the "centre of the universe", Delphi boasts a long and mysterious history as well as incredibly picturesque scenery, with clean Blue Flag beaches and a wealth of archeological ruins. Some of the many regeneration projects in Delphi include: the restoration of Harmaina district's centuries-old leather tanneries brings, the reconstruction of the Old City of Amfissa using sustainable building techniques. Whether you like adventure outdoor sports, or prefer to walk over hallowed grounds of ancient temples, amphitheatres or stadii - Delphi has it all.

HUNGARY – Mecsek

Mecsek is a green land in the south of Hungary, with Mediterranean mild climates allowing figs, almonds and vineyards to flourish. Dotted with Roman cities and ancient sites dating back many centuries, many of Mecsek's disused sites have been given new life. They now include a famous porcelain factory and arts centre, a hotel housed within a Benedictine cloister known for its healing properties. In the town of Mohács, a thrilling carnival takes place annually, and the vast, little-explored Trió caves in the region are a natural wonder. The lakes of Orfű in the midst of dense forests are also worth visiting.

ICELAND - Stykkishólmur Municipality

This charming fishing village built on the Western tip of Iceland, faces the mountainous Westfjords across the ocean. With the decline of the fishing industry, the hamlet of Stykkishólmur introduced a regeneration project to encourage tourism while emphasising the need to protect the environment. Old fishing houses have been renovated and opened as guesthouses, offering work to the young who now choose to stay and welcome visitors instead of leaving the village. The fjords are a major draw to this remote, wild region as are the Volcano museum and museum of local folklore. Come here to escape the rush and find a slower pace of life.

IRELAND - The Great Western Greenway, Co Mayo

One of the great cycle trails of Europe is the Great Western Greenway. This spectacular trail offers 42 kilometres of breathtaking landscapes and seascapes, hugging the rugged Atlantic coastline of County Mayo. Notable landmarks that border the ex-railway line have now been regenerated and reopened, such as the famous Victorian Mulranny hotel. Marvel at the archipelago in Clew Bay, the craggy Nephin mountain range and blue-flag beaches along the trail.

ITALY - Montevecchio, Municipality of Guspini

The south-west coast of Sardinia is an Italian summer idyll. However as well as its picture-perfect beaches, olive groves and sunny mountains, it is also home to Montevecchio. It is a village and eco-museum on the site of Italy's oldest mining sites, restored to become an important heritage centre, offering a look into this forgotten aspect of Sardinia's industrial history. The museum and village showcases rural crafts, the history of mining and local food delicacies produced using traditional recipes. The village is also host to numerous local festivals throughout the year.

LATVIA - Ligatne Village

The village of Ligatne developed around its paper-mill. It is the oldest running mill in Latvia and the only paper-producing mill in the country. In its heyday, it had a client portfolio that included the Russian Tsars. Today, the mill is still a focal point of village, producing recycled paper and supporting the regeneration of Ligatne. Surrounded by rolling hills and rosy-hued sandstone cliffs, Ligatne village and its mill are now open to tourists to discover this old craft, learn about paper-recycling and, of course, enjoy the Gauja National Park and its protected flora and fauna in which Ligatne lies.

LITHUANIA - Rokiškis Manor

This former residence of Count Ignotas Tyzenhauzas, the elegant, baronial manor house of Rokiškis sits amidst splendid gardens. Its meticulously restored rooms and cultural evenings attract both local and international visitors. Now also home to the regional museum of Rokiškis, with over 77,000 cultural artefacts, books and fine art pieces, the manor's old buildings and outhouses have been renovated to reflect their former opulence. The area also houses the quirky Museum of Christmas Cribs, ideal for an alternative winter break.

MALTA – Għarb

In the quiet village of Għarb at the tip of the Maltese island of Gozo, young people still speak in the local dialect and traditional dishes are served in the restaurants, keeping alive two fundamental Gozitan traditions. The Wied il Mielaħ, or "salty valley", a natural basin rich in flora and fauna which had fallen into disuse has been successful regenerated; the rubble walls surrounding the valley have been reconstructed and the natural vegetation reestablished. Għarb is also home to a folklore museum and many quaint, historically significant churches and basilicas.


Spend a night in a former prison cell in this rural getaway with a twist. Veenhuizen was a prison and rehabilitation colony transformed through regeneration into a thriving village open to tourists. The old prison buildings are today guesthouses, health centres, art galleries and museums. This "Company of Benevolence" - founded by a Dutch General in 1822 as a working community for homeless and destitute, today is a symbol of the community's history and - with its pristine rural location - a big draw for visitors seeking an alternative cultural holiday.

POLAND – Żyrardów

Żyrardów was once one of the largest linen factory-towns in Europe, built to an innovative design in the 1820s with careful street planning and a veritable village for its workers. Today with careful restoration, this unique example of the model town or garden city has become a factory-museum, with the old spinning plants converted into homes, restaurants and shops whilst maintaining their original architectural features. Nearby canoeing, cycling and walking add to the attraction.

PORTUGAL - Faial Nature Park

Imagine climbing through the dormant, moss-covered crater of a once explosive volcano, on an island dominated by luscious green peaks. Faial Nature Park in the Azores offers this and much more. Following an extensive make-over, the Park is today more accessible to tourists than ever. It offers educational trails, a research and discovery centre and guided excursions to showcase the best of Faial, including the impressive Capelinhos Volcano. Faial is a treasure trove of small, picturesque villages, housing impressive museums and galleries, and exquisite natural surroundings punctuated by towering volcanic peaks.


Visit a museum buried underground - the mining museum of Idrija, with several wings located down the shafts to give visitors a feel for life during the time of the mercury mine's heyday. Part of a project to bring tourism to Idrija and celebrate the town's mining heritage, the transformation of the mine into a living museum has increased the tourism facilities and infrastructure in this charming, traditional Slovenian rural town. Idrija is also famous for its beautiful lace making tradition and offers a breath of activities such as fishing, hiking and swimming to name a few.

SPAIN - Trasmiera Ecopark

An initiative by Cantabria region's Arnuero County, the Trasmiera Ecopark is a fascinating open-museum documenting the life of the salt marshes, coastline and history of this important natural area. Across 2,500 hectares, the park contains renovated rural buildings, a restored mill and bird-observatories that have been opened as cultural spaces and education centres. A living document of the fishing and farming cultures of the region as well as an idyllic place to spot marsh birds and wildlife, the park is investing in nature sustainably.

TURKEY - Hamamönü-Altındağ Ankara

In the heart of bustling tourism destination Ankara, is a little known district called Hamamönü. It was a thriving quarter during the 1920s and built with a mixture of styles reflecting both modern Turkish and Ottoman Empire architecture. Today, its streets have been pedestrianised and 33 of its historic buildings restored and listed as protected under a new heritage scheme. Stunning masjuds and mosques, shops, markets and residences now make it a popular place for locals and tourists and the vibrant creative atmosphere that once reigned here is coming to life again.

For further information on the EDEN project and previous recipients of the awards

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