From Arctic art to the Disgusting Food Museum: Europe’s top 10 culture destinations for 2024 | Travel

From Arctic art to the Disgusting Food Museum: Europe’s top 10 culture destinations for 2024 | Travel

Germany, various locations

Germany is celebrating the 250th birthday of one of its best-loved painters, the Romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840). His work features mountains, ruins and stormy seas, often with human figures, such as Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog. There are exhibitions in Hamburg (until 1 April), Berlin (19 April to 4 August) and Dresden (24 August to 5 January 2025), where Friedrich lived for 40 years; he is buried in the city’s Trinitatis Cemetery. His birthplace, Greifswald, has a festival (31 August-1 September) and three exhibitions at the Pomeranian State Museum (from 28 April). Visitors can also follow in the artist’s footsteps – literally, as he preferred to travel on foot, sketchbook in hand – to locations in his paintings, such as Rügen Island or the Saxon Switzerland national park.
germany.travel

Malta

St Elmo’s fort, Valletta.
St Elmo’s fort, Valletta

Move over, Venice: Malta is launching its first biennale this spring. The event has already caused a stir in the art world, attracting submissions from more than 2,500 artists from 75 countries. The final selection has yet to be made, but organisers have promised that “several artists of international fame” will be exhibiting. Under the theme White Sea Olive Groves, the artworks will investigate modern Maltese and Mediterranean identity. The contemporary art will be shown in ancient settings, many of them Unesco-listed (the whole of Valletta, the capital, is a world heritage site, with 320 historic monuments). Several venues are being turned into exhibition spaces for the first time, including the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta, the Armoury in the old city of Birgu and the megalithic temples of Ġgantija on Gozo.
11 March to end of May, maltabiennale.art

Children’s activities on Tartu’s Car-free Avenue.
Children’s activities on Tartu’s Car-free Avenue. Photograph: Mana Kaasik

For the third year running, three cities are sharing the title of European capital of culture, among them is Tartu, the second-biggest city in Estonia and the oldest city in the Baltics. The first written records of the city date from 1030, and it has long been the cultural heart of the country, with the first university, newspapers and national theatre. Today, it is still full of concert venues, exhibition halls, theatres and museums, and students make up a quarter of the population. More than 1,000 events are planned for the year of culture, from the opening ceremony on 26 January to a closing celebration on 30 November. Summer is a great time to visit, when Vabaduse Avenue, one of the main streets along the river, is closed to cars (6 July to 11 August). Car-free Avenue will have a hammock maze, art workshops, children’s activities and a series of concerts from Estonian and international musicians.
tartu2024.ee

Copenhagen, Denmark

Carlsberg district
Carlsberg district

The Carlsberg district (pictured) of central Copenhagen has been in development ever since brewing stopped there in 2008, and is finally more or less complete. The area’s restored 19th- and 20th-century industrial buildings are complemented by nine high-rise new-builds inspired by San Gimignano in Italy – the city of towers. Visitors who go for the architecture will find plenty else to keep them there. There are design shops and concept stores, an art gallery, a spa and the boutique Hotel Ottilia. Numerous restaurants include a Danish smørrebrød (open sandwich) cafe, a gastropub in the old malt silo, a burger joint in the boiler house and a “New Nordic” restaurant on the site of natural springs. And, last December, the Visit Carlsberg attraction reopened as Home of Carlsberg after five years of modernisation. There is a new interactive exhibition, a restaurant and bar, plus cellar tours and tastings.
wonderfulcopenhagen.com

The graffiti alley in Ghent.
The graffiti alley in Ghent. Photograph: Chun Ju Wu/Alamy

Ghent is European Youth Capital 2024, and has plenty to offer young visitors. Top attractions include the Castle of the Counts, a medieval fortress with a moat and a gory collection of torture implements; Werregarenstraatje, AKA Graffiti Alley, a public canvas for street artists; and the Belfry, with 254 steps to climb to visit a dragon, the city’s mascot. Families can also download the Fosfor the Dragon app for a two-hour treasure hunt through the city. Just outside the centre is the Blaarmeersen sports and recreation park, which has a lake with a sandy beach, a waterpark, a skate park and lots more. Kids will either love or hate cuberdons: raspberry-flavoured, syrupy sweets that were invented by a Ghent pharmacist and are still sold only in Belgium.
visit.gent.be

Bad Ischl, Austria

lakeside beach in sunshine
Unterach am Attersee, near Bad Ischl, is taking part in capital of culture celebrations. Photograph: Mihaila Cristian Ionut/Alamy

Another capital of culture is Bad Ischl in the western Austria’s Salzkammergut region. Bad Ischl, spa town and summer residence of Emperor Franz Joseph I, has joined forces with 22 rural alpine communities. They include Lake Attersee, which inspired Gustav Klimt and Gustav Mahler. Among the highlights of the year’s programme is Salt Lake Cities, an artists-in-residence scheme to bring 12 disused railway stations back to life with installations, exhibitions and pop-up projects. Another standout is Reise der Bilder, a three-venue exhibition of artworks that were looted in the Salzkammergut during the second world war. Other major events include a street music festival, a theatre festival and a festival of experimental music and digital art. Finally, to celebrate the 200th birthday of the Upper Austrian composer Anton Bruckner, there is a concert in a vast saltworks in Ebensee.
salzkammergut-2024.at

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Ceiling of the chapel in Genoa’s Palazzo Ducale.
Ceiling of the chapel in Genoa’s Palazzo Ducale. Photograph: Getty Images

Those who missed the National Gallery’s Artemisia Gentileschi exhibition in 2020-21 – it was cut short by the pandemic – could head to Genoa this spring. The Ligurian city has a major exhibition of the groundbreaking 17th-century artist, with more than 50 of her paintings from all over Europe and the US. The show is held in the Palazzo Ducale, which in various forms was home to the doge of Genoa from the 12th to the 18th century. It has a vaulted atrium, a vast hall with enormous chandeliers, a frescoed chapel, dungeons and a tower with views over one of Europe’s biggest medieval centres. It is just one of Genoa’s numerous palaces – 42 of them make up the Palazzi dei Rolli world heritage site. All are open to the public on twice-yearly Rolli days (next event 19-21 January).
Artemisia Gentileschi: Courage and Passion, until 1 April, palazzoducale.genova.it

Bodø, Norway

The Sámi Architecture Library in Bødø.
The Sámi Architecture Library in Bødø. Photograph: LAURIANGHINITOIU/Photo ArkDes. Stockholm

The third capital of culture is Bodø in northern Norway, the first city north of the Arctic Circle to have held the title. It is aiming to be the most sustainable capital of culture ever, and many events are outdoors – on both land and sea. The opening ceremony on 3 February is on a floating stage in the harbour. There is a concert in a submerged cave, where audience members must be accredited divers (it will also be livestreamed), and a new 10-metre-high sculpture of poet Petter Dass on an islet, best seen by boat. On dry land, highlights include a mass-participation outdoor event called Midsummer Mischief, Europe’s only land art biennale and Nordland’s first winter light festival. Sámi culture is celebrated with a trilogy of plays by the Southern Sámi Theatre, while Bodø City Museum is becoming a Sámi museum for the year.
bodo2024.no

The Falsterbo Photo Art Museum near Malmö.
The Falsterbo Photo Art Museum near Malmö. Photograph: Alamy

Perfectly timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Abba’s victory, Sweden is hosting the Eurovision song contest this year. The host city, Malmö, will be buzzing on the weekend of the final, on 11 May, as Eurovision fans descend en masse, but it has plenty of culture all year round. The Malmö Konstmuseum showcases Nordic art, furniture and handicrafts; the Moderna Museet Malmö features work by Dalí and Picasso, plus contemporary exhibitions; the Form/Design Center focuses on architecture, design and craft; and, half an hour’s drive away, the excellent Falsterbo Photo Art Museum has photography by Helmut Newton, Robert Mapplethorpe, Anton Corbijn and others. Slightly less highbrow is the Disgusting Food Museum, which has 80 stomach-churning exhibits, from Sardinia’s maggot-infested cheese to Iceland’s rotten shark.
visitmalmo.se

Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, exterior
The Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Strasbourg. Photograph: Alamy

In April, Genoa passes the baton to Strasbourg as World Book Capital. More than 200 book-related events will take place over the next 12 months, such as the Arsmondo Utopia festival – named after the Thomas More book – at Strasbourg Opera House, which has a lineup of opera, concerts, film screenings, talks and debates. Other venues include the Musée de l’Œuvre Notre-Dame, a sculpture and stained-glass museum, and the , which has work by Magritte, Monet and Rodin. The city itself has plenty to inspire would-be novelists, with its enchanting island setting (the centre is encircled by the River Ill and a canal), half-timbered houses and gargantuan gothic cathedral, praised by writers including Goethe and Victor Hugo.
23 April 2024 to 22 April 2025, lirenotremonde.strasbourg.eu

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