Every year, the European Union selects two cities to be designated European Capitals of Culture. Activities all year long show off the cities’ charms. Destinations large and small are selected; some are well known, while others may be new to travelers.
The latter is likely the case with the 2017 selections: Aarhus, Denmark, and Pafos, Cyprus. Here’s a primer on both cities.
Where: In the geographic center of Denmark, northwest of Copenhagen.
Why It’s Noteworthy: The second largest city in Denmark (after Copenhagen), Aarhus was founded as a fortified Viking settlement. Today it’s best known as music epicenter, especially for jazz and rock aficionados. Cruise ships stop there, and its port is one of the most important in Northern Europe.
Top Sights: Many of the city’s 1.4 million annual visitors tour its art and historical museums, the Old Town Open Air Museum and nearby Botanical Gardens, and the Tivoli Friheden amusement park. Wandering the city, you’ll see architecture representing a number of eras, from Romanesque and Gothic to Nordic classicism and Functionalism.
Don’t Miss: Nibbling on a typical Danish smorrebrod (buttered bread) at one of the city’s oldest taverns, Peter Gift, which dates back to 1906.
Special Events: Festivals, exhibits, author talks, concerts and other activities are planned. The city will be decked out with special garden installations between April and September. The Royal Danish Theatre will perform a Viking saga called “Rode Orm” from May 24 through July 1.
More Info: Aarhus2017.dk
Where: On the southwest coast of the Mediterranean island.
Why It’s Noteworthy: Pafos (also spelled Paphos) is home to Aphrodite’s Rock, a beach outcrop that’s considered to be the birthplace of the Greek goddess of love and beauty.
Top Sights: The whole city is on UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage List, and picturesque scenes are at every turn. The Temple of Aphrodite attracts many pilgrims. Pafos also has a Byzantine castle, catacombs and a museum displaying archaeological artifacts.
Don’t Miss: An afternoon exploring the cliffs and beach near Aphrodite’s Rock. If you take a swim around the rock, it’s said that you will be blessed with eternal beauty.
Special Events: Because Pafos boasts spectacular weather year-round, organizers are planning many activities outdoors. Expect monthly exhibits, walking tours, performances, food events and nature outings.
More Info: Pafos2017.eu