Austria region Salzkammergut becomes 2024 European Capital of Culture

A pleasure boat is seen at the lake Wolfgangsee in St. Wolfgang, Austria, Monday, July 27, 2020.
A pleasure boat is seen at the lake Wolfgangsee in St. Wolfgang, Austria, Monday, July 27, 2020. Copyright Credit: Kerstin Joensson/AP Photo
By Theo FarrantEBU
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The town of Bad Ischl will serve as the banner city for the event, hosting nearly 200 projects in the extensive Salzkammergut program.

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The Austrian Salzkammergut region is set to shine as the European Capital of Culture in 2024, sharing the title with Bodø in Norway and Tartu in Estonia. 

22 postcard-perfect towns across two provinces are participating, marking a departure from the conventional city-centric approach of the European Capital of Culture, and making this the first time the honour is bestowed upon an entire region.

Notably, the Alpine spa-town Bad Ischl will be the banner city for the event. 

The extensive Salzkammergut program includes nearly 200 projects from local artists, associations, and institutions, with the grand opening taking place in Bad Ischl on 20 January. 

It promises to be a spectacular event with performances from singer-songwriter Huber von Goisern, a 1000-voice choir and Eurovision Song Contest winner Conchita. 

Why Salzkammergut?

Lake Traunsee, in the Salzkammergut, Upper Austria.
Lake Traunsee, in the Salzkammergut, Upper Austria.Credit: Leonhard Niederwimmer / Pixabay

The Salzkammergut ("salt domain") region, characterised by a stunning landscape, is steeped in a rich history woven together by salt, water, and wood. 

With a history stretching back 7,000 years to Hallstatt, the region's legacy of salt mining has not only sustained it but also connected it globally. 

A short cable car ride from Hallstatt, the "Salt Worlds," recognised as the world's oldest salt mine, allows visitors to descend over 400 metres below ground and explore its hand-dug tunnels. 

In the 19th century, Salzkammergutevolved into a favoured tourist destination, attracting the social elites of the Habsburg Monarchy who chose to spend their summers there. 

This trend was notably set by Emperor Franz Joseph, who made Bad Ischl his preferred summer holiday retreat.

At a recent news conference, local Salzkammergut authorities unveiled the ambitious lineup of projects and ideas for the upcoming year.

Elisabeth Schweeger, director of European Capital of Culture Salzkammergut 2024, emphasised the effort to understand, showcase, and connect the region with the world

"There really has been an effort to discover how to understand this region, to draw out everything it has, to connect it with the world."

Schweeger added: "And ultimately to make it fit for the future and to prove that rural areas are not only a space of opportunity, but also a future space for future ways of living and working together, on an equal footing with urban centers, which we know are on the increase and rural areas throughout Europe are actually having a harder time than cities."

Video editor • Theo Farrant

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