Capital of Culture

Riga: European Capital of Culture 2014

Riga: European Capital of Culture 2014

Each year 2 European cities are selected to be European capitals of culture. For 2014, the 2 cities are Umea in Sweden and Riga in Latvia. We’ve already made a post about Umea in Sweden so now we present you with our highlights for the year 2014 in Latvia’s Riga.

Riga is one of the Baltics’ more popular destinations, a big city with an atmosphere to match, and an old town that is on par with Tallinn’s and Prague’s; the city has a great collection of art-nouveau architecture and a number of inner-city parks, cultural spots, cafe’s and cobbled streets that will make a more than perfect setting for the events that Riga has planned for its year in the limelight.

The most striking aspect of the city is the cute fairy tale old quarter, with steeples and turrets looking down on small shops, boutiques and coffee shops where hot summers days are spent al fresco, watching the people go by. However, despite its charming demeanour, Riga is also home to a burgeoning nightlife, with lively clubs and bars, as well as top-rate restaurants, and amidst the old world charm of the old quarter, Riga has begun to place glass hotels and business centres, which give the city an otherworldly feel – where old meets new and charm clashes with glamour. As is the norm for the host cities of the European Capital Culture, Riga has drawn up an impressive list of attractions for 2014.

Art is, as always, the prevailing theme – with artists from all backgrounds and disciplines taking part. The Ukrainian artist Nikita Kadan, a member of the artistic association R.E.P. (Revolutionary Experimental Place)  is one of the artists taking part in the international contemporary art exhibition with the project “Procedure Room” about police torture, while street artist Dainis Rudens has created a mural on a facade on a small street in the Sarkandaugava neighbourhood – the colours of autumn.  There will be various theatre and ballet performances such as “Three Meetings”, a ballet to be held at the Latvian National Opera and look out for some interesting exhibitions such as the Skan II sound installation – an exhibition of sound art which aims to explore innovative art forms and remind onlookers of Riga’s architectural heritage. The events will take place throughout 2013 with dance workshops, opera, street fairs, live concerts, tours and even a circus. While you’re there, make sure you take a look at the old KGB building, that as well as being an attraction itself will be hosting a variety of exhibitions and installations – you can even take a tour of the KGB cellars.

For more info on Riga and the plan for 2014 take a look here.

Umea: European Capital of Culture 2014

Umea: European Capital of Culture 2014

Each year 2 European cities are selected to be European capitals of culture. For 2014, the 2 cities are Umea in Sweden and Riga in Latvia. Today we present you with our highlights for the year 2014 in Sweden’s Umea. You can check out our post about Riga here. 

Umea, unlike Stockholm, which lies some 600 KM south Umea, is relatively unknown on a world scale, but don’t let that put you off, as this charming city is awash with attractions, rugged natural beauty, and things to do- especially intriguing is its geographical location in the far north of Sweden, as this means that in summer – you’re very likely to see the midnight sun - almost constant daylight, while in the winter months you can easily see the Northern lights. In true capital of culture style, Umea has a year long itinerary planned with everything from interactive storytelling and photography exhibitions, to alternative music exhibitions, dance and workshops.

Aside from the obvious swathes of natural beauty and rugged wilderness that surrounds the city – you’ll find quaint cafes, riverside restaurants and plenty of galleries to spend your time in. If you feel like getting to grips with the art scene then you could head to the Rock Art exhibition – where you can discover the conceptual world of the stone age man and try your hand at rock carving, the Land use exhibition, which is an art project on land exploitation, or the Leonor Fini - Pourquo pas? exhibition – all of which will run on various dates throughout the year. Sweden’s influence in music can be seen from the world of jazz to metal and hardcore – if you’re a fan of the latter then you simply shouldn’t miss the Umea – The European Capital of Hardcore 1989 – 2000 exhibition, where amongst other things will show press clippings and memorabilia from famed bands from Umea such as the hugely influential Refused. If your taste is a little different then don’t fear as there will be opera, jazz and a variety of performing arts taking place around the too.

To learn about Umea’s natural side then head to the Vindelfjällen nature reserve which, though primarily for children, promises to be enlightening and fun – with reindeer sleighs, fairytales and crafts. If you prefer to explore the terrain then perhaps a guided birdwatching tour in the Umeälven delta will be for you, or for something a little different, try the Umea Ghost Walk which promises to unveil Umea’s most haunted houses and places of interest.  

For more info on Umea and the plan for 2014 take a look here.

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