European Capital of Culture 2018 the story so far

The year in which Leeuwarden-Friesland carries the European Capital of Culture title for all of Holland began in late January 2018 with a grand opening that was broadcast live on the Dutch national channel NPO 1. The Dutch Royal couple rang the clock on the Wilhelminaplein in Leeuwarden, after which all the clocks in Friesland rang out for a minute. The opening weekend was followed by a period of sold-out productions - from on-location theatre about Frisian and Polish workers in greenhouses (Lost in the Greenhouse) to hidden stories from churches (Under the Tower) and theatre by victims and perpetrators within the prison walls (Holstmeer).

In May, fountains designed by various international artists opened in ten of the eleven historic Frisian cities (11 Fountains). This once again connected the Frisian cities to each other. Also in May, Friesland was selected as Lonely Planet's #3 'Best in Europe'. The renowned travel guide placed Friesland in Europe's top three of the most exciting and previously underrated destinations. Travellers who want to explore the best places outside the most popular usual European destinations are now discovering Friesland. It was the first time that Lonely Planet has put a Dutch region in the top three.

There’s also been a noticeable difference in visitor numbers in Leeuwarden and Friesland compared with previous years. After recent successful exhibitions about Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (158,000 visitors) and Mata Hari (90,000), the exhibition about Escher in the Fries Museum was visited by more than 150,000 people. The Royal de Luxe’s Giants attracted an incredible 425,000 visitors and The Tall Ships Races in Harlingen was attended by 330,000 people.

There is still so much to come for the remainder of the year of culture. At the Fries Museum, the exhibition Rembrandt & Saskia: Love in the Golden Age will open on 23 November 2018. The Frisian Saskia van Uylenburgh was the first great love of the Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn. The couple married in 1634. Saske, her Frisian baptismal name, was born and raised in Leeuwarden. Based on this loving couple, visitors will be able to discover what it was like to be part of a prominent marriage in the 17th century.

Typical Leeuwarden autumn festivals that will liven up the streets of Leeuwarden will take place, among other activities, this three-week autumn festival will host LUNA, a light spectacle taking place throughout the city centre. At the Northern Film Festival, international talent will show their work through Sailing on the Grass, a programme in which International film makers came to Friesland to make a documentary about the area. For example, Swiss film maker Andrea Pellerani looks at the Wadden Sea as counterpart of the Alps.

Another example is Explore the Northa festival that uses locations throughout the city - that are not regularly accessible to the public - as a podium for poetry, music and theatre. Various artists from northern Europe exhibit their arts here. Featuring the Danish group Inbetween Music who perform an underwater opera called AquaSonic, performed in five large basins of water.

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