The city of Veszprém is located close to the North bank of Lake Balaton. For centuries, Hungarian queens were crowned by the bishops of Veszprém, therefore, the city is also known as the City of Queens. Veszprém is a city of 60,000 residents, the 16th largest city in Hungary. Albeit not a large city, it has an enormous cultural impact—since 2019, Veszprém is one of UNESCO’s cities of music. As a city of music, Veszprém promotes music literacy, music education, and a wide range of music genres through performances, education, and festivals. In the past years, the city hosted VeszprémFest, the Street Music Festival, as well as the Auer Violin Festival, and the Dance Festival. These international events gave the city of Veszprém a wealth of experience in holding and organizing large-scale events—such experience is useful as the city prepares to kick off the year with events dedicated to its role as one of the European Capitals of Culture.
This year the city is honoured to be one of 2023’s European Capitals of Culture along with Timișoara (Temesvár) in Romania and Elefsina in Greece. The European Capital of Culture initiative dates back to 1985 when the Greek and French Ministers of Culture agreed to set up the project to spread cultural understanding and raise awareness about the diversity and common history of European countries. Cities that are selected to be European Capitals of Culture receive no funding from the EU to showcase their cities. Cities that wish to participate must demonstrate that they themselves are able to raise funding for the events they plan to organize while they are Capitals. Supporting Veszprém as a cultural capital, the Hungarian government has granted the city 39 billion HUF (110 million EUR) to renovate key buildings in the city—ranging from the Archbishop’s Palace, through community places in the Veszprém Castle, to churches and several other episcopal buildings. The renovations speak to the historic legacy of the city, as Veszprém was granted Hungary’s first episcopal seat in 1009.
In a unique decision, Veszprém decided to take a regional approach to its programmes as a European Capital of Culture. Instead of hosting events only in the city, over 110 neighbouring small villages and towns will also hold events to honour Veszprém’s and the Balaton region’s title as a Capital of Culture. The main aim of the Veszprém-Balaton 2023 project is to showcase centuries-old traditions, cultural diversity, gastronomy, and the natural beauty of the region. While the environmental challenges the Balaton region is facing is a special focus of these events, overall, the year will centre around creativity, with art, music and gastronomy-related events being at the core of the programmes.