The European Capital of Culture Bad Ischl – Salzkammergut 2024

The title “European Capital of Culture” has been awarded to cities and regions in Europe since 1985. For the first time in history, in 2024 it will take place in a rural, inner-Alpine region. The “banner city” of Bad Ischl, along with 22 other municipalities in Upper Austria and Styria, are developing a cultural region that is reinventing itself through the interaction of art, culture, business and tourism.

Bad Ischl and the Salzkammergut were awarded the title "European Capital of Culture 2024" in November 2019 after a multi-stage application process. Together with Bad Ischl - Salzkammergut, the cities of Tartu (Estonia) and Bodø (Norway) will also host the European Capital of Culture 2024.

The Salzkammergut region was born of salt, made rich by salt – and is now looking to the future with the motto: CULTURE IS THE NEW SALT. The region offers a high density of exciting stories, places and people - embedded in an impressive landscape. Characterized by the elements salt and water, a complex and multifaceted regional identity has developed here since salt mining began in Hallstatt 7,000 years ago. The region is a place of longing and nostalgia for many thanks to its long-famed summer resorts, and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its nature as a historic cultural landscape. The title of European Capital of Culture will address important issues in our region – and in Europe – and provide new impetus for the future. Salt and water have shaped the region for a long time. Now it is time to add another essential element: culture. It is the catalyst for sustainable coexistence in the Salzkammergut and far beyond.

The Program Areas

With the European Capital of Culture Bad Ischl – Salzkammergut 2024 project, the diversity of historically rooted and contemporary art and culture is being brought to the fore and connected internationally.

Traditional art and culture is alive and well cared for in the Salzkammergut. These traditions encompass a wide spectrum of customs and practices, ranging from music, handicrafts, theatre, and literature to tavern culture. In order to truly understand these traditions, however, a critically reflective view of how they developed over time is also required. What power relations have shaped this region? Salt mining, Habsburg rule – and unfortunately also National Socialism. Remembering means shaping the future responsibly. An accurate understanding of POWER AND TRADITION helps to recognize local and global identities. At the same time, tracing these developments throughout the history of the region can help us to uncover their origin stories and connections to Europe.

Culture is subject to constant change. It arises from social processes – and sometimes also from protests. The historical rise of a local working-class culture allowed workers to agitate for and achieve a number of social demands, and led to a significant increase in workers’ rights and the protection of livelihoods. The stubbornness and tenacity of the Salzkammergut people is still notorious today. But other elements have had a strong impact on the cultural landscape of the region: the farm and rural culture, summer visitors and the tourism sector, Jewish culture and its disappearance under National Socialism. It is evident that culture is constantly on the move, changing. Enabling productive questioning, providing a space for discourse and new, unconventional cultural forms and art formats is a basic principle for a CULTURE IN FLOW that allows for renewal and can lead a region and its society into a progressive future.

Tourism, which grew out of the summer resorts cultivated in this exceptional Alpine region in the 19th century, is one of the most important lifelines of the Salzkammergut – a place of treasured memories for many travelers. Some areas feel this more than others. As in all regions of Europe, however, the side effects cannot be overlooked. This program area is dedicated to shaping such development. Aspects such as overtourism, traffic, cultural tourism, encounters between locals and travelers, and the protection of nature are addressed. SHARING SALZKAMMERGUT – The Art of Traveling explores the diverse challenges, but also the opportunities for the further development of high-quality tourism. It asks how the region can be made attractive outside of tourism – and even outside of the summer and winter months.

So how do you prepare such a region for the future? A rural region, deep in the Alps, whose landscape is to be preserved, and which should become a place of retreat and rejuvenation all year round? Design the region in such a way that the usual north-south divide is eliminated – ideally, to enable local actors to work together and to draw on each other’s unique and complementary strengths. Enrich the job market with creative potential, and follow the principle of "living in the country and still being part of a global network". What this means in practice is expanding mobility and digitality, developing strategies to better enable agriculture as a livelihood in some regions, combining spatial development with sensible building culture, creating educational and artistic spaces, striving for sustainability in tourism development. GLOBALOCAL – BUILDING THE NEW is the motto. It is important to address the tensions between generations – between what is perceived as relaxing by some, but can be stressful for nature and the environment, to recognize gaps in order to promote cultural and creative diversity, and to strive to make life here attractive for both the young and the old.

What the European Capital of Culture Bad Ischl – Salzkammergut 2024 attaches importance to

Important topics
Baukultur | Bildung | Digitalität | Erinnerungskultur | Gender | Handwerk | Industriekultur | Jüdische Kultur | Kulturtourismus | Kunst & Kultur als Standortfaktor | Landflucht | Landwirtschaft | Migration | Mobilität | Nachhaltigkeit | Next Generation | Ökologie | Regionalentwicklung |

Diligence & Sustainability
The Salzkammergut is the first rural alpine region to bear this title – this brings great opportunities, but also responsibility. A tourism region must be careful and thoughtful in the use of its internal resources, and as the Green European Capital of Culture, the region must orient its actions accordingly.

Opportunity for Diversity
Tradition in dialogue with new cultural movements. Tourism in harmony with nature and culture. Sustainability and further development of the region as a new rural urbanity for young and old. Artistic interventions. The deployment of a panoramic perspective that looks both backwards and forwards, in discourse with current scientific findings, with the intention of shaking things up and uncovering new angles and viewpoints. The European Capital of Culture 2024 seeks the courage to be different and sees aesthetics as a compass for distinguishing diverse approaches.

The European Capital of Culture serves to highlight the burning questions of our time: How do we live as a society here, in this rural alpine region, and how do we want to live in the future? How do we understand each other, in Europe and in the world? What contribution do we want to make to a common Europe? The diversity of culture and a culture of diversity provide an opportunity to share this world with one another at an international and transnational level.


The Capital of Culture region is made up of 23 communities. In Upper Austria: Banner City Bad Ischl, Altmünster, Bad Goisern, Ebensee am Traunsee, Gmunden, Gosau, Grünau im Almtal, Hallstatt, Kirchham, Laakirchen, Obertraun, Pettenbach im Almtal, Roitham at the Traunfall, St. Konrad, Scharnstein, Steinbach am Attersee, Traunkirchen, Unterach am Attersee, Vorchdorf In Styria: Altaussee, Bad Aussee, Bad Mitterndorf, Grundlsee

The Supervisory Board - consisting of 14 people - was constituted in August 2020. The Chairman of the Supervisory Board is Hannes Heide.

There are nine Owners of the Capital of Culture Bad Ischl – Salzkammergut 2024 GmbH. Together they also form the General Assembly: Municipality of Bad Ischl / Municipality of Gmunden / Regional Development Association of the Traunstein Region/ Regional Development Association of the Inner Salzkammergut – REGIS / Regional Association of the Ausseerland/ Tourist Board of Bad Ischl / Tourist Board of Inner Salzkammergut / Kulturvision Salzkammergut / Upper Austria Chamber of Commerce.

The Regional Forum as an advisory body was founded in October 2020. The 30 members provide advice, information from the region sourced from their networks, and they act as a mouthpiece for the concerns of the Capital of Culture Bad Ischl - Salzkammergut 2024 GmbH.