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2019 European Capital of Smart Tourism

Boasting 460 years of history, Helsinki is also a modern city with a burgeoning smart tourism industry. In 2017, visitors to Finland’s capital reached record numbers, with in excess of 4.5 million people taking advantage of a destination that mixes high-tech and sustainable design with stunning arts and culture all in one compact and vibrant city.

Helsinki’s Preliminary Programme of Activities as 2019 European Capital of Smart Tourism

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2019 European Capital of Smart Tourism

Through sustainable, cutting-edge development, Lyon has become an essential European tourist destination in barely two decades. Boasting 2,000 years of history, for which it is recognised by UNESCO, the city is long established as France’s capital of gastronomy, and lays claim to being the continent’s cradle of silk and cinema. The annual Festival of Lights, which attracts around three million visitors over four days, is another major reason why tourism has boomed, becoming a €1 billion-a-year industry.

Lyon’s Preliminary Programme of Activities as 2019 European Capital of Smart Tourism

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This are the cities that got the most recognition in the categories by the experts.


Category Winner: Sustainability

If you still think of Ljubljana as undiscovered, you’d be surprised to see how the city has developed into a cozy yet charming smart tourism destination. Just a short walk across the Triple Bridge brings tourists into contact with the city’s past, present and future with views of Ljubljana Castle, the Dragon Bridge, Ljubljana Marshes and so much more. Winner of the European Green Capital Award in 2016, the city is a hive of activity where sightseeing and technology go hand-in-hand.

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Category Winner: Accessibility

Málaga has undergone a transformation over the last 15 years. The Andalusian city, aware of the importance of being a smart tourism destination, committed to a period of urban regeneration that has placed art and culture at its heart.

Today, a region that was known for its beaches has become the ‘City of Museums: Where art lives’. As the quality of its attractions improves — including the Picasso Museum and Centre Pompidou — so tourism has increased.

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Category Winner: Digitalisation

In 2017 Wonderful Copenhagen, the city’s official tourism organisation, declared the end of tourism as we know it. There was however nothing pessimistic about this statement, instead the city had set its sights on flourishing in the digital age of travel, in which growth would not be an end in itself, but rather tourism would be considered a means to a more sustainable future, in which connections are forged and both the city and visitors alike are able to benefit. With this in mind, Copenhagen has fully committed to a smart future in which the city is a social media influencer and visitors are guided through the city with the help of AI technology.

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Category Winner: Cultural Heritage & Creativity

Linz is a city with stellar cultural heritage that gives a nod to the future. A member of the UNESCO Creative Cities (UCCN) network as a City of Media Arts and a former European Capital of Culture, Linz has embraced smart measures and creativity to ensure that this cultural landmark remains a twenty-first century destination.

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Shortlisted Cities

Six shortlisted cities that were invited to present in front of the jury in 2018.


Home to over 183 nationalities, 121 museums, and 42 international organisations, and ranked No. 1 in the European Green City Index, Brussels is the perfect place to showcase smart tourism’s full potential. Whether you’re strolling across Grand Place, admiring the Atomium, or attending a conference in the European Quarter, you can fully immerse yourself in the Belgian capital via a dazzling array of apps.

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Nantes is a city that prides itself on its originality. With a population of 630,000 and 100,000 new residents expected by 2030, it is one of France’s fastest-growing cities. Once sleepy, the city has been transformed into a thriving tourist destination over the past 30 years thanks to the work of the Nantes Metropole. Art has taken centre stage, and the Voyage a Nantes — a 12km ‘scattered monument’ trail — has played a vital role in the city’s renaissance.

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Capital of Mallorca, the largest of the Balearic Islands, Palma is the eighth biggest city in Spain with a population of 440,000. Despite its first impressions, there is so much more to Palma than sun, sea and sand. It is a modern, accessible and sustainable city steeped in history that boasts an array of artistic, cultural, culinary and sporting delights. Easy to reach from most European cities, and with a 100 years’ experience in tourism to fall back on, it is easy to see why 11 million visitors flock to Palma every year.

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Being Poland’s fifth largest city, Poznań has emerged as a vibrant tourist destination in recent years. In 2017, almost 1.5 million people flocked to the historic city as improvements made to the visitor experience began to pay dividends. Its city centre is a friendly meeting place throughout the year and is the setting for several hundred local and international events.

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Tallinn’s Old Town may be a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it’s also a city that has moved with the times. Rated by Lonely Planet as the Best Value Destination of 2018, it is estimated that foreign tourists spent around €960 million in the Estonian capital during 2017. Tallinn is keen to showcase its vibrant and trendy neighbourhoods, while the abundance of parks and forests — 40km2 in all — as well as the two-kilometre stretch of sandy beaches, means there is plenty to explore.

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Valencia has stepped out from the crowd as one of the Mediterranean’s main urban tourist destinations, attracting four million visitors annually. The €3 billion tourists bring to the local economy is being spent wisely, as the Spanish city invests in projects and initiatives designed to create a truly welcoming municipality – intelligent, fun and open to all. At the heart of this push is Valencia’s drive to become not only a smart destination but first and foremost a smart city that improves the quality of life for both residents and guests.

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