Municipality of Leeuwarden,

The Netherlands

A focus on the intangible cultural heritage, investing in cultural events to build a steppingstone for (young) creators.

Region: Friesland


Type of organisation leading the larger local innovation ecosystem

Public authority

Together with partners such as LF2028, Circular Friesland, Tourism Alliance Friesland, and the knowledge institutes (European Tourism Futures Institute), we work towards a more circular and sustainable tourism sector.

Main challenges related to cultural tourism

  • Difficulty to attract visitors due to the position as a small and remote area.
  • As a region with a diminishing population, it is difficult to maintain a certain level of facilities, especially within the cultural sector.
  • Many creative, tourist and cultural institutions and organisations have been hit hard by the COVID crisis. 
  • A remote area, such as Friesland/Leeuwarden, often has a certain stigma, for example, about the distance (too far), the accessibility (difficult), the population (stiff and inhospitable).
“For Leeuwaden, Circular Cultural Tourism is stimulating overall tourism by means of investing in cultural events and therefore creating a stepping stone for (young) creators. Whilst taking into consideration that it should enrich and diversify our local community. Using culture to address social- and environmental challenges that we as a world need to defy.”
Photo by Theo de Witte

Current strategic planning

Together with the regional government, a position paper has been made defining the goals and ambitions up to 2030. However cultural tourism is not an integral part of this paper. Besides that, the municipality has its own policy paper, “Warm welcome”.

Ideas and future perspectives

Leeuwarden is proud residence of the Watercampus, Energiecampus, Dairycampus and Wateralliance. All in their own way, working on innovations in order to contribute to environmental circularity. Besides that, on a tourism level, Leeuwarden focuses on the quality tourist and not the mass tourist. For culture, we strive to increase the quality level of our local makers by letting them work together with international market leaders in the field of culture.

Cultural heritage asset description

The focus is on three main aspects of the (intangible) cultural heritage:

  • LF2028, our 10-year goal to complete the transitions put in motion during LeeuwardenFryslan 2018 European Capitol of Culture
  • Own official minority language with the Netherlands
  • the Elfstedentocht (11 cities skating tour),
  • Iepenloftspullen (open-air plays by volunteers/non-professional actors),
  • music ensembles (brass bands/taptoe/fanfare).

Type of cultural heritage


Specific goal related to the selected asset

The main challenge is to use the limited resources they have at their disposal to create a cultural, creative and tourist offer that attracts guests and to do it without damaging the cultural, social and natural heritage. Moreover, a common thread for all these cultural heritage elements is that many volunteers drive them. This is an added value but also represents a challenge.

Europeanisation: linkages between local heritage and European history and culture

As the capital of a province representing a minority language in the EU, Leeuwarden represents people with a strong cultural identity which can be found throughout Europe. Europe’s rich cultural life is characterized by that diversity. In addition, Leeuwarden represents historic struggles (i.e. against water, oppression), an open society (represented by LF2018) with an ambition for the future that is focused on quality of life and environment instead of economic gain.

Photo by Hoge Noorden

European and international Cultural Heritage recognition(s)

  • Leeuwarden is a former Capital of Culture (LF2018). 
  • The local language, the Frisian, has a special status as a minority language within Europe. 
  • UNESCO status as the City of Literature.

Ongoing projects and best practices

  • Leeuwarden is a former Capital of Culture (LF2018).
  • Legacy program for LF2018, namely LF2028, 
  • Interreg Europe project ECoC-SME directed at entrepreneurship in the cultural and creative industries and how they can benefit from events such as ECoC. photo by Jacob van Essen
  • Leeuwarden is an associated partner in the Erasmus+ projects Culture United and Story Valley.
  • BOSK: It is part of Arcadia, the follow-up of LF2018 (link)
  • Kening fan'e Greide (King of the Meadow), was a production for LF2018 that focused on biodiversity loss and landscape.
  • The ECoC-program, is an example of how LF2018 has very much been focused on using tourism and culture as a driver for change, socially as well as ecologically. (link)
Photo by Jacob van Essen
Photo by Imazzo

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