October 31, 2017

As the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature, Edinburgh is pleased to welcome eight new cities from eight new countries to its literary family today.

These eight have become the latest recipients of the City of Literature designation which is awarded by UNESCO to cities with strong literary heritage, a vibrant contemporary scene, and importantly to cities where their sector works collaboratively to grow and develop their city through their chosen artform, via capital development and cultural engagement programmes.

The new UNESCO Cities of Literature:

  • Bucheon (South Korea)
  • Durban (South Africa)
  • Lillehammer (Norway)
  • Milan (Italy)
  • Utrecht (Netherlands)
  • Manchester (UK)
  • Québec City (Canada)
  • Seattle (USA)


Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust’s Director Ali Bowden commented:

It’s incredible to see the network grow in reach and diversity. Edinburgh was designated the first City of Literature in 2004 and we now have a network made up of 28 cities in 23 countries spread across 6 continents. This brings together organisations all working in support of literature and we welcome these new cities and look forward to future collaborations.


The announcement made today by UNESCO confirming the designation of these eight cities takes the Cities of Literature network to a total of 28.

They join 20 existing Cities of Literature: Edinburgh (UK), Melbourne (Australia), Iowa City (USA), Dublin (Ireland), Reykjavik (Iceland), Norwich (UK), Krakow (Poland), Dunedin (New Zealand), Prague (Czech Republic), Heidelberg (Germany), Granada (Spain), Ulyanovsk (Russia), Baghdad (Iraq), Tartu (Estonia), Lviv (Ukraine), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Barcelona (Spain), Nottingham (UK), Óbidos (Portugal) and Montevideo (Uruguay).

The network has grown rapidly since 2004 when an Edinburgh delegation travelled to UNESCO’s Paris headquarters to present the city’s submission. Edinburgh was designated the same day, becoming the founding city of the Creative City Network and the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature.

About the UNESCO Creative Cities Network designation

The Creative City Network was established in 2004 when Edinburgh became the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature and over the last ten years cities as diverse as Beijing, Montreal, Santa Fe, Sydney, Bogota and Sapporo have joined the network in one of its seven thematic areas: Design, Film, Crafts & Folk Art, Literature, Music, Gastronomy and Media Arts.

Up until October 2017, the UNESCO Cities of Literature network of 20 cities has represented five continents and 17 countries, and a combined population of over 20 million. The world’s oldest book, the world’s tallest monument to a writer, the world’s first Master of Fine Arts Creative Writing programme, the oldest university in central Europe, and the only train station named after a book, can all be found in these cities.

The designation process

To join the network cities must prepare a bid which showcases their strength in their chosen art form and their plans for growth and development, in line with the strategic mission of the network. Bids must be supported by the country’s National Commission. Bids are assessed every two years jointly by the designated cities and UNESCO. The designations are permanent but are monitored and reviewed every four years by UNESCO.



UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, today commented:

These new designations showcase an enhanced diversity in city profiles and geographical balance, with 19 cities from countries not previously represented in the Network. The cooperation framework proposed to foster candidate cities from the Africa region – a UNESCO Global Priority – has been a true success with 9 African cities now joining the Network.


Jenny Niven, Head of Literature, Languages and Publishing at Creative Scotland commented:

Edinburgh has been at the centre of the development of the Cities of Literature network since becoming its first designated city in 2004. We are proud of Edinburgh’s role in the growth of this network and how as a city, thanks to the work of our first-class writers and world-leading organisations, we have continued to uphold and embody the City of Literature status. We look forward to welcoming this eclectic and dynamic range of new cities to the network, learning from them and fostering links, creative projects and opportunities between us.

Edinburgh’s Lord Provost, Frank Ross, commented:

Through the City of Literature Trust, Edinburgh has used its designation as a catalyst for a host of new activity, from high profile citywide reading campaigns to one-day events honouring our famous authors. Over the years we have hosted international exchanges and local residencies, one-off conferences and monthly Literary Salons. We support our emerging writers and inscribe the words of our most famous authors on prominent city locations. Through this network, Edinburgh sits at the heart of so many languages and cultures, bringing us new opportunities for the future.