After Guimarães in Portugal and Maribor in Slovenia in 2012, 2013 sees Košice in Slovakia and Marseille in France take on the prestigious mantle of European Capitals of Culture. A whole year of no-holds-barred celebrations is planned across Marseille's southern region of Provence; artistic installations, festivals and flamboyant circus shows that will tempt legions of tourists – and even Parisians.
After major works and months of bottlenecks, the main port zone on Marseille has finally been pedestrianised, and the festival's organisers appropriately want the opening ceremony to be a participatory one. It all kicks off on January 12 with a tailor-made celebration that invites art fans to gather at 11am for a contemporary art trail through the revamped city centre, filled with installations from the wild imaginations of Japan's Yayoi Kusama (in the Cours Mirabeau), the USA's Rachel Feinstein (Fontaine de la Rotonde) and the Swiss Ugo Rondinone in the Place Saint-Jean de Malte.
Later in the, Marseille will celebrate its maritime history and reputation for lively nightlife with the 'Grand Clameur' – Great Clamour – filling more than 30 locations with sound and music performances involving foghorns, church bells, voices, ships' sirens and more, encircling the city in a blast of noise (sensitive ears, stay away).
It'll be hard to top the Grand Clameur for drama, but it's just the beginning. The day wil be filled with air force displays, jazz concerts, a wall of photos culled from Twitter, art installations and much more.
On the second day of the opening weekend, January 13, Aix, Marseille, Tarascon, Arles, Istres and Aubagne join together for a great region-wide treasure hunt, bringing together 20 regions for 112 trails (some in English and some adapted to people with reduced mobility). Adults and children, locals and tourists are invited to gather at 10am to uncover the secret of the 'divining rod' and to discover the countryside around them. Bring water, a smartphone and a snack, as the rally looks pretty intense, but it also comes with many prizes (not counting an Anaïs concert in Arles).
The weekend that ends in an extraordinary pyrotechnic display orchestrated by Groupe F, whose 'Révélations épisode 1' – already seen in Paris for Nuit Blanche 2012 – is absolutely dazzling.
For the full programme and events throughout the year, click here.