Cultural heritage in regional policy

Culture is highly valued by both residents and visitors across Europe’s regions and cities. Cultural heritage is a key element of their image and identity. Cultural tourism represents 40% of all tourist activities in Europe.

Cultural heritage plays a crucial role in achieving inclusive and sustainable development and it can help to revitalise cities and regions. The European Union (EU) cooperates with cities and regions to provide financial support for culture, raise awareness of the potential of culture and cultural heritage and to formulate integrated strategies through several instruments.

The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and cultural heritage

This fund provides support to cultural heritage through actions that fund the protection, development and promotion of cultural assets at the local level.

Examples of actions from 2007-2013 and 2014-2020 include, among others:

Find more examples of cultural heritage projects on the website of the European Regional Development Fund, including the REGIOSTARS Awards.

Urban Agenda for the EU

EU Member States have initiated a new partnershipon the topic of culture and cultural heritage in 2018. This multi-level working method promotes cooperation between cities, Member States, the European Commission and other stakeholders within the framework of the Urban Agenda for the EU.

The Urban Agenda for the EU aims to improve EU policymaking and implementation in its 3 aspects

  1. better regulation
  2. better funding
  3. better knowledge

Every partnership during its duration proposes voluntary action plans with concrete initiatives to be put in place by partnership members. The action plans are the key delivery mechanism within the Urban Agenda for the EU.

Cultural Heritage in Action

Cultural Heritage in Action is a peer-learning programme for local and regional policymakers to exchange knowledge on cultural heritage. The action, financed by the Creative Europe programme, started in January 2020.

The Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture (DG EAC) is supervising this action put in place by a consortium of partners led by EUROCITIES in cooperation with Europa Nostra, European Regions Research and Innovation Network (ERRIN), KEA European Affairs and Architects’ Council of Europe (ACE).

The project will deliver a catalogue of 30 good practices from cities, regions, non-urban and rural areas across the European Union. As part of the action, 12 peer-learning visits in the featured locations will be organised, bringing together more than 20 participants per visit.

Cultural Heritage in Action will help over 100 local and regional policymakers to exchange knowledge on cultural heritage, focusing on the following themes:

  • participatory governance of cultural heritage
  • adaptive reuse of heritage buildings
  • quality principles for interventions in cultural heritage

This action builds on the previous peer-learning initiative funded by the Creative Europe programme - Culture for Cities and Regions - that ran from 2015 to 2017. It examined selected cultural initiatives and their impact on local and regional development.

Outputs of the project included

Horizon 2020 for cultural heritage in regions and cities

The European Union invested €25 million in 2019 in four projects aiming to transform historic urban areas and cultural landscapes into hubs of entrepreneurship, social and cultural integration.

Some highlighted projects from the programme:


The project turns rural areas into cases demonstrating Cultural and Natural Heritage as an engine of regeneration.

Find out more about the RURITAGE project.


ROCK focuses on historic city centres as laboratories to demonstrate how cultural heritage can be a unique and powerful engine for regeneration, sustainable development and economic growth for the whole city.

Find out more about the ROCK project.


CLIC is a transdisciplinary project that aims to identify evaluation tools to test, implement, validate and share innovative “circular” financing, business and governance models for the reuse of cultural heritage and landscapes.

Horizon 2020 launched a task force on “financing and business models for the reuse of built heritage in cities”. Its aim is to provide expertise and advice on financing and managing the reuse of buildings and spaces according to a circular economy approach. The CLIC project leads the task force.

Find out more about the CLIC project.

Open Heritage

Open Heritage identifies and tests best practices for adaptive heritage reuse in Europe.

Find out more about the Open Heritage project.

Find out more

Source: Cultural heritage in regional policy - Culture and Creativity, European Commission.

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