Around 50,000 people gathered in the main square of Bulgaria's oldest city for the inauguration ceremony dubbed "We are all colors."
The entertainment included traditional Bulgarian folk dancers, 200 choir singers, a brass orchestra and a musical and laser spectacle.
"This year will be a turning point for Plovdiv. We have spent four years to prepare all events. I'm sure that Plovdiv will never be the same," Svetlana Kuyumdzhieva, the art director of Plovdiv 2019, told reporters.
Plovdiv lies in central Bulgaria, 144 kilometers (90 miles) southeast of the capital, Sofia. It claims to be the oldest continually inhabited European city, with more than 6,000 years of history.
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History and diversity draws touristsEvidence can be seen in many architectural landmarks dating back to Thracian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman times.
Alongside its ancient heritage, the multicultural city sees Orthodox Bulgarians, Turks from the time of the Ottoman Empire, Armenians, Jews, and Roma live peacefully side by side.
Already a popular tourist destination, organizers now hope visitors from all over the world will take part in more than 500 events that planned for the next 12 months.
The cultural program offers music from opera to jazz and rock as well as theater performances and exhibitions.
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One planned exhibition will feature fragments of the Berlin Wall to mark 30 years since its fall and another with 30 short films and debates on how art can foster liberty.
Bulgaria's second-largest city, Plovdiv was also named among The New York Times' list of 52 places to go in 2019.
The European Capital of Culture is an initiative of the European Union, awarded to two cities each year.
In addition to Plovdiv, the Italian city of Matera was also awarded the title for this year. Its launch is scheduled for January 19.
mm/sms (AP, DPA)
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