Attractive Nordic towns and regions

Urbanisation is one of the key challenges the Nordic region faces in its transition to a green economy. In 2017 the Nordic Council of Ministers launched the project "Attractive towns. Green redevelopment and competitiveness in Nordic urban regions. Towns that provide a good life for all". 18 small and medium sized towns from the Nordic countries participated in the project that lasted for three years.

From the final conference in Borgarnes on IcelandFrom the final conference in Borgarnes on Iceland, 17-18 October, 2019. Photo: Gunnhildur Lind Hansdóttir

Attractive Nordic Towns was launched in 2017 when Norway held the presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The project was one of several initiatives to promote Nordic competitiveness, green redevelopment, the transition to a low-emission society, integration and a good environment for public health. It will help to make Nordic towns and cities part of the solution to environmental and climate challenges. The project is designed to identify indicators for attractiveness, and determine how the quality of cities affects the environment, public health and the creation of attractive jobs.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals – and especially goal number 11 "Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable" – formed an important platform for the project. The project was led by the Norwegian Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and Care Services and the Ministry of Climate and Environment. 

Reports and Working Tools

The Purpose of the Project

The main goal of the project was to prepare a joint Nordic strategy for how towns and their surrounding areas can become more attractive through the development of vibrant and inclusive urban environments that are economically, environmentally and socially sustainable. Important elements are environment- and climate-friendly solutions, social balance and equal opportunities for all, good social and public health services, cultural activities, vibrant town centres, historical-cultural objects and environments, good blue-green structures, urban spaces and architecture, coordinated land use and transport solutions and attractive job opportunities are important elements to achieve that goal.

The project has consisted of four sub-projects:

  • Mapping, development and use of methods to measure urban qualities and sustainability
  • Share knowledge between Nordic decision makers, administration and academic communities
  • Contribution to handling complex decision-making challenges in urban regions
  • A common Nordic strategy for attractive and inclusive urban environments

Flyer: Attractive Nordic Towns (pdf)

Participants – 18 Small and Medium Sized Nordic Towns

A network of 18 small and medium sized Nordic towns was established by an invitation to apply. The elected towns represented a good mixture of different sizes, challenges, ambitions and geography. The towns had much in common, but was also sufficiently varied so that everyone could learn from each other. See the overview of the participating towns and their application (not all are available in English) below:

Denmark: SønderborgMiddelfartViborg
Finland: PoriSaloVasa
Iceland: AkranesHornafjørdurMosfellbærFljotsdalsherad
Sweden: VäxjöLundYstad 
Norway: HamarNarvikInnherredbyen (Steinkjer, Verdal and Levanger)

Nordic cities and regions in the network.

Final reports from the four working groups

The towns were divided into four groups across countries that worked with the following topics concerning attractiveness. Read more about their work in the group`s final reports.    

Group 1 

Group 2 

Group 3 

Group 4 

Reports and Working Tools

The project resulted in several reports and practical working tools. These will also be of great interest to other small and medium sized Nordic towns that did not take part in the project. Most of the reports and working tools are translated into different Nordic languages in addition to English.

Attractive Nordic Towns – Strategies Towards a Sustainable Future (Sweco, 2019)

(English) (Finnish, pdf) (Icelandic, pdf) (Norwegian, pdf)

Suggested Indicators and Toolbox – Attractive and Sustainable Nordic Towns and Regions (Sweco, 2018)

(English) (Finnish, pdf) (Icelandic, pdf) (Norwegian, pdf)

Network of Public Spaces – An Idea Handbook (The Norwegian Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, 2019)

(English) (Finnish, pdf) (Icelandic, pdf) (Norwegian, pdf, 2016)

Youth Empowerment Methodology (Ungdomsbureauet, 2019)

(English, pdf) (Finnish, pdf) (Icelandic, pdf) (Norwegian, pdf) (Swedish, pdf)

3 Tools to Develop Town Attractiveness and Liveability through Co-creation – in Nordic Towns (2019)

(English, pdf) (Danish, pdf) (Finnish, pdf) (Icelandic, pdf)

Liveability Toolbox – Liveability and Business Attractiveness in Urban Transformation (2019)

(English, pdf) (Danish, pdf) (Finnish, pdf) (Icelandic, pdf) (Norwegian, pdf) (Swedish, pdf)

Governance challenges in the Attractive Nordic towns (2019, Distriktssenteret)
What governance challenges does small and medium sized towns face in local projects to promote sustainability and attractivity?

For information about the project in Norwegian, see the website Attraktive nordiske byer og byregioner (regjeringen.no).