Leeuwarden saw off Maastricht and Eindhoven to be named European city of culture 2018 by a panel of European and Dutch experts.
The Hague and Utrecht were also competing for the 2018 title but failed to make the short list.
The vote in favour of Leeuwarden was difficult but unanimous, jury chairman Manfred Gaulhofer said on Friday when the winner was announced.
‘I am convinced the title will bring Leeuwarden and its surrounding area significant long-term cultural, economic and social benefits, as we have seen with previous European capitals of culture,’ European cultural commissioner Androulla Vassiliou said in a statement.
Leeuwarden had the smallest budget (€56m) of the three Dutch finalists and focused on the themes of water, land and horizon.
Amsterdam had the title in 1987 and Rotterdam in 2001.
The Frisian capital will share the honours with Maltese capital Valetta.