The Northern Irish city of Londonderry is embracing its role as the U.K.'s "City of Culture" for 2013, planning an ambitious series of arts events that will feature a play staged by Sam Shephard and a punk rock musical.

The AP reports that the city, a center of violence during "The Troubles" and the site of the "Bloody Sunday" massacre, will also welcome the London Symphony Orchestra and Nobel-winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney. The stated hope is that the celebration serves as both a way to celebrate the heritage of the ancient city and a way to further ameliorate the tensions between the local Catholic and Protestant communities, which refer to their home as Derry and Londonderry respectively.

The city has plenty to offer travelers. It is at once stunningly traditional -- parts of it look like London's shabby-chic districts -- and possessed of a distinctly Irish toughness that allows it to weather IRA attacks.

In naming it one of the cities travelers should visit in 2013, Lonely Planet described Londonderry as "undergoing a renaissance."

Here's a tour of the newly-minted cultural capital.

Loading Slideshow...
  • Guildhall

    Derry's Guildhall is the political center of the city and the home to Derry Feis, which celebrates Irish culture. The square in front of the hall is a frequent site for both events and protests.

  • Guildhall

    More recently, announcements concerning the Saville report, an investigation focused on "The Trouble," were made to crowds assemble in front of the hall.

  • Tower Museum

    "The Story of Derry," an exhibit inside the Tower Museum, tells the city's long and sometimes violent story.

  • The Tower

    Visitors to Derry can get a beautiful panoramic view of the city from the top of the Tower, part of an old fortress that now hosts a museum.

  • St. Columb's Cathedral

    Dedicated to an Irish saint exiled from the area, St. Columb's is a community center as well as an architectural must see.

  • St. Columb's Cathedral

    The Church of Ireland still conducts regular services at the cathedral.

  • The Bogside Murals

    The bogside murals depict the Battle of Bogside and Bloody Sunday. This mural, entitled, "Battle of the Bogside" helps commemorate the area's history.

  • The Bogside Murals

    This mural, entitled "Operation Motorman" is a reminder plastered on a pleasant housing complex.

  • Artillery Street

    Many of Derry's streets are almost comically picturesque.

  • Downtown

    Whereas some parts of the town just look like Guy Ritchie's movie sets.

  • The Wall

    Walking the wall around the city is a popular activity with visitors.

  • The Wall

    Violence begot violence.

  • City of Culture

    An artist's impression of what the UK City of Culture Events Pavilion will look like.

  • City of Culture

    The proposed pavilion at night.