Bradford, County Durham, Southampton and Wrexham have made the shortlist to be named UK City of Culture for 2025.
A different location is given the title every four years.
The winning place will be announced in May and will be the fourth holder, after Derry-Londonderry, Hull and the current City of Culture, Coventry.
The title has brought £172m to Coventry, according to the government, as well as events like BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend and the Turner Prize.
"We have seen a huge positive impact in this year's host city, Coventry, with millions of pounds in investment and thousands of visitors," said Arts Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay.
The government said the finalists would have to show how they would use culture "to transform a place through social, cultural and economic regeneration" and recover from the Covid pandemic.
For the first time, groups of towns, areas and counties have been able to bid, as well as single urban areas.
The four locations that missed out on progressing from the longlist were Cornwall, Derby, Stirling and a bid covering Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon.
The city with the youngest population in the UK, Bradford says winning would "leave a lasting legacy of increased visitor numbers and a more vibrant, sustainable cultural sector".
It would also increase opportunities for local people and "bring greater community engagement across the district and celebrate our diverse communities", the bid says.
Bradford 2025 organisers have already backed a string of events in West Yorkshire that they say give a glimpse of what to expect, such as a new public artwork programme, a light festival visited by more than 20,000 people in November, and mentoring network FilmMakers 2025.
Claims to fame: David Hockney, Bad Boy Chiller Crew, National Science and Media Museum.
County Durham includes the towns of Bishop Auckland and Barnard Castle as well as Durham. It says being UK City of Culture would attract 15 million visitors, spending £700m and creating 2,500 jobs in the creative industries and 1,800 in tourism.
It would also "empower residents and help to improve community well-being" and "strengthen our reputation nationally and internationally as a place to live, work, visit and invest", organisers promise.
The year would include spectacular opening and closing events, the bicentenary of the world's first public steam railway, a travelling fair asking "big questions" about the local economy, and a 12-month space programme.
Claims to fame: Rowan Atkinson, Mark Gatiss, The Auckland Project.
The south-coast city is "uniquely positioned, facing outwards to the world", it boasts.
Its bid organisers say the contest is "a real chance to put our city on the map - to change perceptions, showcase our diversity and give a voice to every part of our community".
They say: "If our bid wins, we'll attract visitors, enterprise and trade that will boost our own homegrown businesses and cultural organisations, bring in investment and boost opportunities for young people. We'll get the support we need to tackle the challenges we face, too."
Claims to fame: Craig David, Chris Packham, SeaCity Museum.
Wrexham County Borough
Covering Wrexham and the surrounding area, the borough would be the first Welsh UK City of Culture. It says success would allow "communities that don't usually have a platform to share their stories".
If it wins, it says it "will explore how culture can reanimate our public spaces and shopping areas, and work on how we can best upgrade our civic and artistic infrastructure".
It wants to use the bid to become known as the "capital of play for the UK", it pledges "a world-class events programme" and to use culture "as a catalyst for improving health and well-being, local knowledge and pride, and improved educational outcomes".
Claims to fame: Wrexham AFC, owned by Hollywood A-listers Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Focus Wales music festival.