Hull, known for being the home of poet Philip Larkin, the Ferens gallery and the Truck theatre, will follow the 2013 City of Culture, Londonderry.
The UK government chooses a new destination every four years, with the aim of helping tourism and the economy.
Hull council leader Stephen Brady said winning was “a real game-changer”.
He added: “It will give Hull a platform to tell the world what this great city has to offer, transform perceptions and accelerate our journey to make Hull a prime visitor destination.”
TV producer Phil Redmond, who chaired the City of Culture panel, said Hull was the unanimous choice because it put forward “the most compelling case based on its theme as ‘a city coming out of the shadows'”.[Editor’s note: Sharp-eyed readers will notice that this report is copied verbatim from the BBC website. We apologise, but unfortunately we were unable to make it any funnier.]