There is burgeoning literature on cities that host major cultural events. However, there is surprisingly very little empirical research focusing specifically on young people and cities of culture, so we have limited knowledge in terms of how young people actually experience and interpret cultural events. Given this, we offer an important and timely contribution to such debates. Our spatial focus is Derry/Londonderry (D/L) in Northern Ireland. During 2013 D/L was the UK’s inaugural City of Culture (CoC). The bid document and legacy plans for CoC stated that young people would be ‘cultural assets’ during 2013 and the ‘ultimate beneficiaries’ of the CoC legacy (Derry City Council, 2010, 2013a, b). This paper unpacks and analyses the extent to which young people in D/L related to and engaged with CoC and, arguably more importantly, how CoC affected their plans and aspirations for the future. Our research problematizes the claim that young people were the ‘ultimate beneficiaries’ of CoC; most strikingly, it shows that young people, despite offering very positive views, both expect and desire to live in cities other than D/L. As such, the debilitating long-standing trend of economic migration of young people will continue raising important issues for local stakeholders.