The city saw off rival bids from Swansea Bay, Leicester and Dundee, which were also shortlisted.
Hull was announced as the winner by Culture Secretary Maria Miller and selected by an independent panel chaired by TV producer Phil Redmond.
Hull will now deliver a year-long programme of events, inspired by the Philip Larkin poem Days, which will be, kicked off with an opening ceremony involving four ‘rivers’ of light, people and sound flowing into the city, and elephants walking the streets.
Other commissions will include artist-designed permanent gateways for the city, and a Sonic Lumiere stadium event featuring Hull lighting designer Hull Marenghi.
The programme will include 15 national and international artists’ commissions, 12 artists’ residencies, 25 festivals, eight community participation programmes and an estimated 1500 special events.
Culture Secretary Maria Miller says the ‘huge benefits’ of the title include ‘encouraging economic growth, inspiring social changes and bringing communities together’.
Hull follows in the footsteps of inaugural UK City of Culture Derry/Londonderry, which has been running a programme throughout 2013.
This has included hosting the Turner and Stirling Prizes, as well as the Bafta and Brit Awards.
The museum says that its displays of Scottish design will include not just work by well-known figures such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh, but also contemporary designers such as Graven Images, Timorous Beasties and Jaguar design director Ian Callum.