A view of Bangkok's skyline and Lumpini Park

Top 10 music cities in the world

For a destination to be declared number one for music it has to fit certain criteria that enables visitors and locals the opportunity to enjoy their chosen sound however they wish and having the correct blend of stadia, hall, bar, café or room, is often just as important as the headline act.

Below are the top 10 music cities in the world that have been chosen for both their eclectic mix of venues as well as their dedication to contemporary and traditional sounds. If you’re heading in the direction of anyone of these musical capitals then make sure you pack your dancing shoes because once your feet hit the ground you literally won’t be able to stop moving.

cuban street musicians

10. Havana
As Cuba’s undisputed epicentre of culture it’s no surprise that Havana has a strong musical vibe running over its cobbled streets and grand piazzas. Influences come from as far afield as Africa and Spain with a rumba rhythm pulsating long into the long, hot summer nights.

Venues, such as: El Gato Tuerto, Salón 1930 ‘Compay Segundo and La Casa de la Música all provide an authentic flavour of Latin American spirit and if you’re looking for salsa lessons, bustling bars or classically Cuban cafes, then check out the districts of: La Habana Vieja, Vedado and Miramar because you won’t be able to keep your heels from tappin’.

Current acts hailing from Havana that are well worth catching live include: Paquito D’Rivera (Jazz and Be-bop), Orishas (Hip-hop and Latin rap) and X Alfonso (rock/hip-hop fusion).

9. Tokyo
Once the preserve of only puppet theatres and operettas, Tokyo’s current live music scene is anything but old-fashioned with a buzzing array of venues that will take you from downtown ‘live houses’ to state-of-the-art arenas in the twinkling of an eye.

The neighbourhoods of: Koenji, Yoyogi and Shimokitazawa have a whole host of music hot spots and all manner of hipsters and indie kids can be seen bopping the night away to the strains of rock, punk, jazz and hip-hop. Aside from the smaller venues there are plenty of parks and arenas that regularly hold live concerts with Budokan Hall and Tokyo Dome amongst the biggest and the best.

Although gigs tend to start and finish early catching a show is an awesome option if you’re in the capital and there’s an eclectic blend of local and international groups, soloists and DJs playing pretty much every day of the week.

8. Berlin
Long regarded as one of Europe’s finest music capitals, Berlin’s awash with underground electro clubs, cool jazz cafes and more crazy party nights than you’d care to imagine. Although House and Techno still reign supreme there’s a real return to live music these days with popular haunts, including: Lido, SO36 and Feststaal Kreuzberg, all proving more than worthwhile if you’re looking to escape the DJ circuit.

Indie rock, alt punk and even Northern Soul can be heard throughout the capital and heading for the districts of: Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain and Mitte, will take you right to the heart of the action.

Local acts can be seen all over the city, with the likes of: Me & My Drummer (pop), Crime (indie-goth) and Ter haar (math rock) providing some excellent sounds no matter where you hear them.

7. Ibiza
With an enviable array of beach bars, open-air clubs and live music venues, Ibiza is indeed one of the premier music cities in the world. Balearic legends like Café del Mar have become eponymous with chill-out and ambient tunes and super clubs, for example: Pacha, Space and Amnesia are all hallowed ground for any serious raver.

In the last few years the island has also seen a leaning towards non-dance related music and festivals like Ibiza Rocks have paved the way for a different type of music loving holiday-maker.

Every summer from June through to October Ibiza presents a massive selection of DJs and live acts with: Pete Tong, Sven Vath, Solomun and Rizzle Kicks providing just a tiny selection of the tunes to electrify your summer.

6. Memphis
Regarded as the home of soul and rock & roll, Memphis, Tennessee, has had more than its fair share of accolades and recording artists to last more than a lifetime. Record labels: Sun and Stax, were responsible for launching the careers of: Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Wilson Picket, Otis Redding and Muddy Waters, and still to this day soul, blues and that sweet southern sound can be heard around every corner.

There’s also a more contemporary music scene in Memphis with bands like: His Hero Gone (punk), Three 6 Mafia (rap) and Deep Shag (rock), all appearing in a variety of venues in and out of the city limits.

Live music nights are commonplace and Wild Bills, Minglewood Hall and Hi-Tone are all well-known for their focus upon indie music if you’re looking for an alternative to the Memphis blues.

blues on beale street memphis

5. Seattle
Back in the day, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Sound Garden totally ruled the airwaves and catapulted Seattle into the music capital stratosphere as the undisputed home of grunge.

These days the likes of Fleet Foxes, Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie are more likely to be linked to the city thanks to the recording label Sub Pop however, with numerous jazz cafes, rock arenas, classical orchestras and metal bands around it’s easy to see why Seattle’s still making a big noise on the west coast.

Venues like Crocodile, High Dive and Showbox are all awesome for a night out and districts such as Belltown, Ballard and Capitol Hill all have plenty of clubs, bars and low-down dives that will keep you up until the wee small hours.

seattle music mural

4. New York
You name it and New York’s got it going on and from jazz cafes and blues bars to underground clubs and new wave joints, there’s never a dull day in the city that never sleeps.

Often considered as providing the roots for disco, house and hip hop you won’t be surprised to discover a thriving dance scene and clubs such as: Chaos, Cream and Cheeta all offer plenty of excuses to make some shapes and have yourself a good time.

NYC also has a huge salsa and Latin American following and heading to Washington Heights will introduce you to a super sensuous succession of dance halls and late night clubs.

From the folk and hippy tunes emanating from Greenwich Village, post-punk bands such as Interpol to the garage rock sounds of the Strokes, the Walkmen and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, this is an eclectic and buzzing music centre that shows no sign of stopping in its quest for worldwide acclaim and authority.

beyonce performing at radio city music hall

3. Nashville
Memphis had the blues and the soul but Nashville certainly had the country twang and legendary venues like the Grand old Opry and the Bluebird Café have become synonymous with presenting some of the world’s most acclaimed country music stars.

Fondly known as ‘Music City’ it’s easy to see why Nashville is up there in the top 10 and if you’re looking for further confirmation then checking out the likes of: 12th & Porter, 3rd & Lindsley, Music City Smokehouse and Drifters, will no doubt seal the deal.

Aside from attending a gig, Nashville is also well-known for its abundance of exhibitions with the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum providing more than a glimpse of why this is one of the world’s foremost cities when it comes to music.

nashville live country music

2. Austin, Texas
With a self-proclaimed nickname of ‘The World’s Live Music Capital’ it will come as no surprise that Austin, Texas, is jammed-full of clubs, bars and arenas dedicated to belting out everything from blues to biker rock.

Austin is also well-known for its outdoor festivals where events and fringe shows take place all over the city and include comedy, food and a whole load of weirdness to ensure an alternative audience come forth in their droves.

Aside from the festivals, there’s over a hundred venues staging live acts every night of the week and clubs, for example: Emo’s, the Backyard and the Hole in the Wall, all offer a laid back vibe and live music no matter what you’re into.

live music capital of the world

1. London
Often thought of as the birthplace of many a music scene, London presents an eclectic mix of expensive clubs, traditional pubs and super-sized arenas that have all played host to some of the most recognised music acts in the world.

Synonymous with the Stones, the Beatles, the Clash and the Kinks, it’s easy to see how London has become a stomping ground for every new band looking to make it in the music business and with an amazing array of music venues there’s always a gig or a concert going on pretty much 24/7.

From Camden to Brixton, Soho to Shoreditch, you’ll find music seeping from every pore in the capital and no matter whether you’re into: jazz (Ronnie Scott’s), Latin (Floridita), punk (the Old Blue Last) or dubstep (Plastic People), this is the undisputed epicentre of UK music.

musical street performer at spitalfields east london


Karen Andrews
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Karen Andrews
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01342 310596 Call us 9am-7pm Mon-Fri / 9am-5pm Sat-Sun