For music lovers, the idea of whiling away the hours wandering around historic folk cafes, legendary jazz bars and notorious punk venues is the stuff of dreams. What better way to explore a country than through its music? And what better way to explore that music than visiting the places where it lives and breathes?
In this article, we’ll be transporting you to some of the most beautiful and important music venues on the planet. This list contains venues of all shapes and sizes, from tiny clubs to outdoor amphitheatres. Many of them have been picked, not simply on the basis of the musicians who have performed there, but for their beautiful architecture, singular location and historical significance.
From classical to rock and jazz, there’s something for every type of music lover on this list, and you’ll find each of these venues offers a different form of musical experience. What they all have in common, however, is that they are all places we’re dying to visit.
So, join us as we take a trip around the world to the ten essential venues that every music lover should visit.
The music lover’s travel bucket list:
10. Cafe Wha? – New York, USA
Located in Manhatten’s Greenwich Village, Café Wha is one of the most important music venues in the history of rock ‘n’ roll. Throughout the 1960s, it was one of the most prominent folk clubs in the city and hosted many of Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix’s earliest gigs. It has also played host to Bruce Springsteen, The Velvet Underground, Kool & the Gang.
Café Wha also acted as the springboard for many era-defining comedians, including Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce, Joan Rivers, Bill Cosby, and Richard Pryor. What’s more, unlike its ’60s contemporary, The Gaslight Café, Café Wha? is still a fully functioning music venue, showcasing some of the most exciting acts New York city has to offer.
Location: 115 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012, United States.
Website: Café Wha.
9. Ronnie Scott’s – London, England
Established in 1959, Ronnie Scott’s is still one of London’s most prominent jazz clubs. It began life as the training ground for a generation of UK jazz artists that came of age in the post-war period. However, in 1965, it received its first transatlantic guest in the form of Zoot Sims.
Scott’s jazz club quickly became one of London’s hottest venues and has hosted a dizzying number of musical icons including Tubby Hayes, Tom Waits, Chick Corea, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Jimy Smith, Tony Bennet, and Bill Evans. With its glamourous décor and sultry lamplit tables, Ronnie Scott’s is a beautiful time capsule just waiting to be explored.
Address: 47 Frith St, London W1D 4HT.
Website: Ronnie Scott’s.
8. Nippon Budokan – Tokyo, Japan
Originally built to hold the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the Budokan can be found in Tokyo’s political centre, Chiyoda. It was conceived by the architect Mamoru Yamada, who based his modern design on the Yumedono building, (‘Hall of Dreams’) of Hôryû-ji, a Buddhist temple located in the ancient capital of Nara.
In 1966, The Beatles were the first rock group to perform at the venue. Since then, the Budokan has seen a dizzying range of artists take to the stage, including Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, Eric Clapton and Oasis.
Address: 2-3 Kitanomarukoen, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 102-8321, Japan.
Website: Nippon Budokan.
7. Royal Opera House – Muscat, Oman
Built in 2001 by classical music lover Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said, the Royal Opera House Muscat, is one of the most magnificent music venues on earth. It doesn’t really matter if you’re a fan of classical music or not because this venue has so much else to offer.
With its landscaped gardens, market, and various restaurants, Muscat’s Royal Opera House is the opulent jewel of Oman. It also has a reputation for putting on some of the biggest names in classical western and contemporary Arab music – Andre Bocelli, Placido Domingo, and Majida El Roumi being just a few of the names that have graced the stage in the past.
Location: Royal Opera House Al Kharjiyah Street مسقط OM، 103, Oman.
Website: Royal Opera House Muscat.
6. Paradiso – Amsterdam, Netherlands
Paradiso has played host to everyone from Joy Division to Adele. Located in de Weteringschans, this uniquely beautiful venue is housed inside a converted church which, until 1965, was used as the meeting place for a liberal Dutch religious group known as the Vrije Gemeente. Today, however, it is one of Amsterdam’s most essential night spots.
The venue has a rich musical history. In 1967, the Paradiso was a hippie squat. Of course, the police quickly cracked down, but in 1968, the city transformed the site into a youth centre. The Paradiso promptly earned a reputation as a bastion of the hippie movement. Later, it became a prominent punk and new wave venue and one of the first public spaces in Amsterdam to tolerate soft drug sales.
Location: Weteringschans 6-8, 1017 SG Amsterdam, Netherlands.
5. L’Olympia – Paris, France
Founded in 1893 by the two co-creators of The Moulin Rouge, L’Olympia has as much seductive charm as you would expect. In those early days, the venue specialised in ballet, operetta and cabaret. After the Nazi occupation of Paris, L’Olympia re-opened in 1946 and became a notable haunt of the legendary French singer Edith Piaf.
Since the 1960s, L’Olympia has been a popular venue for rock artists. It has hosted innumerable musical icons, including David Bowie, Nina Simone, Pink Floyd, James Brown, Pixies, Madonna, and many others. If you’re looking for a modern Bohemia, L’Olympia is the place to start.
Location: 28 Bd des Capucines, 75009 Paris, France.
4. The Caverns – Tennessee, USA
The Caverns is the only music venue on this list that is naturally occurring. Built into a cave system beneath Grundy County, Tennessee, The Caverns takes the meaning of underground music to a whole new level. This singular venue specialises in bluegrass and country music. However, it also functions as a space for exploration and adventure, with expert guides conducting subterranean tours seven days a week.
While it is certainly not for the faint of heart, the venue itself is remarkably comfortable. It can accommodate around 850 seats and 1,200 for standing room only shows. In addition, the underground concert hall is equipped with state-of-the-art sound and lights. It even has a bar. The Caverns might sound like a dream, but I promise you, it’s very, very real
Location: 555 Charlie Roberts Rd, Pelham, TN 37366, United States.
Website: The Caverns.
3. Sydney Opera House – Sydney, Australia
Since it opened in 1973, the Sydney Opera house has proven to be one of the most instantly recognisable music venues in the world. It’s so recognisable, in fact, that it has come to be regarded as one of the defining symbols of the Australian nation, sitting just behind vegemite and deadly snakes.
Frustrating as that must be for the Australians, Sydney Opera House deserves all the attention it gets. Overlooking the azure waters of Sydney Harbour, the venue was designed by architect Jørn Utzon to look like a natural extension of the surrounding area. Utzon certainly delivered on that front. The venue’s interlocking ceramic shell perfectly mirror the multitude of white-sailed clippers that speckle the water on which it sits, and when the sun goes down, Sydney Opera House seems to take on the beauty of a natural landmark that has been shaped by the wind and lapping water for thousands of years.
Location: Bennelong Point, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia.
Website: Sydney Opera House.
2. Arena Di Verona – Verona, Italy
Built around 30AD, the Arena Di Verona is undoubtedly the oldest and most beautiful venue on this list. Located in Piazza Bra, Verona, Italy, this functioning Roman amphitheatre specialises in operas, classical concerts and ballets. However, it has also seen the likes of The Who, Radiohead, and Leonard Cohen.
The venue is perhaps one of the most sublime places to watch music on the planet. And whilst you can catch concerts at the Arena Di Verona all year round, it is best visited on those warm evenings in late summer and early autumn. In ancient times, the venue seated around 30,000 people. But, today, seating is restricted to approximately 15,000. Still, Arena Di Verona feels strangely intimate.
Location: P.za Bra, 1, 37121 Verona VR, Italy.
Website: Arena Di Verona.
1. Red Rocks – Colorado, USA
Topping the list is one of the most eye-watering venues in the world. Red Rocks began life as a funicular set up by John Brisben Walker. At that time, it was just a temporary spot for live performances. But, by 1941, Walker had finished work on a glorious red stone amphitheatre nestled into a natural groove in the Colorado landscape.
The first notable rock band to perform at Red Rocks was (surprise surprise) The Beatles, who took to the stage during their US tour in 1966. Jimi Hendrix also played the stunning amphitheatre in 1968, alongside Soft Machine and Vanilla Fudge. Since then, Red Rocks has continued to host many of the world’s biggest names, including Depeche Mode, Gorillas, Chance The Rapper and Fleet Foxes.
Location: 18300 W Alameda Pkwy, Morrison, CO 80465, United States.
Website: Red Rocks.