Sound of the City: 10 of the World’s Most Musical Cities
Music is ingrained in societies all around the world, with every city – no matter the size – having some form of musical culture.
There’s no doubt though, that some cities have a much more deep-rooted relationship with it. As such, they wouldn’t be the same without the music which dominates public spaces – and where it is as much an essential part of the landscape as the buildings and people.
From the thrilling late-night clubs of Berlin to the samba rhythm of Rio De Janeiro and the live performance culture of Melbourne, here are 10 of the world’s most musical cities.
BERLIN, GERMANY – FOR OLD MEETS NEW
Berlin, Germany. Credit: Norbert Braun/Unsplash
The German capital of Berlin is a fascinating fusion of the old and the new. Never one to gloss over history, remnants of the city’s past merge beautifully with modern cultural influences.
This is reflected perfectly in the music scene. Known primarily for its techno and house clubs – which many flock to the city just to experience – it has not forgotten its classical music roots.
In the 18th century, many famous composers called Berlin their home and, to this day, the Berlin Philharmonic is one of the most acclaimed orchestras in the world.
DUBLIN, IRELAND – FOR INTIMATE MUSIC SESSIONS
Anne Street, Dublin, Ireland. Credit: Gregory DALLEAU/Unsplash
Dublin is the smallest city on this list with only a million inhabitants – which makes its musical legacy all the more impressive.
While a variety of music genres can be found, traditional music is perhaps the biggest draw for visitors, who are greeted with the sound of fiddles, acoustic guitars and pipes in intimate music gigs – or “sessions” as the locals call them – in pubs and bars.
Another notable feature of Dublin is the exceptional buskers who line the city’s main streets at all hours of the day and night.
The internationally renowned band U2 got their start busking on Dublin’s streets, as did more modern sensations like The Script, Kodaline and Dermot Kennedy.
HAVANA, CUBA – FOR A DIVERSE MIX OF MUSICAL INFLUENCES
Havana, Cuba. Credit: Spencer Everett/Unsplash
Havana is a cultural and musical haven, with songs pouring onto the bustling streets from practically every bar and club in the city.
The wealth of different influences on Cuba’s history has been embraced in its musical culture, with most of the influence coming from the upbeat sounds of Africa and Spain.
This has led to a unique and rhythmic musical style. Mambo, Cuban jazz, habanero and charanga make up just some of the diverse selection of music genres that this island nation has to offer.
LONDON, ENGLAND – FOR ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING
London, UK. Credit: Ashleigh Joy Photography/Unsplash
Queen, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Elton John, Adele and Amy Winehouse are just some of the many famous musicians that have hailed from London. So, it’s no wonder that this city is a haven for aspiring musicians looking to make a name for themselves in the UK music industry.
From small pubs to classical concert halls and mega arenas, musicians and music fans alike will find exactly what they’re looking for in London.
And, with it being such a large and sprawling city, there are numerous events for music lovers any day of the week.
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – FOR AN ABUNDANCE OF LIVE MUSIC
Melbourne, Australia. Credit: Weyne Yew/Unsplash
Melbourne, on Australia’s southeast coast, is a destination for budding artistes and musicians alike.
The vibrant music scene is full of experimental new voices blending styles and sounds together into something truly unique. Pop, punk, electronica, indie – all genres are accounted for in Melbourne’s numerous music venues, or on the city’s streets, as the city is awash with a diverse array of buskers showcasing their talents.
Plus, Melbourne has the most live music venues and performances per capita in the world, which just goes to show how integral music is to the culture of the city.
NASHVILLE, USA – FOR THE LEGENDS OF COUNTRY MUSIC
Nashville, TN, USA. Credit: Chad Morehead/Unsplash
Nashville is known as “Music City, USA” and, more specifically, it’s associated with being the home of country music.
Aspiring country music stars flock to this city with the hopes of performing in one of its many legendary music venues, such as the Grand Ole Opry or the Bluebird Cafe.
Many legends of the country music genre – Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw, to name a few – call Nashville their home.
But, although Nashville may be the home of country music, many other genres of music are allowed to flourish in the city. Popstars Kesha, Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift all started their careers in Nashville – as did the punk group Paramore.
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – FOR UPBEAT RHYTHMS
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Credit: AXP Photography/Unsplash
Known for its unparalleled nightlife, Rio De Janeiro is the musical epicentre of Brazil. Bossa Nova, a rhythmic style derived heavily from samba, is a particular staple of the city and is most recognisable from the annual Carnival celebrations.
Brazil’s amalgamation of African, European and indigenous cultures is reflected in its music and lends itself to a variety of rhythms and styles. Along with the country’s iconic beats, hip-hop, house music and soul are among the most common genres heard in the city’s bars and clubs.
Many musicians are adapting these classic genres to include more traditional Brazilian rhythms, making Rio De Janeiro an epicentre of experimental sounds.
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA – FOR K-POP AND BEYOND
Seoul, South Korea. Credit: Markus Winkler/Unsplash
South Korea is best known as being the homeplace of K-pop – Korean popular music that combines traditional Korean culture with influences from pop, hip-hop, R&B and others.
K-pop is a huge industry, a subculture known for catapulting its artistes to worldwide fame, and Seoul is the epicentre of it.
In fact, in 2024 an arena dedicated solely to K-pop will be opened in the city, further solidifying this as a must-visit place for dedicated fans of the genre.
However, there is also a thriving independent music scene in Seoul, with an eclectic mix of genres to suit any style.
TOKYO, JAPAN – FOR AN ECLECTIC MIX
Tokyo, Japan. Credit: Jezael Melgoza/Unsplash
Music might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Tokyo, but this city of 20 million people has a lot to offer for music fans.
Pop music is prominent, with the likes of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and Utada Hikaru among some of the most famous pop stars based out of the city.
Aside from this, Tokyo has a true appreciation for classical music, epitomised in the legendary Tokyo Opera City, along with many intimate classical music cafes.
As for the the underground music scene? It’s alive and well, with an eclectic mix of rock, punk, jazz, hip-hop, and more, found among the city’s selection of small dedicated music venues.
VIENNA, AUSTRIA – FOR THE BEST CLASSICAL MUSIC
Vienna, Austria. Credit: Leyre/Unsplash
Vienna was a focal point of classical music in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The birthplace of Johann Straus and Franz Schubert, and the secondary home of Mozart and Beethoven, Vienna has a legacy of creating some of history’s greatest composers.
And – despite the passing of a few centuries – this Austrian city has upheld its title as a stronghold for all things classical; there is a classical music concert taking place almost every day in the city, and the Vienna Philharmonic is still considered one of the best orchestras in the world.
Cover Credit: Havana, Cuba. Credit: Diego Gennaro/Unsplash
Writer | Triiona Marshall
Triiona is a writer from Dublin, Ireland, who specialises in travel, languages, arts, and culture. When not writing, Tríona can be found reading, trying out new local restaurants, or booking her next trip. @trionawrites