Let the music play:

five cities for music fans

Whether you prefer to relax to the sounds of the piano, dance to pop music or party to electro beats, the nice thing about music is that it’s personal – each person has their own favourite song – and yet, music also brings people together.

Mannheim: UNESCO City of Music

When you think of the world cities of music, the city on the Rhine and Neckar rivers probably doesn’t immediately come to mind. But you’d be mistaken, as the greatest musicians of their time have been drawn to Mannheim for centuries. While in the 18th century, it was classical musicians and composers like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart who honed their skills here at court, these days songwriters and producers are trained at the Deutsche POP Academy.

So, it’s no wonder that regular concerts and internationally renowned music events are held here. The festival season kicks off with the Maifeld Derby (June) – considered one of the best festivals in Germany. Up-and-coming and established indie, rock and pop stars perform at the Mannheim Rhein-Neckar Festival (June). If you’re into classical music, then the Schloss in Flammen events in July are just the ticket. Jazz fans, on the other hand, can enjoy the sounds of the saxophone and much more every year at Enjoy Jazz (September & October) – one of the biggest jazz festivals in the world. 

Munich: opera stars in the open

If the wild 80s in Schwabing are what come to mind when you think of music and Munich, the actual heyday was much earlier. In the 18th century, all the musicians of distinction gathered around the Munich court. At that time, the Munich and Mannheim court orchestras – the two best and well-known orchestras of the time – merged. You can still listen to the orchestra’s successor: the Bavarian State Orchestra. Opera festivals were also first started at that time. These still take place in the summer with the Klassik am Odeonsplatz. 

Even if you prefer current music, Munich is still worth a visit. The city on the Isar river has a large music scene with many small stages where up-and-coming musicians are given a chance. International stars also perform in Olympiapark each year – you can see them all together at the Superbloom Festival (September). There is an alternative and relaxed festival atmosphere set in a beautiful natural landscape right on Munich’s doorstep in Garching. Here, you can listen to electro beats at Schall im Schilf (July) and Back to the Woods (August) or, a little south of Munich, at Echelon (August).

New York: the muse of musicians

If you make it here, you’ll make it anywhere. New York is probably the toughest place for musicians. But if you can manage to break through here, then there’s usually nothing standing in your way towards global stardom. The Big Apple is not just the melting pot of cultures, but also of musical styles. It’s the birthplace of hip-hop and disco. You can stop and listen to street gigs – from potential soon-to-be famous singers – on every street corner, party in underground clubs and see world stars on the big stages. And when it comes to festivals, there’s something for every taste. At SummerStage (May to October) you can discover up-and-coming musicians at 15 open-air parks. Alternatively, you can listen to hip-hop greats and talents at the Hot 97 Summer Jam. If you fancy stepping out of the cosy clubs to listen to some jazz, then the Blue Note Jazz Festival (June) is something for you, while electro fans will be happy at the Electric Zoo for Labour Day weekend (September).

And then, of course, you’ve got Broadway too. On the most famous theatre and musical street in the world, people sing, make music and dance every day. Nearby, in Times Square, TSQ Live takes place every year with over 80 free events. 

Leipzig: where musical tradition is alive

Clara Schumann once said ‘Oh, how I envy Leipzig for its music!’ The Schumanns worked in the Saxon city; Felix Mendelsohn Bartholdy, Johann Sebastian Bach, Gustav Mahler and Richard Wagner were even born here. It’s a tradition that the Saxon city is proud of. Here, the love of classical music is alive with passion in the form of numerous classical music festivals. The Leipzig Romantic (May) kicks off festival season, before a whole festival, Bachfest, dedicated to the most well-known director of the Thomanerchor, Johann Sebastian Bach, is held in June. As is tradition, the Thomanerchor boys’ choir still opens the festival. In autumn, the Wagner and Mendelssohn festivals (October) draw people to the concert halls.

The music scene is, however, more diverse these days, and even those that are not fans of classical music can still get their fill. Th!nk? at Cospudener See (July) is a musical highlight. It is one of the largest electronic music events in Central Germany. If you’re into Dixie music, then you’ll find exactly what you’re after an hour further east in Dresden, where the international Dixieland Festival takes place every May.

London: rock ‘n’ roll meets classical

The British capital was something of a mecca for the music world during the Swinging Sixties. The Beatles, Alma Cogan and Pink Floyd recorded some of their biggest hits at the legendary Abbey Road Studios – later also Oasis and Amy Winehouse. What makes London special is that popular clubs have largely escaped gentrification, so many of the stages that the likes of the Stones, Jimi Hendrix and The Who performed on exist to this day. Today, you can still listen to up-and-coming and already famous musicians at the Apollo, Roundhouse, 100 Club, The Electric Ballroom and the Royal Albert Hall.

The Royal Albert Hall is home to classical tunes, as well as pop and rock music.  At the traditional Proms concert series, classical concerts take place almost every day from July to September. If you’re into an edgier vibe, then the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park in the summer is one not to be missed – hip-hop and electronic music are celebrated here over three days. Just as cheerful, but with pop sounds, is the Mighty Hoopla in Brockwell Park (June) – freedom and diversity are also celebrated here with many LGBTQ+ artists.