Whether you love pop, rock, opera or classical, sometimes the venues manage to outshine the music! The world’s most famous musical venues stand out as major attractions for their historical, architectural and cultural heritage, history, and influence. From purpose-built venues to antique theaters, the most famous musical venues in the world are an eclectic mix.
1. Mozart House, Vienna, Austria
Mozart House (known as Mozarthaus in Austria), is the only surviving appartment that belonged to Mozart. The famous composer lived on the premises between 1784 and 1787. The premises where Mozart lived were extremely grand, there were four large rooms, plus two smaller rooms and the kitchen. The museum is now used to celebrate the life and work of Mozart the musical genius. In the appartment, you will find four different levels of exhibitions. The Mozarthaus does not just focus on Mozart himself, but also shows visitors about the era in which he lived.
The years Mozart spent in Vienna were his most creative years and the exhibition held there focuses on all of his best works. Tours through three seperate floors will show you different aspects of Mozart's life. On the first floor, you'll find information relating to the years that Mozart resided there with his family. The design of the first floor of the Mozarthaus is purposefully decorated in a completely different style to the other areas of the museum. The aim was to try and recreate the authentic 1780s living space. On the second floor, you will learn about his opera work. On the third floor, you get to know more about Mozart himself - who his friends were, his link to the Freemasons, what he performed while in the beautiful city of Vienna, his love of games and so much more. The fourth floor of the Mozarthaus remains as a privately owned appartment, so part of the building still gets used for its original purpose.
The house, which Privatstiftung Sucher is the owner of, was revitalised by Klaus Becker. Gustav Pichelmann was the person responsible for the interior design that included both the event and exhibition areas of the house. Extensive studies about the building's history and a close relationship with the Protection of Monuments section of the Federal Office were needed to complete the work.
Most of the Mozarthaus is used for exhibitions and as a museum, but there is also another area that is used to stage events. Events take place within the vaulted cellar that is in the basement. The cellar was renovated and transformed into an area suitable for music concerts. Bernd Quiring was responsible for the acoustic design.
There are several different concert halls in Vienna which have ties to Mozart. 'Concert's in Mozart's house' take place in the German Teotonic Order, which is where Mozart lived during the year 1781, helping Archibishop Colloredo. Vienna's oldest concert hall "Sala Terrena" is where Mozart performed many pieces. Decorated with frescoes in the late Venetioan Renaissance style, it is a popular place to house performances of classic Viennese chamber music from the 18th Century.
A concert hall that was previously located in the Bösendorfer premises, closed during March 2010. The company relocated from an old warehouse to Wiener Neustadt. The tradition of Bösendorfer concerts is going to continue in Mozarthaus, Vienna, in the high-vaulted second floor basement venue.
Mozarthaus, Vienna is located at: Domgasse 5, A-1010 Vienna.
2. La Scala Opera House, Milan
La Scala is a famous opera house that resides in the city of Milan, Italy. In 1778, the theatre was inaugerated on the 3rd of August. It was originally named the "Royal-Ducal Theatre". The first operatic piece ever performed there was 'Europa riconosciuta' that was composed by Antonio Salieri, and performed on the inaugeration date.
Europa riconosciuta is set in Tyre and tells the audience a story about political discord, violence and love, in ancient times. Since the inaugeration date, most of Italy's famous operatic artists have performed here. Many other opera singers from other countries have also performed here over the last two hundred years. Over two hundred years later, La Scala is still considered to be Italy's finest opera house and a leading opera house on the world stage, also.
Today, La Scala theatre is home not just to opera singers, but also to ballet dancers, theatre performers and members of an orchestra. La Scala has a Theatre Chorus, Ballet Group and a Theatre Orchestra which all perform regularly. La Scala is also associated with a training school (La Scala Theatre Academy).
La Scala's Theatre Academy is an academica institution that offers professional training for those interested in dance, music, stage management and stage craft.
The La Scala theatre version that exists today is not on the same grounds as the original Royal Ducal Theatre that opened in 1778. Unfortunately, in 1776 the previous one was destroyed. It was destroyed by a fire that started in the aftermath of a carnival gala. Plans to build a new one were accepted later in 1776.
A neo-classical architect made the first bid for the design of the new theatre, but the accepted plan for it actually came from Empress Maria Theresa. The new La Scala theatre was placed on the grounds of a church. Before the building work of the new theatre started, the church was demolished. The building of the new theatre took two years to complete. When the theatre was finished, it was renamed La Scala as a tribute to the church grounds it was built on. Santa Maria della Scala was the name of the church that had been deconsecrated in order for the opera house to be built there.
The La Scala opera stage is one of the largest in Italy, measuring 16.15 metres deep by 20.4 metres wide and 26 metres high. The theatre has over 3000 seats available which have been divided into 678 different pit-stalls in six different tiers. Above the boxes, you will find two galleries, sometimes referred to as 'the cheap seats'.
If you have an interest in opera, dance or theatre, a visit to Milan should not be completed without a visit to the La Scala Opera House. Instead of just turning up in Milan and buying tickets for a performance, you can book to be part of a guided tour. You would get a closer look at the stage, the royal box, gold boxes, the auditorium which has recently been restored to full glory, the newly built fly tower and several other areas of interst. The Scala opera house in Milan also forms part of a museum that displays related items such as costumes, set designs and other interesting pieces.
The La Scala Opera House and Museum is located at: Via Filodrammatici 2, 20121 Milan, Italy.
3. The Shaanxi Grand Opera House in Xi'an
The Shaanxi Grand Opera House was established in 1940 and is located in Xi'an, which is one of the oldest cities in China. Xi'an is located in the north west of China. If you want a taste of authentic Chinese opera then it doesn't get much better than this beautiful opera house. The opera is known for housing the largest performing group in this region of China.
The Shaanxi Grand has an international reputation and its members have performed in over sixty countries. They also regularly host foreign dignitaries and VIP guests from abroad. In total the opera has performed to audiences from over one hundred countries. It does seem strange that when you visit the opera there are no local people there, as if the event is entirely reserved for tourists.
The usual course of events in an evening at the Shaanxi Grand is to attend a dinner beforehand. This occurs at 7pm and will involve Chinese dumplings, you will be very full by the time you enter the auditorium about an hour later as there are dumplings with over twenty different fillings on offer. There is a snack bar serving beer and other refreshments should you want something to enjoy during the performance. The opera is sung in Chinese but there is an English translation provided so you will be able to follow the plot. Performance start times range from 8pm to 9:30pm.
To enjoy an evening of opera there are two tickets available, with and without dinner. The opera house is easy to get to via bus from the town or you can take a taxi. Make sure you have a reservation before you arrive as you will not be able to buy tickets on the night.
The opera is mostly known for its signature performance, which is a recreation of music and dance from the Tang Dynasty which occurred around one thousand years ago. This performance tells the story of how the Emperor Xuanzong would live in his palace, it also involves the story of his concubine, Yang.
The show uses elaborate costumes and you will get to hear musical instruments that you simple cannot hear live in the west. The music played is wide ranging and there are some very interesting musical pieces, one of particular note is 'The Tiger Grinds its Teeth,' which is an odd but very interesting form of beat music. As for the dances, visitors will be most impressed with the Lotus Flower Dance and the White Ramie Ribbon Dance. The opera manages to blend music in a great combination of sound and visuals and the voices and movement abilities of the young dancers are quite remarkable.
The Shaanxi Grand Opera House is well worth a visit as you won't find anything quite like it anywhere else in the world. The performance is very different to opera that you would find elsewhere, so don't go expecting something that sounds Italian.
The Shaanxi Grand Opera House is found at Wenyo N. Road, Xi’An
4. Dollywood, Tennessee, USA
Dollywood was renamed as such after the legendary country singer, Dolly Parton, became a part owner of the business in the late 1980's. Parton initially became involved in the venture because she wanted to bring jobs and boost the economy in a region of the US that has long suffered from economic hardship. Dollywood is located in Tennessee in the United States and remains one the country's most popular theme parks – receiving some three million visitors every year.
Dollywood has all the major attractions of a theme park but also has a distinct musical influence, which is hardly surprising considering who owns the park. There are numerous theatres and musical related attractions. The park is set in beautiful grounds and unlike many theme parks is kept immaculately clean. What many visitors will enjoy about the park is it has a much more laid back feel than some of the other theme parks in the US (think Disneyland).
Fans of Dolly Parton will delight at the museum that is dedicated to her career. There are many collections including some of the costumes that she has worn for performances over the years. The park also hosts the Southern Gospel Music Association's Hall of Fame which gives a fascinating insight into the history of the genre.
The park, as you would expect is also excellent for children of all ages. One of the most notable things about Dollywood is that the park is efficiently organised meaning there are very short wait times for the rides. This will mean that you will be able to make the most of your day, rather than just spending it waiting in line with frustrated children. There are thrilling roller coasters at the park which can compete with some of the best in the US. There are dry and water-based rides as well as those which are more suitable for younger children.
There are numerous live music performances all year round by many artists performing a wide variety of music. Be sure to check online to see what performances are happening when you visit the park. Dollywood has many different themes that change throughout the year and visiting at one time of year will be very different to another, again, check ahead to see what is happening when you visit.
Food at the park is excellent and really takes a lot of influence from the state in which it is located. Amusement park food has a bit of a reputation for being overpriced but at Dollywood you get great value for your money.
Dollywood is known for having rather expensive tickets however and it would be well worth a visitor’s time to investigate discounted options online. If you shop around a bit you will probably find a way to get a ticket at a cheaper than face value price. Even if you don't find a discount, the ticket includes many things you won't get at other theme parks – such as the opportunity to see excellent live music, so it is well worth the cost.
Dollywood can be found close to Pigeon Forge, TN 37863, USA
5. Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera House is probably one of the most well-known structures on the planet. Its distinctive architecture has made it one of the most famous musical venues in the world. The venue is, unsurprisingly the most popular destination for live music in Australia and hosts some 1,500 concerts every year.
Bookings are not essential at the venue and you may be able to just arrive and find a last-minute seat. If you want to see something specific, then it would be worthwhile checking the schedule and booking ahead as popular performances will sell out fast. The Sydney Opera House, despite its name, is not just an opera venue and you will find many forms of theatre and music being performed inside.
There are various tours of the Opera House being run regularly and in many languages. These tours are well worth doing as they are both informative and interesting. The guides seem truly passionate about the building and have a great knowledge about it. If you have any questions they will be happy to answer them.
The extended tour is a great option and it will really take you to all the areas of the building. You will get a brilliant insight into the building as well as some of the world class performances that happen here. Back stage you will be able to see the dressing rooms where the musicians prepare as well as where the sets are stored when they are not being used. If you are lucky you will get to see some of the rehearsals for performances. The tour is quite long, but you will enjoy every minute and at the end you will enjoy a cooked breakfast in the buildings green room. - the place where performers wait to go on-stage.
There are some great deals on offer and you will find that if you take the tour you will get a discount on tickets for performances. Discounts are also available for students. You will find that having seen the backstage of the performance takes away none of the magic and that it actually adds to the impressiveness of the whole performance.
If you are just interested in touring the building and don't want to see a performance, then you will find that the best value ticket will be as part of package deal. These can be bought at many locations in Sydney and allow you access to many of the city's best attractions for a reduced cost.
Unlike many opera houses around the world, Sydney Opera House is accustomed to tourists, and even backpackers, and you won't be turned away at the door for not dressing formally. The staff are genuinely friendly and seem to want people just to enjoy the performance. Wear a buttoned shirt if you can, but you probably won't be turned away if you wear a t-shirt.
There is no question that seeing the Sydney Opera House will be one of the most memorable moments from any trip to Australia. Being able to tour the building and see a performance are added bonuses that can make a trip to Sydney even more worthwhile.
Address: 2 Macquarie Street
Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
6. Hollywood Bowl
The Hollywood Bowl is the largest amphitheatre in the United States and as such is one of the most famous music venues in the country. The bowl is famous for its iconic location in Los Angeles, from the theatre you can see the Hollywood Hills in the background and the world-famous Hollywood sign is visible from the venue. The Bowl hosts a huge range of musical events throughout the year and is the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.
In its history, which dates to the late 1920's the bowl has hosted some of the world’s greatest musical performances. It has seen world class conductors such as Bernstein as well as opera greats such as Pavarotti. It is the place of several 1960's Beatles concerts and has been graced with modern greats such as Simon and Garfunkel and Alicia Keys.
The Hollywood Bowl is not just a fantastic music venue, but it is also architecturally impressive. As well as being stunning to look at it boasts incredible acoustic qualities. The best time to visit the bowl is the summer. It is an outdoor venue and one of the best in the world for experiencing an outside concert. If you do decide to visit in the off season there will be plenty of artists performing but do remember to bring a poncho in case there is rain!
What really adds to the magic of this outdoor venue is that you are permitted to bring your own food and drink – something relatively rare in the live music industry. When you find an artist that you want to see at the Bowl, it would be well worth putting together a good picnic to complete the atmosphere. There are few things that can compare to hearing wonderful music while enjoying food during an LA summertime evening. If you want to enhance this experience you can opt for a terrace location. This will cost a bit more but you will have your own table with seating to enjoy your meal.
The ambiance of the Bowl is a reason to go in itself. It is one of the most laid-back concert venues in the world, you will be amazed by the relaxing atmosphere as people enjoy their food and drinks. Many people arrive well before the concert starts, just to relax and enjoy the atmosphere.
As a practicality, if you are driving a rental car, do not bring it to the Bowl. The location has a reputation for terrible parking and the locals will not even try it. Park on Hollywood Boulevard, which is about ten minutes away and walk in. If you don't have a car, the Bowl is well connected by public transport and there is a round trip shuttle bus from Hollywood that costs just $5.
Coming to the Hollywood Bowl to see a performance will be one of the best live music events that you ever attend. The world class line up coupled with the wonderful atmosphere and beautiful setting make this location one of the best in the world for music fans.
2301 North Highland Avenue
Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, CA 90068-2742, United States
7. National Museum Speelklok, the Netherlands
Dubbed the “most cheerful” museum in Holland, the National Museum Speelklok in Utrecht is a musical delight to visit.
The museum – Speelklok means musical clock – is a collection of traditional automatically playing musical instruments from the 15th century to the present day, with many still functioning. The attraction has been housed since 1984 in the restored medieval church, the Buurkerk, in the center of Utrecht and keeps an ancient Dutch tradition of street organ music alive.
Every day visitors can hear the collection in all its glory during hourly guided tours when the instruments – all come with a program that lets them play music without a human performer – go through a repertoire that includes Viennese waltzes and tangos, ballads (known to the Dutch as “smartlappen” or tearjerkers) and modern classics.
The museum charts the history of automated music from the Middle Ages when carillon clocks originated in the Low Countries of the Netherlands and Belgium.
In these so-called singing towers, a melody was programmed on to an iron drum with metal pins and when the drum was turned, the pins played a series of bells. In the 18th century, Flötenuhren (organ clocks) had become increasingly popular and some of Europe’s most notable composers, including Haydn, Mozart and Handel, were writing music for organ clocks while royalty collected ever more ornate versions. In the collection is the Napoleon clock, presented by the city of Lyon to the French Emperor when he visited in 1806.
Other notable items are street, fairground and dance organs from around the world, including the Mortier, built around 1927 and the largest dance organ in the world.
The museum also features two versions of the famous Hupfeld Phonoliszt Violina, a pianola with three violins in it that are played by one shared bow. And there are also simple musical boxes, pianolas and the singing nightingale.
One of the museum’s biggest attractions is its Music Factory, or “pling-plong room”, where children can discover more about the extraordinary collection and even compose, program and play their own original music on a box piece, while computer games and cartoons also bring the ancient instruments to life.
The Speelklok’s restoration workshop, housed in former auction rooms, is acknowledged as a world leader in its field and today’s visitors can spend time in the workshop to discover for themselves how the instruments are restored to their former glory before being added to the collection. However, as well as watching the specially-trained team of restorers work to maintain, restore and repair the instruments and reveal the secrets of their own ancient trade and of the instruments themselves, visitors can put their own talent at restoration to the test, too. Under the team’s watchful eyes, visitors can learn how to build a clock or explore the materials and techniques used in the restoration work.
The National Museum Speelklok is open from 10am until 5pm, Tuesdays to Sundays, and also on Mondays during school holidays. Entry is 9 euros and includes the hourly guided tour.
National Museum Speelklok, The Netherlands
3511 JP Utrecht
8. The Royal Albert Hall, London, United Kingdom
Underneath its distinctive dome, London’s Royal Albert Hall has been at the centre of British arts, sciences and sporting events for 140 years.
Built as a memorial to Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, the venue is today famous worldwide as the home of the Last Night of the Proms.
On the second Saturday of September each year, a sell-out 6,000 crowd packs into the Hall for the dramatic, flag-waving finale to the BBC’s series of classical “promenades” or concerts. But the Proms are only part of a distinctive heritage that makes the Royal Albert Hall one of London’s most popular visitor attractions.
The Grade I listed building opened in March 1871, two decades after the Great Exhibition had been held in nearby Hyde Park – an event that had inspired Prince Albert to demand a ‘Central Hall’ to promote the arts and sciences.
Prince Albert did not live to see the Hall that would bear his name but his vision helped create a multi-purpose venue that has been in continuous use since the Queen declared it open, hosting more than 150,000 diverse events uninterrupted even by two world wars.
Today visitors can enjoy daily guided tours of the Hall and see the distinctive dome, designed by civil engineers Captain Francis Fowke and Major-General Henry Y. D. Scott of the Royal Engineers.
The great organ, restored and rebuilt three times since it was first built in 1871, is a momentous sight – its 9,999 pipes in 147 stops make it the second largest pipe organ in the UK.
In the main auditorium, visitors can follow in the footsteps of some very famous names, including some of the greatest composers of the Victorian age – Wagner, Verdi and Elgar conducted the first UK performances of their works here, while Rachmaninov also played his own compositions.
The Beatles, Frank Sinatra and Jimi Hendrix have all played there, while the Hall has also rocked to Eric Clapton, The Who, Elton John and, more recently, Jay Z and the Kaiser Chiefs.
And it’s not only the world of music that has taken to its stage. The Queen, Sir Winston Churchill, the Dalai Lama, Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela have enthralled audiences over the decades.
More than 350 events take place every year in the Hall’s main auditorium, including music performances from classical to jazz, rock, pop and folk.
Each Friday there are free lunchtime concerts and the Hall is a chilled-out Sunday brunch destination with performances of world music and jazz in its Café Consort. More cutting-edge musical talent can be heard in the Elgar Room which hosts the Hall’s hush series, while performances of opera, comedy, dance, circus and film can also be seen throughout.
Fulfilling Prince Albert’s vision as a destination to promote understanding of both arts and sciences, the Royal Albert Hall provides a Learning & Participation program for school children and hosts public lectures on topical subjects.
Each November, the Royal Albert Hall becomes the focus of the nation’s attention for the Royal British Legion’s annual Festival of Remembrance. Attended by the Queen, the festival commemorates and honors all who have lost their lives in conflicts.
The Royal Albert Hall is open daily.
The Royal Albert Hall
9. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
The Beatles, Elvis Presley, U2, Queen, Roy Orbison – it’s a musical line-up to drool over and all on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.
Opened in 1995, the museum is a monument to the defining music of the late 20th century and new millennium.
Over seven floors, the story of rock and roll – from Elvis to the Swinging Sixties, Motown to rap – is told through original artefacts and exhibits, archiving the history of some of the genre’s most famous and influential artists, producers and songwriters.
For music lovers, this is their nirvana – or even Nirvana.
The drama of rock and roll is evident even in the design of the museum, which sits on the banks of Lake Erie in Cleveland.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation had originated in New York in 1983 with its first inductees including James Brown, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles and Buddy Holly in 1986.
Its search for a permanent home saw the trustees consider sites across the US but it was Cleveland that eventually saw off the challenge of the Big Apple, Chicago, New Orleans, Memphis and San Francisco.
The renowned Chinese-American architect I. M. Pei considered a master of modern architecture and the talent behind the redesign of Le Louvre in Paris, was the man chosen to design the museum. His creation included a glass pyramid similar to the one he created for the iconic Parisian museum and a central tower which is 49 meters high.
In 1995, the Rock and Hall of Fame opened its doors for the first time in front of star guests such as Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen and Yoko Ono, who had donated a major collection of John Lennon artefacts to the museum a year earlier, including the guitar he played at the legendary Beatles’ concert at Shea Stadium in 1965.
Its mission statement says that the Hall of Fame “exists to educate visitors, fans and scholars … about the history and continuing significance of rock and roll music”.
To date the Hall of Fame has welcomed some eight million visitors, enthralled by its ever-growing collection of rock memorabilia and exhibitions. A permanent exhibition salutes the Beatles while an ever-changing temporary roster pays tribute to the likes of Otis Redding, the Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson. The venue also has five cinemas that screen some of the best-known rock and roll movies, while many of the exhibits are interactive, featuring film, video and music.
Those who like to get up close and personal to their musical idols can participate in the Hall of Fame series in which inductees meet small audiences to discuss their lives and musical history, with some also performing live.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is open daily from 10am until 5.30pm, and until 9pm on Wednesdays. It is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
1100 Rock and Roll Blvd
10. Moulin Rouge
The Moulin Rouge has had a vast cultural influence throughout the world. The number of films, documentaries and books written about the venue is incredible. There is even a hotel in Las Vegas that was inspired by the venue. There is no question that it is one of the most famous musical attractions on the planet.
It has a long and colorful history since its opening in 1888. The famous cabaret club is based in an old windmill which is red and located on the top of the roof – this is where the name Moulin Rouge came from, it means 'Red Windmill.' The venue is known for many things but probably the most famous product of it is the cancan dance which is recognized internationally.
Today the Moulin Rouge operates as a very popular tourist destination. The performances at the venue are music and dance based, and yes, they are a touch risqué – if you are not comfortable with watching topless dancing then it would be a venue you should avoid. For most people though this is all a part of the history of the venue and only adds to the authenticity of the experience.
While music does form a large part of the performance at the Moulin Rouge, it is so much more than this. There are acrobats, comedians and jugglers, the Moulin Rouge is as much an entertainment venue as it is a musical one. The evening is one that can be enjoyed even more if you decide to enjoy a meal at the venue, there are multiple ticket types and one of them includes dinner. This will provide you with a delicious meal as well as getting you one of the better seats in the house.
Those who arrive early will be treated to music from an orchestra while they enjoy dinner. When the actual show begins you will be impressed by the singers and dancers who are adorned with incredibly elaborate costumes. The sets are equally ornate and really make you feel as if you have been transported back in time to a romantic period in Paris' past.
If you have not opted to have dinner, then it would still be worth arriving early. The best seats are generally given on a first come first serve basis – there have been reports that those who are well dressed will be given better seats, so dress for the occasion!
The tickets are expensive at $300, but to be able to experience a place with so much history and atmosphere it is well worth the money. The show is excellent, the food superb and the whole experience is topped off by being able to enjoy champagne as part of the $300 ticket price. If you do enjoy drinking, go for the tickets that include champagne as otherwise drinks will cost you $100 a pop. The Moulin Rouge is one of the most famous entertainment venues in the world and a trip to Paris is simply incomplete without it.
Address: 82, Boulevard de Clichy, 18th Arr, Paris, France