Many of the greatest composers, songwriters and musicians sought fame and fortune in Europe’s cities. They met up in coffee houses, plucked inspiration from the sights and displayed their talents in the many opera halls and musical venues across the continent.
Today, Europe’s love of music is resoundingly alive. From soul-stirring waltzes in Vienna to pop history in Stockholm, here’s where to find its greatest hits.
1. Vienna, Austria
No city shaped classical music quite like Vienna did. Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Schubert, Mahler, Brahms: composers flocked to the capital like bees to pollen. As it celebrates its 150th birthday, there’s no better time to visit the Vienna State Opera. Other notable venues to catch Strauss’s The Blue Danube include Wiener Konzerthaus, Theater an der Wien, Wiener Musikverein or Volksoper. For a more intimate dive into composer life, have a nose around Mozarthaus, where Mozart wrote The Marriage of Figaro, drank, swore, played billiards and taught his pet starling to sing.
Where to stay in Vienna: Waltz this way… Hotel Stefanie is Vienna’s oldest hotel, operating from the year 1600; well before Mozart was even conceived. Just three minutes from the city centre, it’s convenient, characterful and completely unique.
2. Dublin, Ireland
There’s nothing finer than holing up in a cosy Dublin pub and drinking stout by candlelight. You’ll be pushed to find any that aren’t crammed in with fiddlers, accordionists and bodhrán drummers among the revellers. Traditional music sessions are part of Ireland’s cultural tapestry, offering buckets of ‘craic agus ceol’ (which translates as ‘fun and music’ in Gaelic). But where to sample it first? We’d recommend The Auld Dubliner, Johnnie Foxs, Whelans and Roisin Dubh.
Where to stay in Dublin: Bruce Springsteen, Michael Buble and Rihanna are among many famous musicians to make Merrion Hotel home for the night. Rooms are regal, dining is double-Michelin and service is exquisite: it’s a no-brainer for those who love the alchemy of five-star comforts and historic Georgian ambience.
3. Riga, Latvia
Little has changed inside the Latvian National Opera House, one of the cultural pillars of the country. For nearly a century, the elegant venue has been producing hair-raising opera and ballet performances. For something a little more ‘modern’, fans of the ‘50s can shake things up with a jive down to Rockabilly House. Here, pin-up-style girls and tattooed guys serve beer and burgers within Old Town’s Livu Square.
Where to stay in Riga: In the heart of history-drenched Riga, there’s no other address quite like Metropole – the first operated hotel in the city. Today, the boutique gem boasts a labyrinth of enchanting rooms as well as world-class services. Music to our ears.
4. Stockholm, Sweden
Image source: Wikimedia
City Hall in Stockholm isn’t just a hotspot for architecture addicts. Abba fans flock from all over the world to see the building where Benny Andersson first ever performed (at the ripe age of six). But what really gets tourists exclaiming Mamma Mia! is Abba the Museum. As well as original costumes and gold records, some of the exhibits are astonishing. Look out for the vintage red telephone, which only the band members know the number of and will sometimes ring it to speak to museum visitors. Like magic, Benny Andersson’s old piano will spontaneously play on its own. Only it’s not magic: the piano is wirelessly connected to Benny’s own in his Stockholm studio. If it starts to play, it’s actually him tinkling the keys.
Where to stay in Stockholm: Sink-into sofas, quirky four-poster beds, alfresco dips with bubbles… Stockholm-based Smådalarö Manor delivers a new-luxe spin on 19th-century living. Musical show queen Git Gay’s summer home was right next to the manor house. Now named Gits Hus, it’s available for guests to book and enjoy themselves today.
5. Oslo, Norway
Imagine almost any genre and Oslo can probably cater to its fans. The city’s long summer nights are ripe for live music – and live music they receive. From near-secret backyard gigs to full-scale festivals, Oslo and its neighbouring areas have emerged as some of Europe’s top music spots. The Opera House isn’t just a place for classical; rock and pop concerts are given a unique edge at the venue. But if you fancy a more raw, intimate rock concert experience, head to Rockefeller Music Hall.
Where to stay in Oslo: Directly behind the Royal Palace, centuries-old Camilla Hus is within reach of most Oslo attractions. It might be one of Oslo’s oldest wooden buildings in Swiss-chalet style, but the ancient gem ensures guests have plenty of forward-thinking tech for a blissful stay.