29 Cities Alive With Musical Culture

Passengers walking through the airport in Adelaide, Australia will hear the sounds of South Australian musicians performing live among the bustle of travelers. In Seville, Spain, a busker plays the violin in a plaza (pictured)  and music is everywhere, from symphonies and schools to open spaces dedicated to the art. And in Hamamatsu, Japan, the Museum of Musical Instruments showcases more than 1,300 instruments from all over the world.

These cities are all celebrating their musical heritage and embracing their unique history of music and contribution to the art. They are part of UNESCO's Creative Cities of Music network, and they joined as a way to exchange ideas and promote creativity and history of music.

These places harness creativity and live music to develop more vibrant and sustainable cities, and to boost economic development. Whether celebrating the roots of reggae, or tracing music all the way back to the Hindu god Shiva, some of these cities might be worth a visit if you're looking to immerse yourself in unique musical culture.

Photo: Lapa Smile / Shutterstock

Adelaide, Australia
Adelaide, Australia

Adelaide, Australia

Adelaide holds a range of art and music festivals. According to UNESCO, Adelaide plans to partner with the University of Adelaide to establish new professional pathways for musicians through research and development of music practice for health and wellbeing outcomes.

Above, a musician plays at Rundle Mall in Adelaide.

Photo: amophoto_au / Shutterstock

Almaty, Kazakhstan
Almaty, Kazakhstan

Almaty, Kazakhstan

The largest city of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Almaty's artists are known for musical improvisation. The city holds the annual AlmaFest, which integrates music, folk art and gastronomy through performance.

Above, a woman in traditional costume plays the dombra, a Kazakh lute, during a celebration.

Photo: Pikoso.kz / Shutterstock

Almaty, Kazakhstan
Almaty, Kazakhstan

Dombras hang on the wall of Kazakh yurt in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Photo: Shutterstock

Amarante, Portugal
Amarante, Portugal

Amarante, Portugal

Amarante is the birthplace of the viola amarantina, a 10-stringed musical instrument with two heart-shaped frontal openings. Amarante is also famous for its series of Iberian pipe organs that adorn the historic churches.

Photo: Shutterstock

Auckland, New Zealand
Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland is a hub for record labels and studios as well as festivals that celebrate the city's diverse culture, including Tamaki Herenga Waka, which showcases the city's Maori artists and heritage. Auckland is home to many of the country's renowned artists.

Photo: DmitrySerbin / Shutterstock

Bogota, Colombia
Bogota, Colombia

Bogota, Colombia

Bogota's Festivales Al Parque program offers free, open-air concerts by local rock, jazz, salsa, hip hop, and opera artists with more than 600,000 participants every year. Bogota has 60 annual music festivals as well as 500 live music venues.

Photo: javarman / Shutterstock

Bologna, Italy
Bologna, Italy

Bologna, Italy

The University of Bologna was the first university in Italy to establish a degree in art, music and performing arts.

Photo: Shutterstock

Bologna, Italy
Bologna, Italy

Bologna is home to the opera house Teatro Comunale di Bologna, pictured, and the International Music Library and Museum.

Photo: muratart / Shutterstock

Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo
Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo

Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo

Brazzaville witnessed the beginning of Congolese rumba, a popular genre of dance music which originated in the Congo basin during the 1940s. Every two years, for a few days, the city becomes the African capital of music thanks to the world-renowned Pan-African Music Festival.

Photo: Shutterstock

Brno, Czech Republic
Brno, Czech Republic

Brno, Czech Republic

Brno's multicultural environment, made up of Bohemian, Moravian, German, Jewish and Romani cultures, fuels the diversity of the city's folk music. Several festivals take place here, including the Concentus Moraviae Festival, Babylonfest, and the Mozart's Children project, which enables young talents to perform at the Brno Philharmonic.

Photo: Zubkov Igor / Shutterstock

Chennai, India
Chennai, India

Chennai, India

Chennai embraces a 6,000-year-old musical tradition in which music is been passed down through generations by music teachers hosting students in their homes to transfer musical knowledge. Chennai organizes a two-month Music Season, one of the largest music festivals in the world.

Photo: Arvind Balaraman / Shutterstock

Daegu, S. Korea
Daegu, S. Korea

Daegu, S. Korea

Daegu was the traditional court music center during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897), and the city was also the first to introduce Western music to Korea.

Photo: Shutterstock

Frutillar, Chile
Frutillar, Chile

Frutillar, Chile

The city in southern Chile with a population of fewer than 12,000 has a 150-year vibrant musical history. Sometimes called the Chilean Bavaria, the city was influenced by German settlers in the 1850s that strengthened music as a fundamental part of social life. Every summer, Frutillar's population swells by 50,000 for the annual Semanas Musicales de Frutillar.

Above, a piano sculpture in Frutillar sits on Lake Llanquihue, with the Osorno volcano in the background.

Photo: Sandra Moraes / Shutterstock

Ghent, Belgium
Ghent, Belgium

Ghent, Belgium

Above, viewers crowd the waterfront of the River Lis during the street music festival Ghent Fest. Ghent was one of the first Creative Cities of Music.

Photo: Sergey Dzyuba / Shutterstock

Glasgow, Scotland
Glasgow, Scotland

Glasgow, Scotland

The musical capital of Scotland, Glasgow is the largest music economy in the United Kingdom after London. Above, the King's Theatre in Glasgow during a performance by Nashville singer and songwriter Gretchen Peters and Southern Fried String Quartet.

Photo: Mick Atkins / Shutterstock

Hamamatsu, Japan
Hamamatsu, Japan

Hamamatsu, Japan

Hamamatsu holds a number of music festivals and traditional performing arts events throughout the year. The city is home to the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments, which offers a view on humanity and culture through its outstanding collection of musical instruments from around the world.

Photo: Shutterstock

Idanha-a-Nova, Portugal
Idanha-a-Nova, Portugal

Idanha-a-Nova, Portugal

This city identifies so strongly with the Adufe tambourine, a square tambourine, that the instrument is part of the city's logo. The Boom Festival is a popular local music event, attracting as many as 40,000 people from 150 countries. Above, Easter celebrations in Idanha-a-Nova.

Photo: AngeloDeVal / Shutterstock

Kansas City, Mo.
Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas City's 18th and Vine District, a once segregated area that housed such musicians as Count Basie and Charlie Parker, is credited with the founding of the Swing Era. The district is an important area revolving around the 100-year history of jazz. Above, the Majestic Restaurant in Kansas City, which plays Kansas City jazz seven nights a week.

Photo: Tupungato / Shutterstock

Katowice, Poland
Katowice, Poland

Katowice, Poland

According to UNESCO, the music culture here was often considered underground and subversive, with a tradition of amateur choirs and orchestras. Music here displays rich diversity of genres, from classical to rock, jazz, baroque, electronic and rap. Katowice holds 27 music festivals including world-renowned events such as the OFF festival, an alternative music series, pictured here in 2017.

Photo: Taya Ovod / Shutterstock

Kingston, Jamaica
Kingston, Jamaica

Kingston, Jamaica

The home of Bob Marley and Dennis Brown has been the breeding ground of reggae, mento, ska, rocksteady and dancehall. Today, the music sector drives the local economy, employing around 43,000 people.

Photo: Shutterstock

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo

The capital of the DRC and with a population of 10 million, Kinshasa is considered the heart of Congolese rumba. The city is home to multiple recording studios where pioneer musicians and bands such as African Jazz and Ok Jazz made their debuts as part of Congolese rumba's second wave movement.

Photo: MONUSCO/Myriam Asmani Wikipedia

Liverpool, England
Liverpool, England

Liverpool, England

Liverpool is the birthplace of one of the most influential rock bands in history. Music is at the heart of the city's identity and an important driver of its economy. The city hosts a range of music festivals. Pictured is the Beatles sculpture on Liverpool's Pier Head, by artist Andy Edwards.

Photo: terry bouch / Shutterstock

Mannheim, Germany
Mannheim, Germany

Mannheim, Germany

Mannheim has a long history of music. The orchestral techniques pioneered by the court orchestra of Mannheim in the second half of the 18th century is known as the Mannheim School, and includes a group of well-known composers of the early classical period. These composers introduced a number of novel ideas into the orchestral music of their day.

Photo: Shutterstock

Medellin, Colombia
Medellin, Colombia

Medellin, Colombia

Medellin is enjoying the momentum of strengthening its civic culture, social equity and peace through enjoyment and learning of music after an era of instability which affected the country until the 1990s, according to UNESCO. The city hosts a wide range of music events.

Photo: Barna Tanko / Shutterstock

Morelia, Mexico
Morelia, Mexico

Morelia, Mexico

Morelia, the capital of the state of Michoacan in Mexico, is a base of nationally-known classical and folk composers and musicians, and home to the oldest music conservatory in Mexico.

Photo: Shutterstock

Norrkoping, Sweden
Norrkoping, Sweden

Norrkoping, Sweden

Norrkoping enjoys a diverse musical scene ranging from classical and electronic to new and modern music. The Norrkoping Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1912, is one of the most renowned in Scandinavia, hosting many distinguished conductors. Above, culture night is an annual event on the last Saturday in September that exhibits diverse aspects of culture in Norrkoping.

Photo: Rolf_52 / Shutterstock

Pesaro, Italy
Pesaro, Italy

Pesaro, Italy

The birthplace of Gioachino Rossini, composer of "The Barber of Seville," "William Tell" and 37 other operas, this city on the Adriatic coast can claim its contribution to opera. One of the oldest and most prestigious conservatories in Italy is here, and Pesaro is home to more than 700 musicians, as well as 40 musical ensembles, including orchestras, bands and choirs.

Photo: Florian Prischl /Wikipedia

Praia, Cape Verde
Praia, Cape Verde

Praia, Cape Verde

Praia is the capital city of Cape Verde, which is off the coast of West Africa, a city of about 155,000. Following the country's independence in 1975, Praia implemented a promotion process for its musical genres, including tabanka, batuque and funana. According to UNESCO, this promotion played a role in the development of traditional music genres, such as morna and coladeira, which attained significant international renown in the 1990s.

Photo: Shutterstock

Seville, Spain
Seville, Spain

Seville, Spain

Seville reflects centuries of musical tradition and influence on a global scale. Music engages everyone and it's everywhere. There are symphonies, operas and performances in public open spaces dedicated to music, and youth organizations, schools and conservatories devoted to musical education. Seville hosts a famous music festival, the Bienal de Flamenco. Above, a store sells artisan acoustic guitars in downtown Seville.

Photo: Lux Blue / Shutterstock

Tongyeong, S. Korea
Tongyeong, S. Korea

Tongyeong, S. Korea

Tongyeong, a port city on the southern coast of South Korea, is renowned as the hometown of many celebrated composers. The city holds lively festivals, including the Pop Music Festival and the Tongyeong International Music Festival, a 10-day event that pays a large tribute to Isang Yun, a Korean-born composer who built his career in Germany.

Photo: Shutterstock

Varanasi, India
Varanasi, India

Varanasi, India

Varanasi is a city of 1.4 million in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh dating as far back as the 11th century B.C., and is considered one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Varanasi's music heritage can be traced back to the Puranic literature, attributing the development of music to the Hindu God Shiva. Above, young Hindu priest students practice their instruments in Varanasi.

Photo: arun sambhu mishra / Shutterstock

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