The capital city of Austria is the king of classical music cities. Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Strauss, Brahms, and Mahler are just a handful of classical composers who spent significant portions of their lives there, but only Schubert can claim to have been born there. In the 1920s, Schoenberg, Webern, and Berg pioneered a style of avant-garde atonal composition there, earning them the moniker “The Second Viennese School.” Museums devoted to Mozart, Beethoven, and Haydn as well as numerous classical music venues throughout the city make Vienna a must on any classical music fan’s bucket list. Look into the Vienna Pass to get access to the Beethoven, Schubert, and Haydn museums plus over 60 other attractions including the Kunsthistoriches Museum, which has a wonderful collection of Renaissance art as well as a fantastic historical instrument collection. Make sure to check out concerts and tours at the Musikverein, home of the Vienna Philharmonic, or the magnificent Schönbrunn Palace, the former summer palace of the Habsburg monarchs, which is also included with the Vienna Pass. Looking for an off-the-beaten path concert experience? Take in a concert at one of Vienna’s many grand cathedrals like St. Anne’s Church.
Mozart’s Birthplace in Salzburg
Just a short day trip from Vienna is Salzburg, the hometown of Mozart and the birthplace of legendary conductor Herbert von Karajan. From tours of the building where Mozart was born to the city’s annual Salzburg Festival featuring top-notch opera, concerts, and theater, there’s sure to be something for everyone. Salzburg is also famously home to the Villa Trapp, the home of the von Trapp family, as well as many locations that were used in the filming of The Sound of Music. Singing tours and even an Edelweiss cooking school that will have you whipping up Fräulein Maria’s favorite treats are among the many attractions inspired by the film!
Teatro La Scala
A picturesque town once frequented by Puccini and Verdi, Milan has long been Italy’s center for high art. Verdi made his debut at Milan’s La Scala in 1839, where you can see a cast of his right hand and other Verdi ephemera. La Scala remains Italy’s premier destination for opera, symphonic music, and ballet. Room 105 in the historic Albergo di Milano hotel (now the Grand Hotel Et de Milan) was Verdi’s home away from home when he stayed in the city. Legend has it that the Milanese were so enthralled with Verdi that they laid straw on the streets and covered horses’ hooves with cloth when he was in town so as to avoid disturbing him with unnecessary noise. Toward the end of his life, Verdi established the Casa Verdi, a grand retirement home for impoverished musicians funded entirely by royalties from Verdi’s operas. Casa Verdi’s crypt, where Verdi and his wife Giuseppina Stepponi are buried, is open to the public, and the grounds are open to group tours.
Mendelssohn’s Study in Leipzig
In the early 1830s, Leipzig was the center of a flourishing arts scene graced by some of the greatest composers of the Romantic era: Robert and Clara Schumann, Brahms, Felix Mendelssohn and his sister Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel. Check out the Schumann House and the Mendelssohn House to see the meticulously preserved homes of these composers and enjoy concerts on period instruments. A century earlier, Bach had been appointed to the prestigious position of Thomaskantor—the music director of Leipzig’s St. Thomas Church—where he spent 27 years of his life. The annual Bachfest takes place in early June. Can’t get to Germany but still want to get in on the Bach fun? Tune in to the recordings or livestream!
Royal Albert Hall, decorated for the BBC Proms Concerts
London’s vibrant arts scene offers a plethora of classical and contemporary music venues. Attend a concert at the Royal Albert Hall, where the annual BBC Proms concerts take place, or the Barbican Centre, home to the London Symphony Orchestra, or snap a photo walking across the street at the iconic Abbey Road Studios. Unconventional venues like St. Mary Le Strand Church also offer enchanting classical concerts. Artists such as Yuja Wang, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Hans Zimmer have been known to travel through, so you never know who you’ll see while you’re there. Want to combine your interests in classical and rock music? Visit the Handel Hendrix House! (Yes, that’s a real thing!) Check out Handel’s former residence at 25 Brook Street and then head next door to see where Jimi Hendrix lived 200 years later!