UNESCO City of Music Triangle
This year the United Kingdom will host the Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool on behalf of the Ukraine. Britain has always been seen as a great destination for music and it is no wonder it has three UNESCO cities of music: Glasgow, Liverpool and Belfast. Britain has a very rich and diverse history of music and can boast of a rich musical heritage and a world beating contemporary music scene across all genres of music. It is home to many great musicians recognised all over the world: the Beatles, Coldplay, Sir Elton John and Amy Winehouse to name just a few. There has never been a better time to visit Britain and take in today’s musical heroes along with up and coming stars waiting to be discovered in the UNESCO cities of music and beyond. We have put together some of the best music attractions and experiences across the three cities to inspire visitors to come dive into the music scene.
Top Music Attractions and Experiences in Glasgow
Glasgow was named Britain’s first UNESCO City of Music in 2008. Music is the beating heart of the city with over half a million gig going citizens enjoying music of a variety of genres and subcultures any night of the week. Glasgow is a vibrant city with a legendary music scene across various venues, that stretch across the whole spectrum from contemporary to classical, and Celtic to country. It’s famed for the enthusiasm and energy of its audiences, which is no surprise it’s regularly voted one of the friendliest cities in the world.
Saint Luke’s is a music & art venue that offers live entertainment and function facilities, alongside with hosting some special events. There’s no any other venue similar to this one in the East End of Glasgow. While enjoying music or attending a culture event, visitors can have some drinks in the bar or have a proper meal at the restaurant that is open 7 days a week.
The Glad Cafe is known as an open, accessible and supportive space. This is a kind of venue that can easily turn into a lively bar at night from a relaxed bar in the afternoon. Apart from hosting a range of music events, they also run workshops for young people interested in music regardless of background or ability. If someone fancies to eat some vegan food accompanied by his pet dog that’s the place.
The Hug and Pint is a vegan bar, eatery and music venue in Glasgow’s west end. Since opening in June 2015, it’s known for having the best live music programme Glasgow has ever seen. One can spot here both well-established artists and promising local artists.
The tour, narrated by the Scottish singer-songwriter, Eddi Reader, is a great way to learn some interesting stories, facts and some insider knowledge from Eddi herself about Glasgow and its music heritage. Eddi Reader, who was born and bred in Glasgow, tells some compelling stories about musicians who used to perform in Glasgow or developed their music career here. Visitors can also enjoy Eddi’s singing and other music songs associated with Glasgow while sightseeing.
Guided Walking Tours of Glasgow's Music Scene are for those who prefer to walk. Delivered by performers, music writers and super fans, these guided walking tours take a deep dive into the artists, venues and audiences that have forged Glasgow's amazing reputation for live music. The walks explore the sounds of the city from the heyday of the music hall to today's dive bars, clubs and iconic venues like the Barrowland. Covering folk to funk and pop to punk, the tours give music lovers a new way to experience Glasgow. As well as weekly Saturday tours which are open to the general public from Easter to the end of September, they also offer private tours for individuals and groups. Rock and pop are their specialities but they can also run folk-music themed tours.
The Barrowland building includes large street-level halls used for weekend markets, with a sizeable weatherproof hall above. The front of the building is decorated with a distinctive animated neon sign that is believed to be the biggest of its kind in the UK. Even though the Barrowland is known as a legendary rock music venue, it runs a wide range of music genres from rap to classical and also stages some special events such as record and comic fairs.
The OVO Hydro was designed by the famous British architect Sir Norman Foster, known for designing some other great building such as Millennium Bridge, London City Hall and the Gherkin. The OVO Hydro is the largest entertainment venue in Scotland and is the only one of its scale in the UK built specifically for concerts and special events. Please refer to the events calendar and the full programme here.
King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut has always been a significant live music venue in Scotland. It’s still considered to be one of the most remarkable venues in the world. King Tut’s is a fantastic opportunity for new and emerging bands to gain worldwide popularity, some big-name bands used to perform here, such as Oasis (who were famously signed by Alan McGee at the venue in 1993), Radiohead, The Killers, Juliette Lewis, Pulp, My Chemical Romance, Florence and The Machine, Biffy Clyro, Manic Street Preachers, Snow Patrol, Frightened Rabbit and Paolo Nutini to name but a few.
SWG3 should definitely be on everyone’s list when visiting Glasgow. It has a very distinctive character that no any other venue in the city has. Whatever one is up to, SWG3 has it: sweaty gigs, pulsing club nights, experimental arts performances, global brand activations, fashion shows, street art festivals. SWG3 pays a lot of attention to sustainability. They literally use dancers' body heat to power the space and their ambition is to radically reduce the emissions to net zero by 2025, if not sooner. The organisation have already done a lot towards achieving this goal and more info on “Going Net Zero” can be found here.
Top Music Venues in Liverpool
Obviously, the first thing that comes to mind when one mentions Liverpool is the Beatles. Even though the city is strongly associated with the Fab Four, it has much more diverse music heritage dating back to the 18th century. Being one of the world’s important ports, it brought a wide range of music styles, cultures and ethnic traditions that shaped a distinguished character. This diversity can be seen in several concert halls, music clubs, pubs spanned around the city. The rich festival programme running all year long from Africa Oye, Liverpool International Music Festival to Liverpool Irish Festival showcasing its outstanding music vibrancy.
The Cavern is a legendary club in many aspects. The Beatles gave their first performance in the UK returning to Liverpool from Hamburg on February 9th, 1961. Since then, they performed 292 times at the Cavern Club - the last concert was in August, 1963. The Club has seen some other notable performers such as The Rolling Stones, Queen, The Kinks, Yardbirds, Sir Elton John and John Lee Hooker, Paul McCartney, Oasis, Travis and Arctic Monkeys. On average, about 40 different bands perform here a week! If someone doesn’t feel like going to the gig in the evening, they can always visit it during the day with no entrance fee since it is free until 2pm on weekdays.
No trip to Liverpool would be complete without a glimpse of The Beatles Story especially if one is a Beatles fan. There’s the world's largest permanent exhibition on display that tells the story of the lives and times of the Fab Four. The unique collection includes original hand-written lyrics, John Lennon’s New York piano, rare photography, replicas of Mathew Street and many more. The Beatles Story and The Jacaranda have recently announced an exciting line up of free live music events in the lead up to Eurovision 2023. Locals, music fans and Eurovision pilgrims are invited to enjoy free live music every day during the Eurovision period at The Beatles Story’s Fab4 Café. From a diverse range of acts with some Beatles and Eurovision classics thrown in.
Jimmy's, located at the top of Bold Street, sets the stage for the perfect location for drinks in their neon lit bar, and food in their stunning dinning space followed by a gig down in the basement. With a gig on pretty much every day of the week, DJ nights and themed evenings, it's the perfect place to head for music fans.
The Jacaranda, or ‘The Jac’, as it is called by locals, can be found on Slater Street and is a Liverpool music institution. Famous for hosting gigs by The Beatles in their very early days, it is a great spot to uncover some local grassroots music. This place is booming with gigs, acoustics sets, local DJs performing all year round.
Arts Club is an arts and culture venue that has been converted from the Royal Institute of Arts and Science building from the 1800s and showcases some fantastic gigs, club nights and parties all year round. With a large gig space downstairs and a smaller room in the loft. Arts Club host artists from all over the world everyone from Superorganism to local favourites Clean Cut Kid have got the floor bouncing to excited crowds. Party-goers will be lured into this venue since it is also home to some exciting club nights.
24 Kitchen Street is a trendy space in the Baltic Triangle that hosts a range of gigs, events and club nights. It has quickly become one of the leading spaces in Liverpool that offers various music and art events such as art exhibitions, promoting some local artists, gigs, DJ nights or themed club nights. It’s always worth checking out what is on so that not to miss something exciting.
The Shipping Forecast is much loved by locals as it combines nicely food, drink and live music in a cosy setting. There is something for everyone at The Shipping Forecast and it will make for a great night out with friends. Fun Fact: It is also where Jonny Bongo of Bongo’s Bingo started out with his pub quiz on a Monday night!
The Invisible Wind Factory is situated just outside the city centre on Regent Street. It used to be a working factory years ago, but now the Factory hosts different kinds of events and gigs. With club nights always on, they play here everything from House, Tech to Trance and Disco.
The O2 Academy is a sort of hidden at the back of Lime Street Station. It hosts the city’s biggest gigs. Muse and Coldplay, The Killers, Arctic Monkeys and The Prodigy used to perform here. But now it welcomes promising young artists, too as well as holds club nights and tribute acts.
District is another great music venue located in the Baltic Triangle. They are famous for hosing gigs, club nights and other events. It has even a multimedia arts lab used for photography and screen printing. Apart from being a great gig venue, it's also a buzzing festival site.
The biggest gigs take place at the MandS Bank Arena. It can accommodate about 11000 people and hosts a wide range of performances. It has welcomed so far such great performers as Paul McCartney, Elton John and Little Mix. It’s worth checking their website in order not to miss one’s favourite touring band.
It is quite an extraordinary venue that includes a number of various spaces. Whether one is looking for a gig, club night, exhibition, food festival or an installation, it can all be found here – a multipurpose venue able to accommodate various needs. Camp and Furnace has been chosen as Liverpool’s EuroClub that will be welcoming thousands of fans during Eurovision Live Screenings.
The Eventim Olympia is one of Liverpool’s remarkable venue when it comes to music. The Olympia has everything from live music, comedy shows, boxing, and club nights. They will be hosting White Lies and the Zutons this year. It’s a venue to keep an eye on so that not to miss out on some amazing gigs!
If one is after for something different, Sofar is the right place to head to. It offers a night of music in a different venue each time. The venues are not usually one would expect to attend a gig and can range from shops, offices, bars to people's houses! The most exciting thing about it is that it’s not revealed until the day of the event who is playing, so no idea what to expect. It is a great way to discover new places in Liverpool and some local musical talent so signing up for ticket alerts would be a good idea!
If one is keen on discovering more on the history of the British rock and pop music, it’s worth nipping down to the British Music Experience. It covers a versatile number of music band stories from the Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bowie to The Spice Girls, Oasis, Adele and X-Factor. It also has an outstanding collections of stage outfits, instruments, images and other music-related memorabilia on display. Visitors can view some outfits worn by David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, the Spice Girls, hand written song lyrics from Adele as well as musical instruments played by Noel Gallagher and the Sex Pistols.
Top Music Experiences and Locations in Belfast
Belfast was the third city to be awarded the UNESCO City of Music status. Not many though associate Belfast with music that makes a good reason to come over and explore why it’s recognised as a city of music. There are lots of ways to experience music here, whether it a traditional Irish music festival, a gig or a street musician’s performance.
This is a great way to explore Belfast's rich culture, heritage, language, customs and history through a unique Music Tour.
Waterfront Hall and Ulster Hall are iconic venues in Belfast that welcomes over 300 000 visitors each year. They run all sorts of events from laugh until you cry comedies, gigs, to must-see sports and shows. Waterfront Hall and Ulster Hall have recently received Autism NI Impact reward that reflects their commitment to provide an inclusive, accessible and enjoyable environment to everyone.
The SSE Arena, Belfast is a premium venue known for hosting some world class events and concerts including Sir Elton John, U2 and others. It offers unique ways to enjoy performances: visitors can hire a shared suite for truly luxurious experience with a private entrance and a dedicated waiter, book access to Metropolis Lounge, a contemporary bar and lounge with some elevated private amenities or even book a suit and own the whole box for a night like no other.
The bar was named after the renowned poet in Belfast, John Hewitt. Historically the pub has had a very close relationship with the arts that made it grow into something bigger than just a pub. It’s now famous for its quality live music that is as diverse as jazz, Ulster Scots and Cajun.
If one is after some live music whether it’s traditional or rock, the Duke of York is the place. It is a traditional bar with some memorabilia bits to reflect its history. The bar has quite an eclectic interior that makes it a unique venue to attend live music performance. They are also believed to have the largest selection of whiskeys in Ireland and some great local beer.
The Belfast Empire has a great Music Hall that makes it Northern Ireland’s premier live music bar. It used to be a Victorian era church that is now transformed into the unique three-floor music venue hosting a variety of music genres including blues, rock, jazz and traditional Irish.
Another great venue located in Belfast that holds the award-winning music exhibition for popular music in Northern Ireland that is free to visit. It has also some outstanding memorabilia on display sharing stories about Northern Ireland’s most famous musicians including Snow Patrol, Van Morrison, and Stiff Little Fingers. At the Oh Yeah Music Centre they support local musicians both aspiring and well-established ones by creating an inclusive community where music-lovers and local talents can connect.
Another fantastic venue opened in 1984 is Limelight Complex that has a reputation as one of the best venues for live music in Belfast. It welcomed some legendary bands such Oasis, Arctic Moneys, Snow Patrol, OneRepublic. It’s a live music and night club venue with some great selection of food and drinks
Voodoo isa Belfast hotspot for those looking for some alternative live music. It is a buzzing space with the hipster makeover that hosts open mic nights and singer song writers. Its nightclub’s programme can cater for different musical tastes from hip hop to drum & bass to bluegrass.
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