The 11 greatest cities in the world for music

You know when you're in a city that loves music. It's all the venues displaying lists of bands coming to play. It's the record stores that sit on every corner. It's the sound of live music floating through the air, working its way out of pubs and bars and theatres and clubs.

Some cities just live and breathe music. It's in the DNA. It's not a part of life - it is life. The closest we have in Australia to a city like that is Melbourne, but even that pales in comparison to some of the musical hotspots around the world, the sort of places that every music fan should visit in their lifetime.

(First though, a short admission - I've had to exclude some truly great music cities from this list, purely for the sake of space. So to New York, Portland, Seattle, Memphis, Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, Leipzig, Bologna, London, Vienna and many more: apologies.)

Los Angeles, USA

<i>Jim Morrison's room at the Alta Cienega.</i>

Jim Morrison's room at the Alta Cienega. Photo: Kylie McLaughlin

LA's musical glory years are probably behind it, but that doesn't mean you can't have fun visiting the venues that made it famous. For Beach Boys vibes, drive out to Santa Monica. Lovers of the Doors, go straight to Venice Beach, or stay at the Alta Cienega Motel. Those who dig Spandex and big hair, meanwhile, head to the Sunset Strip, where 80s icons rocked venues like Dragonfly, the Roxy and the Viper Room, drank at the Rainbow Bar and Grill, and caused havoc in the Chateau Marmont.

<i>Grafitti on the walls in Morrison's room.</i>

Grafitti on the walls in Morrison's room. Photo: Kylie McLaughlin

Havana, Cuba

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Photo: Shutterstock

It seems like there isn't a moment in the day or night in Havana that isn't punctuated by the beat of bolero, the rhythm of cubaton, the sway of danzon. Music is everywhere in the Cuban capital, being played by buskers on street corners, pouring out of bars and clubs, drifting from the windows of apartments and houses. People here love music, and they love to dance.

Nashville, USA

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Photo: Alamy

"Music City" is so named because it lives and breathes live music - Nashville was and still is a major hub for country and western; however, with the likes of Jack White (White Stripes) and Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) setting up shop here, Nashville also has a huge indie and blues scene. There are hundreds of music venues to visit, from the famous Ryman Auditorium, to the Bluebird Cafe and the Station Inn.

Berlin, Germany

<i>Kater Holzig nightclub in Berlin.</i>

Kater Holzig nightclub in Berlin. Photo: Alamy

Berlin's musical history is a long and fascinating one: David Bowie used to live here, Iggy Pop recorded here, as did U2. In the 70s Berlin was on the forefront of the punk scene: the city is still home to classic clubs like SO36 in Kreuzberg, and Schokoladen in Mitte. The modern-day scene, meanwhile, is all about techno and dance, housed in megaclubs like Berghain and Tresor. For some laidback fun though, head to the Mauerpark on Sundays to watch bands busk and random punters sing open-air karaoke.

Austin, USA

<i>The Flaming Lips kick off South by Southwest.</i>

The Flaming Lips kick off South by Southwest. Photo: Alamy

Austin hosts the now world-famous South By Southwest music festival every March; however, at any time of year the self-proclaimed "live music capital of the world" is rocking, with hundreds of music venues playing host to indie, country, rock, blues, metal and more. Spoon, Iron and Wine, Willie Nelson, Dixie Chicks, Jimmie Vaughan - they're all from Austin.

Manchester, UK

The infamous Hacienda club might be long gone, replaced by a block of apartments, but there's still great music in Manchester, remnants of the halcyon Madchester and Brit-pop days. Though you won't see Oasis or the Smiths anymore (you can do a walking tour, however, to check out their old haunts), venues such as Band on the Wall, Gorilla and the Castle Hotel are always hosting local and international acts.

Dublin, Ireland

<i>O'Donoghue's Pub</i>

O'Donoghue's Pub Photo: Alamy

The Irish love a song, something you'll appreciate from the moment you set foot in any traditional pub across the country. If there isn't a band on stage, there will be regular punters bringing along their instruments to get the crowd going. To listen to trad music in Dublin, head to the Cobblestone or O'Donoghue's, grab a pint and get ready to sing.

San Francisco, USA

Any student of musical history, any fan of the hippie movement of the 60s and 70s, would already know about San Francisco. This is the home of Haight-Ashbury, the district that played such a huge part in hippie and psychedelic culture, and many of the landmarks of that era remain. You'll also find Amoeba Music in the Haight - a must-do record story for vinyl fans. Aging punks, meanwhile, should head across to Berkley to visit the classic 924 Gilman Street venue.

Cali, Colombia

Cali is known as Colombia's "salsa capital", which pretty much makes it the world's salsa capital. If you love to dance, or you love to watch other people who actually know what they're doing dance, then you have to visit Cali, and prepare for a few long nights. Zaperoco is the city's classic salsa venue; however, you should hop between Tin Tin Deo, Siboney and La Topa Tolondra to get the full experience.

New Orleans, USA

<i>Street performers playing music on sidewalk in the French Quarter.</i>

Street performers playing music on sidewalk in the French Quarter. Photo: Alamy

New Orleans' musical chops really need no introduction. This is a city with a musical obsession, the birthplace of jazz, with influences from all over Africa and the Caribbean that can still be heard today. There's always music playing in New Orleans - if it's not in the pubs and clubs and dedicated music venues, then it's probably being played on the streets in a "second line" parade.

Johannesburg, South Africa

There are a few African cities with great music scenes - Essaouria in Morocco is another to check out - but the best of them might just be Johannesburg. There's a huge range of live music to check out in Jozi on any given night, from jazz to house, hip-hop to traditional African styles.

Which city do you think has the best music scene? Where should music fans make a pilgrimage to?

Email: b.groundwater@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

???See also: Europe's best summer music festivals

See also: The 10 best American cities for music

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