Last Updated on June 22, 2020 by Amanda Stancati
A MUSICAL GUIDE OF BRITAIN
From the Baroque to The Beatles – music is alive and hopping in the U.K.
Music has always had a loving home in the British Isles. It’s a land of music lovers as well as a major exporter and source of musical innovation. Inspiration from the Medieval and Renaissance periods to Baroque and classical music to western culture and ancient/traditional folk – all paved the way for the many forms of popular music including Jazz, rap, hip-hop, rock ‘n’ roll and a range of live music, disco, and cabaret.
In the 50s, young artists picked up ideas from the U.S. and spun it into their own versions, including ‘rock,’ which eventually led to the 60s and the British Invasion led by The Beatles – securing a major place for Britain in the pop and rock music world.
Well, that’s the history! Today, with their world-renowned bands and musicians, annual music festivals, classical concert halls, jazz clubs and local pubs, the British music scene is rich and flourishing with a thriving audience of tourists and locals alike.
History, Royalty, Culture, and Music – all this and more – in London.
You can hear a symphony orchestra at Royal Albert Hall or blues at Ain’t Nothin’ But (a haunt for musicians and blues lovers) or Jazz at one of the many clubs (speakeasy-style Nightjar or Ronnie Scotts). This is a city that continually lures music lovers to its shores.
Live Music Venues
Royal Albert Hall built for the advancement of the Arts & Sciences (the first stone of this magnificent concert hall was laid by HM Queen Victoria), opened March 29, 1871. If you’re planning a London visit, check what’s on in advance. Some of the best entertainment in the world has been featured at the Albert – like Phantom of the Opera, The Beach Boys, Coldplay, Bob Dylan, Frankie Valli and Adele. They have a wide range of restaurants and bars and are affiliated with Jeremiah Carlton Tower, Gore Hotel, and the boutique Milestone Hotel; each property is within walking distance of the Hall and has preferential rates for Hall customers. Located at Kensington Gore, London SW7 2AP
Southbank Centre is an independent arts organization with a wide range of cultural events. The site covers 21 acres in the middle of London’s cultural quarter on the South Bank of River Thames. Their programme offers a wide range of cultural events – the arts, dance, cultural festivals and music including classical, rock, pop and jazz, with thousands of musicians performing every year. They are committed to working with young, emerging as well as established talent. *They also have a wide range of restaurants, cafes, and shops. Located at Belvedere Rd., London SE1 8XX
Ronnie Scott’s is a legendary jazz club in Soho. This well-respected club oozes atmosphere and is considered the home of British Jazz. It’s known for bringing US Jazz greats to the UK and has played host to the likes of Stan Getz, Buddy Rich, Donald Byrd, the incredible Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis. This outstanding basement club has a casual jazz venue above the main club. Located at 47 Frith St., London W1D 4HT
Boat-Ting is London’s hot music and poetry club – the only maritime improv music event, and it’s on a boat moored at Temple Pier on the Thames. They feature superb regular jazz, experimental music, and poetry. You can catch Jazz on the first and third Monday of every month while bobbing in the shadow of the London Eye and Big Ben. Located at Temple Pier, Victoria Embankment, WC2 2PN
Café Oto opened in 2008. Its large open space is home to a wide range of experimental music – really outside the mainstream with everything from underground Japanese artists to Norwegian improve and free jazz. Expect to encounter the unexpected, like the psych-rock power trio Bushmen’s Revenge or a talk by minimalist composer Terry Riley. During the day they’re open as a café with a Persian-inspired menu. Located at 18-22 Ashwin St., London E8 3DL
O2 Academy Islington is a live music venue inside a shopping center; key in the London gig scene. Since opening in September 2003, the intimate venue has hosted rock and pop acts and some of today`s biggest international artists, including American hip-hop legend, Eminem. Located at 16 Parkfield St., Islington, London N`1 0PS
Bloomsbury Lanes under the Tavistock Hotel is a 50’s style bowling club where you can have a drink (late license) diner-style dinner in a cozy booth, dance and enjoy a little ten-pin bowling. They have themed music nights plus live bands and DJs on the weekend. There’s always a party atmosphere. They also have karaoke rooms that accommodate 6 – 35 for a group party. Located at Bedford Way, (between Russell Square and Euston underground) Tavistock Hotel Basement, London WC1H 9EU
Music in the Park – During the summer, London parks play host to many music festivals. Visit London’s Summer Festivals for more information.
When You Go, Don’t Miss:
Abby Road should not be missed by any Beatles fan. It looks like an ordinary street corner, except for the heart-felt messages of love on the sidewalks and brick buildings surrounding the zebra crossing on this iconic corner. How to get there.
Denmark Street or “Tin Pan Alley” – This 354 ft. long street connects Charing Cross Rd with St.Giles High Street and is phenomenally rich in music history; from the early music publishers to rock stars and their studios, to merchants of fine guitars. This is where The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, and Jimi Hendrix all recorded. (nearest underground is Tottenham Court Road, 2 – 3 min. walk away)
Sounds of the Universe – This is an eclectically minded store with an extensive range, a good second-hand section as well as original vinyl. 7 Broadwick St., London W1F 0DA
Phonica Records – Famous for its collection of house and electronica records, this is probably the only place where you can still record a message straight to vinyl, as they have one of only two working historical Voice-O-Graphs in the world. 51 Poland St., London W1F 7LZ
Honest Jon’s Records on Portobello Road in Notting Hill has famous blues, jazz and folk vinyl.
Where to Stay
The Athenaeum Hotel was originally the home of MP Henry Hope. Hope House became a Gentlemen’s club in the Victorian era, up to 1930 when it was transformed into luxurious Art Deco apartments. Today it’s The Athenaeum, a 5-star hotel frequented by world leaders, movie stars and the well known, their discreet home-away-from-home where the 5-star service never ends. It’s a fabulous spot for afternoon tea, dinner or cocktails. The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences, 116 Piccadilly, Mayfair, London W1J 7BJ
Hotels with Musical Connections
The Cumberland Hotel – One fab suite to see is ‘The Jimi Hendrix Suite’ complete with vintage fabrics and wild murals. Great Cumberland Place, London, W1H 7DL, UK
The Corinthia Hotel has an unbelievable two storey suite, ‘The Musicians Suite” (named for big band impresario, Mantovani) is 2,475sq.ft. of super-stylish luxury complete with Steinway grand piano. Whitehall Pl, London SW1A 2BD, UK
The Underground: The London ‘Tube’, the underground rail network, is one of the best ways to get around the city. They have 12 ‘Tube lines’ as well as the Docklands Light Rail (DLR) which is a network of interconnected local trains. This underground system has reduced operating hours on Sunday, but the rest of the week it runs 5: am until midnight.
London Buses: Make use of the bus system. It’s an inexpensive way to get about town and you have a phenomenal view of the sites from the top of an iconic double-decker bus.
Airports: There are 5 major airports in London;. Flying in from North America, you would probably land at Heathrow or Gatwick. On arrival, you’ll find several transfer options – bus, rail or taxi.
Train: There’s a dedicated express train service running from London Heathrow, Gatwick, and Stansted airports into the center of London. You can save up to 43% by booking in advance, through thetrainline.com.
Heathrow Express trains run every 15 mins to Paddington station from all 4 Heathrow terminals – one-way fares from 21 pounds.
Gatwick Express, from the South Terminal station, runs to Victoria Station every 15 minutes – book in advance to get the best rates – one-way fares from 17.75 pounds. You can use an Oyster or contactless card or pay-as-you-go between London and Gatwick on Southern Gatwick Express and Thameslink services.
* Tip: You may find paying cash for transit rides inconvenient; you can save by purchasing the Oyster Card, which gets you around town by Tube or London Bus. When the card runs out, you can top it up at any station.