The World’s Most Beautiful Music Venues
Rock legend Dave Gilmour is to play a gig in Pompeii’s famous amphitheatre. The concert will take place in July, and in honour of the event, we’ve rounded up the world’s most spectacular music venues. Suddenly, Wembley stadium seems rather boring…
Tamara Hinson is a Surrey-based freelance travel journalist who writes for newspapers such as the Telegraph and Guardian, along with in-flight publications and travel websites. She’s especially interested in getting off the beaten track and some of the more unusual destinations she’s visited include North Korea and Benin.
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Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Colorado, US
Where better to rock out than an auditorium carved out of, err, rocks? This stunning location can be found in Colorado where it’s been used as a music venue for over 100 years. The founders claim it’s the only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheatre in the world and various music legends agree: The Beatles, Ringo Starr, Jimi Hendrix and Sonny and Carole King all played here. The secret to the great acoustics? The enormous stone monoliths either side of the stage, which apparently double as a natural surround sound system.
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The Palau de la Música Catalana, Barcelona, Spain
This beautiful Spanish concert hall dates back to 1905 and was built as a performance space for a local choral society. Financed largely by Barcelona’s elite, the venue is an explosion of extravagance, with stained glass, mosaic work and marble staircases. It seats 2,200 and it’s the only auditorium in Europe to be illuminated entirely by natural light during the daytime, thanks to an enormous, circular stained glass skylight.
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The Royal Danish Opera House, Copenhagen, Denmark
Five of the fourteen storeys of this huge opera house are subterranean. The building is a collaborative effort; it was designed by Danish architect Henning Larsen. However, a number of Denmark’s other finest artists left their mark, too. Danish painter Per Kirkeby created four bronze reliefs and sculptor Olafur Eliasson designed the light sculptures in the lobby. No expense was spared on the design – the main building is clad with German Jura Gelb limestone, the foyer was built with Sicilian Perlatino marble and the ceiling in the main auditorium gleams with 105,000 sheets of 24 carat gold leaf.
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Margravial Opera House, Bayreuth, Germany
This UNESCO-listed opera house is one of the world’s best-preserved examples of an 18th century opera house. Built by architect Joseph Saint-Pierre, the building has required surprisingly few repairs, and it retains most of its original materials – wood and canvas. In fact, one of the only original missing parts is the curtain, which was removed by Napoleon’s troops in 1812. Its presence is behind Wagner’s decision to come to Bayreuth in the late nineteenth century, when he chose the city as the base for his famous theatre festivals.
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St Michael’s Cave, Gibraltar
This unusual venue gives the phrase “underground music scene” a whole new meaning. It’s a limestone cave buried deep inside the rock of Gibraltar, and the first written record of it dates back to 45 AD, when Pomponius Mela, a Roman geographer, referred to it. During Victorian times, the cave was used by locals as a venue for weddings and picnics, as well as for candlelit duels. It was then abandoned before being rediscovered in 1942, when rock was being blasted in order to turn neighbouring caves into an emergency hospital for the armed forces. Numerous pop and rock bands have performed here, and it’s also a popular venue for operas and musicals, with Les Miserables being performed there in 2012.
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Dalhalla Amphitheatre, Rättvik, Sweden
Tucked inside a limestone quarry, Sweden’s Dalhalla Amphitheatre is perhaps unsurprisingly used only in summer for regular performances by rock, jazz and pop bands. The quarry’s acoustic qualities make it one of Europe’s best outdoor venues, and it’s certainly one of the most spectacular, thanks largely to the expanse of green water which separates the audience from the stage (which also acts as a great deterrent for crowd surfers) and the backdrop of bright white limestone cliffs.
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Walt Disney Concert Hall, California, USA
The exterior panels of this Frank Gehry-designed concert hall proved so reflective that residents in adjacent apartments complained that their homes became unbearably hot during certain hours of the day, while hot spots on nearby pavements reached 140 °F (60 °C). It emerged that the exterior was acting as a parabolic mirror – reflecting the sun’s glare – the architects were forced to sand the panels down. The inside is equally spectacular, with walls and ceilings made from Douglas-fir wood and a beautiful oak floor. The eye-catching building has appeared in numerous TV shows and films, including the Simpsons, Iron Man and Glee.
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Ephesus, Alacati, Turkey
This spectacular Roman ruin isn’t just any old amphitheatre. It’s Turkey’s – and possibly the world’s – most spectacular music venue. Built in the tenth century BC, the Great Theatre of Ephesus could once hold 25,000 spectators. It’s still used as a venue to this day, and Elton John, Ray Charles, Sting and Diana Ross have all performed here. The acoustics are said to be so good that audience members sitting in the back row can hear a pin drop, and researchers investigating the acoustic design of Greek amphitheatres have cited Ephesus in their academic papers.
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Auditorium Parco Della, Rome, Italy
This UFO-like music venue is the work of renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano. There are three concert halls and one outdoor performance space, designed to resemble an ancient Greek amphitheatre. And with good reason; during construction, workers discovered the remains of a villa dating back to the sixth century BC, and these remains can now be seen in a museum within the venue’s grounds. With over two million visitors every year, the auditorium ranks as the world’s most visited music venue.
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