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9 of the Most Musical Cities to Visit by Train

From iconic bands and historic concert halls to seminal movements, Britain has long been a hotbed for all things musical. Think The Beatles, the Royal Albert Hall, Britpop … you name it, it’s happened, it’s happening and it’s all here

You can discover the musical side to Britain for yourself. After all, Nothing Beats Being There.

So, grab your Railcard, hop on a train and travel to one of the most musical cities in the country today with your nearest and dearest. 

1. Birmingham 

If your tastes are eclectic, then Birmingham is for you. This city’s rich musical heritage is spread across many genres, from classical music and jazz to heavy metal and bhangra. And bands like UB40, Black Sabbath and Duran Duran all hail from the ‘Brum’.  

Here you can discover the next big thing at The Sunflower Lounge(external link, opens in a new tab) one night, and unplugged acts over dinner at The Jam House(external link, opens in a new tab) the next. Don’t skip PMT Birmingham(external link, opens in a new tab), either – it’s a music megastore with the biggest guitar wall in Europe! 

Nearest station: Birmingham New Street 

 

2. Bristol 

The spiritual home of trip-hop, where bands like Portishead and Massive Attack pioneered ‘The Bristol Sound’, Bristol’s underground music scene turned global in the 1990s and continues to influence artists today.  

Experience the city’s thriving live music scene at venues like The Fleece(external link, opens in a new tab), Trinity Centre(external link, opens in a new tab) and Thekla(external link, opens in a new tab). To see future stars, visit The Louisiana(external link, opens in a new tab), where Muse, Amy Winehouse and Dua Lipa played before making it big. You can also catch touring acts at the newly renovated Bristol Beacon.  

Nearest Station: Bristol Temple Meads 

 

3. Leeds

Home of Leeds Festival(external link, opens in a new tab), attracting rock headliners every summer, Leeds has what can be described as a rebellious music streak. Here you’ll find some of Britain’s best music venues, which have helped launch bands like The Wedding Present, Soft Cell and the Kaiser Chiefs. 

Explore Leeds’s current music scene with live acts and DJ sets at Brudenell Social Club(external link, opens in a new tab), and cool jazz nights at The Wardrobe(external link, opens in a new tab). Top tip: visit Northern Guitars(external link, opens in a new tab) café and bar for a 70s vibe, cool guitars and relaxed live music nights.  

Nearest station: Leeds 

 

4. Manchester 

For music with swagger, Manchester is the place to go. The Smiths, New Order, The Stone Roses and Oasis all have their roots in the city, making it something of an indie mecca.   

See top acts at Manchester Apollo(external link, opens in a new tab) and Manchester Arena(external link, opens in a new tab) or catch local artists at Band on the Wall(external link, opens in a new tab). For classical music, watch the world-famous Halle Orchestra(external link, opens in a new tab) perform. If you’re a Smiths fan, Salford Lads Club(external link, opens in a new tab) is an iconic location to visit and grab a photo.   

Nearest stations: Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Victoria 

5. Glasgow

Named Britain’s first UNESCO Music City, Glasgow has iconic venues and unique sounds to discover. The city is home to Britannia Panopticon Music Hall(external link, opens in a new tab) – the world’s oldest surviving music hall – and Barrowland Ballroom(external link, opens in a new tab) where Simple Minds, Texas and Big Country got established.  

So check into a music-themed hotel like the Ibis Styles Glasgow Central(external link, opens in a new tab) to stay in a city where there’s always something musical happening, from traditional ceilidh at Sloans (external link, opens in a new tab)to Scottish Opera(external link, opens in a new tab) performances or festivals like TRNSMT(external link, opens in a new tab) and Celtic Connections(external link, opens in a new tab).  

Nearest stations: Glasgow Central, Glasgow Queen Street 

6. Liverpool

Recent hosts of the Eurovision Song Contest (2023), Liverpool is a must for both Merseybeat fans – think The Beatles and Gerry and the Pacemakers – and 80s and 90s pop/indie music enthusiasts (think Frankie Goes to Hollywood and The La’s).  

Get a taste of Beatlemania with a 2FOR1 Beatles Liverpool Walking Tour with National Rail’s Days Out Guide, then hear a band play at The Cavern Club(external link, opens in a new tab). Got a record player? Browse vinyl and see live acts at The Jacaranda(external link, opens in a new tab), a legendary record shop and music venue on Slater Street. 

And for a thorough history of rock and pop, head to the British Music Experience – with 2FOR1 entry when you go by train – which takes you on a fascinating tour from 1945 onwards. It’s a rich, hands-on and immersive experience that also gets you close to iconic musicians through their equally iconic outfits. 

Nearest station: Liverpool Lime Street 

 

7. Brighton 

Arguably Britain’s musical seaside city, Brighton has a rich musical heritage, with the coast playing a starring role. From Victorian music halls on the pier and 60s mods and punks fighting on the sand to Fatboy Slim’s beach party in the early 2000s, the southern shores of England have seen it all. 

It’s only fitting that Brighton’s legendary Concorde 2(external link, opens in a new tab) live music club is on the seafront playing tunes as the waves roll in. The Green Door Store(external link, opens in a new tab) under Brighton’s railway arches and the Prince Albert(external link, opens in a new tab) pub are also top live music spots.  

Nearest station: Brighton 

 

8. London

Whether it’s getting 2FOR1 on a tour of The Royal Albert Hall with National Rail’s Days Out Guide, jazz at Ronnie Scott’s(external link, opens in a new tab) or punk at Camden’s The Roundhouse(external link, opens in a new tab), every London neighbourhood has a culturally rich and varied musical history that is still accessible today.  

Take a walk down Carnaby Street and across Abbey Road zebra crossing for your 60s music vibe, then explore Soho’s live music venues before hopping over to Mayfair to experience the Handel Hendrix House(external link, opens in a new tab), which tells the story of 2 music legends who lived in the same house in very different centuries.  

Nearest stations: London Victoria, London Paddington, Bond Street (Elizabeth Line) 

 

9. Cardiff

If Wales is the Land of Song, then Cardiff is its musical heart, with 90s rock running through the city’s veins and Tom Jones’ hits giving it soul. Manic Street Preachers, Super Furry Animals and Catatonia all made their mark here, too. 

Start your musical trip by flicking through vinyl at Spillers Records(external link, opens in a new tab), the world’s oldest record store, which opened in 1894. For live music, head to The Tramshed(external link, opens in a new tab), which is where the hip acts go, while the Principality Stadium(external link, opens in a new tab) is where you can see superstars like U2 and Beyonce perform.  

Nearest stations: Cardiff Central, Cardiff Queen Street 

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