Travel Expert Rick Steves Reveals His Four Favorite Places to Hear Live Music in Europe

By Stephen Raskauskas |

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Rick Steves, America’s favorite European travel guide, said, “I don’t have the time to enjoy going to a lot of concerts in Europe because of the nature of my work, but I love music.” Even if you’re not jet-setting quite like Steves, you’re likely trying to pack a lot into your travels abroad. And if you’re curious to attend a live performance in Europe, you may be overwhelmed by the options. Steves shared four of his favorite places to hear music around the world that you might want to explore on your next trip.

1. Go Baroque in Prague

Performers in the Old Town Square of Prague (Photo: Roman Boed, CC BY 2.0, via PxHere)

“In Prague, they love classical music and attending a performance is about half the price as Vienna,” Steves said of the capital of the Czech Republic. “And the cool thing about Prague is you can just stumble in any day of the year. You go to the box office in the main square, and there will be six or eight performances every night. It’s usually 20 bucks for a ticket – that’s affordable. Many venues in Prague are inside baroque palaces. There’s just nothing quite like hearing baroque music in a baroque palace, whether it’s a small string quartet or a larger orchestra.”

2. Grab a Pint, Stay for a Song in Ireland’s Pubs

(Photo: Rick Steves)

To find an Irish music session in a pub, wander a town and follow your ear. “Irish pubs are just a wonderful coming together of community, of heritage, and of love of music,” Steves said. If you’re lucky, you might catch a jam session in a local pub. “It seems like they’re always impromptu and ad lib. There’s a special, almost magical communication between the musicians as they nod and smile and take a sip of their beer. They never know who’s going to lead or where it’s going to go, but somebody always ends up leading, and it always goes somewhere cool.

“When you get there, you realize that this transcends tourism. You’re part of the local scene and everybody is together with the beat. It’s an island drenched in so much heartache, and so much love, and so much history. It’s one big family in Ireland, so it comes across in the music in the pubs.”

3. Live on the Fringe in Edinburgh

(Photo: Festival Fringe Society, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Steves said that the best “festival experience I’ve ever had is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.” Some may prefer the Edinburgh International Festival, which presents what Steves called, “highbrow events that book out long in advance. But the Festival Fringe is just people who love sharing their art, their music, their culture, their drama. It seems to me, there are as many musicians and actors as there are attendees during this Fringe Festival. It’s just lots of fun.

“If you happen to be in Edinburgh during the Festival Fringe, just go with the flow. Know what’s happening and run around and take it all in. A lot of creative musical groups, a lot of young groups, a lot of enthusiasm – no pretense. It’s just the joy of sharing great music.”

4. Hear Music Under the Stars in Florence – for Free!

A busker at the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy (Photo: Rick Steves)

“From a (virtually) free music point of view, check out Florence after dark for the buskers. The Florentine government is very careful (because they’re so classy) about limiting the street musicians to certain spots, and they’ve got to be of a certain quality.

“During the middle of the day, the city is just mobbed: It’s hot, it’s sweaty, and there are too many tourists. But at night – and I’m talking after dinner, at 9, 10, 11 o’clock – you wander around the town, it’s just dreamy.  In every most beautiful little spot, almost like it’s made-to-order for quality street musicians, you find a venue for an impromptu concert under the stars. People sit for 20 minutes or a half an hour just enjoying the beautiful street music with friends, surrounded by great Renaissance architecture.”