The USA tends to dominate when it comes to legendary rock clubs, from the psychedelic heyday of the Fillmore West through CBGB’s New York punk explosion to the Crocodile Café, Seattle’s home of grunge. But there are just as many legendary gig venues across Europe that have launched at hosted music royalty – and are still worth travelling for today, whether it’s for a band you have to see or just to make the pilgrimage.
This former church began its life as a place of rock pilgrimage when it was taken over as a hippy squat in the late 60s and soon became the place major international bands came to play in Amsterdam. The Rolling Stones’ two 1995 sets here are among the band’s best-known performances, and the Paradiso hosted the original Sex Pistols line-up and an infamous Joy Division set. The legacy endures and a gig here is a rite of passage for bands and music fans alike.
Plan your visit: The Paradiso is right in the heart of Amsterdam near the Leidseplein. The Hampshire Hotel Amsterdam American is one of the closest hotels, and the Apollo Museumhotel Amsterdam City Centre is just over the canal from the Paradiso.
The centre of the much-fabled late-70s scene that gave birth to David Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy and Iggy Pop’s classic The Idiot, SO36 is probably the most legendary venue in Germany. As a focal point for Berlin’s punk scene the club was already popular before Bowie and Iggy arrived, and it played an important role in the spread of punk and new wave around then-West Germany and beyond. The venue is part of the reason that Kreuzberg remains Berlin’s centre of counterculture, and it still hosts a varied line-up that’s heavy on punk legends.
The Olympia Theatre, Dublin
First opened in 1879, the Olympia originally hosted the biggest names in music hall. It’s weathered various storms since then, from the Easter Rising to the roof collapsing in the 70s, but the Olympia is still Dublin’s premier venue for live acts of all kinds. There aren’t too many places where you can see contemporary chart-toppers, an early-00s throwback pop punk band, huge-name comedy and metal legend Alice Cooper all in the same month.
Plan your visit: There’s no shortage of hotels in Dublin near the Olympia, as it’s in the heart of Temple Bar. The Mercantile Hotel is just over 100m away and often hosts live music of its own, and the Paramount Hotel is almost as close.
The Roundhouse, London
It’s hard to pick just one venue in London, but the Roundhouse has a gravitas that few can match. Its acoustics are extraordinary and the breadth of its programme is testament to what an iconic venue this Victorian former railway building is. The Beatles performed an experimental piece here, it was instrumental in launching punk in the UK, and these days it’s an all-round performing arts centre. If you only ever visit one gig venue in London…
King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut
An unprepossessing basement on Glasgow’s St Vincent Street houses a venue that’s proved formative to not just Scottish bands like Biffy Clyro, but has launched the careers of many an act from around the UK – as well as hosting massive names from all over the world. Blur, Oasis, Radiohead and the Manic Street Preachers all played here in the early 90s, when King Tut’s opened, and it quickly became the most important live music venue in Glasgow, and possibly Scotland. An undisputed heavyweight among small venues worldwide.
Which venue would you add to this list?