Sound and the city: The around-the-world playlist

Download the perfect soundtrack for your next stay in these musical cities.

Curate your music to the city you are in. Image credit: Halfpoint/iStock
Curate your music to the city you are in. Image credit: Halfpoint/iStock

Nothing inspires a songwriter more than a bustling metropolis. We’ve created a list of tracks to add to your playlist when you’re traveling through these inspiring cities.

Just make sure that your battery is fully charged and get ready take a memorable music-filled tour.

London – “LDN” by Lily Allen

When to play: Taking a bike ride through the capital.

“Summer’s in the sky/Would you want to be anywhere else?” This tongue-in-cheek track with its happy-go-lucky tune by quirky British songwriter Lily Allen is sure to have you ready to go for a whirl around town. Hire a Boris bike, embrace the track’s laid-back vibe and join the three-mile-long loop around Hyde Park or go for a quick spin about Regent’s Park. 

Spring in Hyde Park. Image credit: Vladislav Zolotov/iStock
Spring in Hyde Park. Image credit: Vladislav Zolotov/iStock

You’ll be sharing the track with joggers and walkers alike so while you’re singing along, be sure to keep your eyes on the road. If you’d rather take a stroll around the park, hit the tarmac and play “Hometown Glory” by Adele.

This was the first track the Grammy-winning songstress wrote and it’s her ode to the capital. Head over to Covent Garden and enjoy a tipple at The Lost Alpaca bar, so you can finish your day with a walk over Waterloo Bridge listening to “Waterloo Sunset” by The Kinks.

Paris – “1901” by Phoenix

When to play: Walking through the 11th arrondissement.

Discover the art-filled, café-packed, Right Bank enclave in Paris. Window-shop as you listen to this track that dreams La Belle Epoque, a period in history of peace and prosperity. Like every true Parisian track, this former soundtrack to the Cadillac SRX ad is a story about romance. 

As soon as you touch down in Paris you’re sure to fall in love with the city. Shop like a Parisian and stop by artisanal pop-up markets Marche Bastille and Marche Popincourt, take a peek into some of the tiny boutiques featuring brands such as Isabel Marant, or visit the breathtaking Atelier des Lumieres exhibition that brings the works of Klimt and Van Gogh alive. 

Listen to the music of Paris as you wander through the city. Image credit: anyaberkut/iStock
Listen to the music of Paris as you wander through the city. Image credit: anyaberkut/iStock

Another potential tune to join your Parisian playlist could include “Place Pigalle” by songwriter Elliott Smith, which is about a holiday romance Smith had while living in the Place Pigalle. In fact, he was so smitten with the public square at the bottom of Montmartre that he wrote two tracks for his album called Place Pigalle. Only one made the final cut. See if this square in the 9th arrondissement surrounded by cafes and music stores inspires you. 

New York – “An Open Letter to NYC” by Beastie Boys

When to play: Riding the Metro.

Whether you’re in Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, or Manhattan, this song will “make it happen” for you. The hip-hop legends added this track, which is a love letter to the melting pot of different cultures that make up this vibrant city, to their album “To the 5 Boroughs”. 

Want to hit Broadway? Then it has to be Frank Sinatra’s show-stopping “New York, New York” track. This song may be almost 50 years old, but it’s New York in a nutshell. You’re going to feel like “King of the hill/Top of the heap” wherever you listen to it in NYC. 

Not ready to go to bed yet? Then how about another Beastie Boys’ track, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”.

Lower Manhattan. Image credit: pidjoe/iStock
Lower Manhattan. Image credit: pidjoe/iStock

Los Angeles – “Paradise City” by Guns N’ Roses

When to play: Driving into the City of Angels.

This track, allegedly written in the back of a van, was inspired by Los Angeles, where the band was living at the time that they wrote the album “Welcome To The Jungle”. 

Looking for something more relaxing? Try “California Dreamin’” by The Mamas & The Papas. It’s such a good track, no-one actually complains there’s a flute in it. The track was also re-recorded by the Beach Boys, so maybe you can listen to it while catching a wave at Malibu.

Bike lane along Venice Beach. Image credit: ngus Kruklitis/iStock
Bike lane along Venice Beach. Image credit: Ingus Kruklitis/iStock

Driving through town? You could play “Free Fallin’” by Tom Petty. The musician wrote the track on his daily commute to the studio from Beverly Hills to San Fernando Valley, where he had his studio. Petty wrote the song in less than a day and took inspiration from “life’s great pageant” along Ventura Boulevard, according to an interview with Billboard in 2016.

Berlin – “Where Are We Now?” by David Bowie

When to play: Anywhere in the city.

Bowie recorded some of his most famous tracks at Hansa Studios in Potsdamer Platz, when he lived in Schöneberg between 1976 and 1979.

Potsdamer Platz. Image credit: querbeet/iStock
Potsdamer Platz. Image credit: querbeet/iStock

He returned again in 2013 for his music video “Where Are We Now?”, which takes you on a virtual tour of the city, from the bustling skyscraper-filled Potsdamer Platz to the Fernsehturm TV tower. And, of course, you get to see what’s left of the Berlin Wall en-route. If you’re having a Bowie moment, you could also listen to “Heroes”, which he recorded while living in Berlin. 

Another track to listen to at the wall is “A Great Day For Freedom” by Pink Floyd, where Gilmour sings about the wall coming down. Or, if you need something more energetic, download “Holidays In The Sun” by the Sex Pistols. While it was raining throughout the band’s entire stay in Berlin in 1977, Johnny Rotten and pals said “they loved the insanity of the place”.

Chicago – “Homecoming” by Kanye West

When to play: Walking through Millennium Park.

If you don’t know by now, Kanye was talking about Chi-Town in this track. Not only did Kanye West name his son after his favorite city, he wrote one of the biggest anthems about the Windy City.

Play the track when taking a stroll through Millennium Park, then channel Kanye and capture a selfie at the iconic Cloud Gate sculpture. Or listen to the song as you watch the firework show by Navy Pier on Lake Michigan. This biweekly show, which runs from Memorial Day to Labour Day, is so good that Kanye even namechecks it on this track. 

A view to downtown Chicago from Millennium Park. Image credit: LevKPhoto/iStock
A view to downtown Chicago from Millennium Park. Image credit: LevKPhoto/iStock

Heading to a comedy club? Play “Sweet Home Chicago” by The Blue Brothers. When you’re wrapping up your stopover you can download “My Kind Of Town” by Frank Sinatra about Chicago. Boy, did that man like to sing about a city.

Vienna – “Vienna” by Billy Joel

Where to play: While eating Sachertorte at Hotel Sacher.

The sun sets in Vienna, Austria. Image credit: RudyBalasko/iStock
The sun sets in Vienna, Austria. Image credit: RudyBalasko/iStock

Embrace the slow life in the Austrian capital. Take a walk around the city, enjoy a slice of the famed Sachertorte chocolate cake at the Hotel Sacher and watch the world go by. 

Joel didn’t speak to his estranged father during his childhood and teenage years but wrote this track once he found out his father was living in Vienna. The singer counts this as one of his all-time favorite tunes, encouraging listeners to visit with the line “Vienna waits for you”. 

If you’re visiting the 17th-century Baroque Schonbrunn Palace, the Spanish Riding School, or the Vienna Opera and feeling swept away with the drama of the city, it’s only right you download the power ballad “Vienna” by Ultravox. This is sure to put a spring in your step as you take in the sites.


Claire Turrell

Freelance journalist Claire Turrell has lived and worked in London, Dubai, and Singapore. When she’s not busy writing, she is riding motorbikes off-road in Cambodia, diving in Oman or learning Muay Thai in Thailand.