From the gilded surrounds of Carnegie Hall to world famous acts at Madison Square Garden, via neighborhood jazz clubs, hipster indie bars and dark metal saloons, the variety of New York’s live music scene is part of what makes this city so great. Our guide to the best live music venues in New York will help start your exploration of the sounds of the city.
Madison Square Garden
It’s not really about who has played at Madison Square Garden, aka “the world’s most famous arena”, but who hasn’t. Over the years this 20,000-capacity venue has hosted the likes of Madonna, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen and U2. Billy Joel has even described it as the “holy temple” of rock and roll. Smaller concerts are held at the Hulu Theater, part of the same complex.
Radio City Music Hall
Another Manhattan institution, the Radio City Music Hall is a landmark art-deco theater at the Rockefeller Center. The 6,000-capacity venue, which opened in 1932, plays host to international music acts in a variety of styles. It’s also home to the annual Radio City Christmas Spectacular, a stage musical and one of the most popular New York music shows.
It began as a folk and poetry club in Greenwich Village in the 1930s, but the Village Vanguard became a jazz venue in 1957. It has been one of New York’s premier jazz clubs ever since. From 1966 the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra has played Mondays, while other nights of the week are devoted to a program featuring some of the best American and international musicians, trios and bands.
Voted one of the best live music venues in America by Rolling Stone magazine, Brooklyn Steel in Williamsburg has quickly built an impressive reputation since it opened in 2017. This mid-sized theater has booked some well-known rock, pop and indie acts during its short existence. This includes LCD Soundsystem, PJ Harvey, The Decemberists, Franz Ferdinand, and the Arctic Monkeys.
Rough Trade New York
An offshoot of the record store that opened in West London in 1976, Rough Trade NYC in Williamsburg features not only a huge selection of vinyl, a bookstore and cafe, but also a regular program of live music. This is a small, intimate venue that has nevertheless attracted some big names over the years, including Moby, Liam Gallagher, and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.
Saint Vitus Bar
The Saint Vitus Bar in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, is a darkly-lit temple to all that is hard and heavy. Decorated in a speakeasy style, the bar has built a reputation as the best of the new generation of NYC rock clubs. You can expect live music most nights of the week, which provide a stage for a raucous mix of metal, rock, and experimental bands.
The famous Blue Note jazz clubs and restaurants can now be found across the world, from Rio to Tokyo, but the original in Greenwich Village remains one of the best places to catch a jazz set in New York City. There are sets seven nights a week, featuring jazz musicians from New York and around the world. And the bar also offers a good food menu, including late night specials.
For classical music in New York it’s hard to beat the program of Carnegie Hall, a legendary and prestigious venue that opened back in 1891. With less than 3,000 seats, it’s a surprisingly intimate auditorium for seeing and hearing some of the world’s greatest classical musicians, from stunning soloists to the finest touring orchestras. Carnegie Hall also offers guided tours of the building for a glimpse behind the curtain.
Tucked away on the second floor of a Bleecker Street building in Greenwich Village you’ll find a modern-day version of an old school blues saloon. Terra Blues brings together blues musicians from across the US and abroad, with two acoustic sets and three band sets every single evening. For the appropriate drink, don’t miss its range of over 400 whiskies behind the bar.
Pete’s Candy Store
The original Williamsburg live music venue, Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn has been welcoming the neighborhood – and the world – through its doors since 1999. Despite its small size, it has booked an impressive roster of acts. This includes Beth Orton, Norah Jones, Will Oldham, Rufus Wainwright, Sufjan Stevens and many more. Sunday night is open mic night, so you might catch the next big thing before they’re famous.
After a night on the town you’ll need a place to crash. Explore options to suit all tastes and budgets with the best hotels in New York City.