While not everyone prefers life in the big city, cities are the cultural hubs of our society. It’s where a lot of important stuff happens, and everything is fresh, new, and developing. All of that makes them centers for the arts, especially music. With a city as their muse, many artists write songs about their favorite cities and the inspirations they gained from being in or learning about them. In this article, we’ll look at 41 songs about cities worldwide.
1. Havana – Camila Cabello
We’ll start our list with Havana by Camila Cabello. You’ve heard this one at some point, I’m sure. The epic chorus of “Havana, ooh na-na” is something that will get stuck in your head every time you listen to the song. Trust me on that one. But it’s also one of the best songs about world cities out there, namedropping two cities for the price of one.
Havana and Atlanta are both in there, though that was probably the choice, thanks to the way you can make the two kind of rhyme. Regardless, the song was a huge hit and was Camila Cabello’s first big hit after she left Fifth Harmony and started a solo career.
2. L.A. Woman – The Doors
L.A. Woman by The Doors has been called the greatest song ever written about the city of Los Angeles by some. The title track of their sixth studio album would come to represent both the city and the band inseparably and perfectly. As one of the best classic rock songs, it makes sense for someone like Billy Idol to cover it, with that version breaking into the top 20 of the Mainstream Rock chart in the US.
Recommended: Best songs about Los Angeles
3. Marrakesh Express – Crosby, stills & nash
Inspired by a Moroccan vacation taken by Graham Nash, Marrakesh Express was a peek at the country’s culture. Bored in his first-class cabin, he explored the train, meeting all sorts of interesting people and even spending some time among animals near the back. It was a literal description of Nash’s trip.
4. Santa Monica – Everclear
Everclear gave us Santa Monica, one of the most upbeat songs about nihilism and wanting to leave this world you’ll find. Its background is sad, but it has a flow and vibe to it that’s kind of infectious. It was a big hit for the band and would become their best-known song.
5. Walking In Memphis – Marc Cohn
Walking In Memphis is a song I grew up listening to and really enjoy as the signature song of Marc Cohn. It earned a Grammy nomination for Song of the Year in 1992 and rose to number 13 on the US Hot 100. Cohn was inspired to break through his writer’s block thanks to some time spent walking the streets of Memphis and visiting some of the most famous spots in the city.
6. Barcelona – Freddie Mercury feat. montserrat caballé
Barcelona is one of the many songs Freddie Mercury released that let him stretch his legs vocally. Teaming up with opera singer Montserrat Caballé, the duo produced the biggest hit of Mercury’s solo career, backed up by a full orchestra that would also be a massive fixture at the 19992 Summer Olympics.
7. New York, New York – Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra was not the first to sing this song, but his version was definitely the most celebrated. One of the best songs of all time about the city of New York, New York, New York is his signature song and is often played at major celebrations there.
Recommended: Songs about New York
8. Galway Girl – Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran’s version of Galway Girl is exquisite. Largely influenced by traditional Irish folk music and one of the best-known songs on the island, Sheeran would eventually release it on St. Patrick’s Day in 2017 and see it become an instant international hit.
9. Beverly Hills – Weezer
I did check, and Beverly Hills is indeed classified as a city, despite my not believing so when I picked songs for the list. Weezer describes the highs and lows of society, making anyone who listens to this song yearn for the elegance and luxury of Beverly Hills instead of their normal working life.
10. Jackson – Johnny Cash & June carter cash
Jackson would become a big hit single after June Carter and Johnny Cash released their version of the song in 1967. It’s rather ambiguous about which Jackson the couple in the song is talking about, be it in Tennessee or Mississippi, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter. It’s a beautiful duet that sums up a troubled relationship.
11. I’m Shipping Up To Boston – Dropkick Murphys
I’m Shipping Up To Boston is by far Dropkick Murphy’s most popular single to date. It was taken from some papers in Woody Guthrie’s archives, and the band put music to the lyrics they picked up. Its music video is especially good, seeing the band perform the song along the waterfront in Boston.
12. Bagpipes from Baghdad – Eminem
Bagpipes From Baghdad doesn’t actually focus on the city in the song too much. It was mainly a diss track by Eminem, directed towards both Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon, and the first in a string of songs between the artists throwing barbs at each other. Shady, of course, won the diss fight in the end, but what else would you expect?
13. Vienna – Billy Joel
Billy Joel went in search of his father after not seeing him in many years, finding him in the city of Vienna. He was inspired to write the song Vienna by his time there, seeing how older people were treated in the city. Instead of being pushed aside, they were treated with respect, giving Billy Joel a bit of comfort in the fact that he was getting older, holding out hope he would find his own “Vienna” someday.
14. No Sleep Till Brooklyn – Beastie Boys
The Beastie Boys have produced a lot of all-timers in their career. No Sleep Till Brooklyn is one of their best, speaking of how hard they would be going until they made it to Brooklyn, the place where they could feel like they made it.
15. Talladega – Eric Church
Talladega is one of the most nostalgic songs Eric Church has released. In it, a group of friends flies down the highway to go to the city and have a great vacation. From watching NASCAR races to drinking with buds, it’s a song about the good days before they all had to grow up.
16. Midnight In Montgomery – Alan Jackson
Midnight In Montgomery sees Alan Jackson stop just outside the city of Montgomery to visit a cemetery and pay respects to one of his old friends. In the song, he’s confronted by the ghost of that friend, thanking him for stopping by and saying hello. It made for a song that was a bit eerie but retained a bit of beauty in the two’s friendship.
17. Waking Up in Vegas – Katy Perry
Las Vegas is known for many things, but fast (and unplanned) marriages are one of them. Katy Perry’s Waking Up In Vegas is about a couple who partied it up the night before in Vegas and woke up with each other (likely married). It’s a cute and playful song about the city that also makes it onto most lists of the best songs about Las Vegas.
18. Kokomo – Beach Boys
Whether or not you enjoy the song Kokomo by the Beach Boys, it has been burned into your head at some point. That’s especially true if you hear the intro and chorus, listing off different island countries and recounting a great time on the beach.
19. Little Rock – Reba McEntire
This little ditty by Reba seems as upbeat as you can get, but it’s more about her being dissatisfied with her life. The little rock in the song isn’t so much Little Rock, Arkansas. It’s more speaking to her engagement ring. I’m counting it anyways, just because the song is good and the title fits here.
20. Istanbul – Morrissey
Istanbul is meant to mimic the hectic nature of the main streets in the city, going as far as to include sound samples collected in Istanbul in the song. It was the second single from Morrissey’s World Peace Is None of Your Business album in 2014.
21. Night Boat to Cairo – Madness
Night Boat To Cairo is an instrumental-heavy single from Madness that came from their debut album in 1979. Its music video wound up being one of the most popular ones among fans, mainly because it didn’t feel like it took itself seriously and would be called low-quality today. That only added charm, though.
22. Calgary – Bon Iver
Calgary is another song that isn’t actually about the city it’s named after. It was meant to be experimental for Bon Iver, following in the footsteps of other artists like Kanye West, who run with ideas no matter how weird it seems at the time. It became a big accomplishment for the band and a pretty solid hit at the end of things.
23. Budapest – George Ezra
Budapest by George Ezra is meant to be a simple love song. Funny enough, Ezra was meant to go to Budapest just a few days before he wrote the song. He was too hungover and didn’t feel like it, but he used the city name for the title of his song anyway in a sort of ironic way (since he’d never been there).
24. Woman From Tokyo – Deep Purple
Woman From Tokyo was more of a tribute to Japan than anything else. Deep Purple was one of the first rock bands to perform in Japan during the 1970s, and after their trip, they wrote this song. Speaking of the rising sun and mysterious Eastern women, it wound up being a pretty big hit with critics giving it great reviews as a simple rocker.
25. Paris – The Chainsmokers
Paris by the Chainsmokers was the lead single from their debut album and remained one of their best songs to this day. It gave them their fifth hit on the US Dance/Electronic Streaming Songs chart and spoke to running away to Paris to escape their problems at home because life in that city would be much better and more exciting.
Recommended: Songs about Paris
26. Viva Las Vegas – Elvis Presley
Here’s one of the most recognizable songs in history. Elvis Presley recorded Viva Las Vegas for his film of the same name, but it spawned one of his biggest hits and eternally connected him to the city in the process. His deep vocals are all you need to want to run off to the casino and throw your money away.
27. Trap Paris – Machine Gun Kelly feat. quavo & Ty Dolla Sign
Trap Paris is a funny title for the song because it was originally about a night MGK spent in Berlin, but Germany felt like too many syllables for a good song, so they switched it to Paris. It saw Quavo and TY Dolla $ign collaborate for the first time, helping MGK add verses and a chorus to the song and inspiring MGK to add more collabs to his album.
28. Baltimore – Prince
Baltimore comes from Prince’s 39th studio album and was meant to give Prince a platform to speak out on Freddie Gray’s death and the riots in Baltimore in response to those events. It was finally released in 2015 but leaked online as early as 2014.
29. San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair) – Scott McKenzie
San Francisco was undoubtedly one of the anthems of hippie counterculture in the 60s. Heading west was the move back then, going to the side of the country where many felt they could be freer to be themselves. It was one of the most important songs of the time and referenced a huge music festival in the city.
Recommended: Songs about San Francisco
30. London Calling – The Clash
London Calling was the title track of The Clash’s 1979 double album of the same name that saw the band go on an apocalyptic political rant in their signature post-punk style. Taken from the BBC World Service’s identification phrase during World War II, the song portrayed the fear of nuclear annihilation and future conflicts.
Recommended: Songs about London
31. April In Paris – Kurt Elling
April In Paris was composed back in 1932 for the musical Walk a Little Faster. It would eventually feature in a film in addition to the Broadway play and became a hit single for several artists, including Count Basie, Freddy Martin, and Frank Sinatra.
32. Houston – R.E.M.
R.E.M. definitely felt like the state of Texas was a safe haven for them. Houston might have been the title city to this track, but they’d be just as happy in Laredo or Galveston, according to the chorus. It mostly lists places they feel at home and enjoys the culture of.
33. Going Down To Liverpool – The Bangles
The Bangles did the most celebrated cover of Going Down To Liverpool, though it was written for Katrina and the Waves in 1982. While it failed to chart in the US in both versions, the music video is quite good and saw regular rotation on MTV (back when they actually played music videos).
34. The Only Living Boy In New York – Simon & Garfunkel
Paul Simon wrote The Only Living Boy In New York in response to his loneliness when Art Garfunkel went to Mexico to shoot for a film. It would be a major feature on the duo’s final album and become a popular cover song in the years after its release.
35. Hong Kong Garden – Siouxsie & the Banshees
Hong Kong Garden was one of the songs that helped Siouxsie and the Banshees establish themselves in the punk scene. In all honesty, it was one of the most important songs of the early post-punk era, becoming one of the best new-wave singles of all time.
36. Malibu – Hole
Malibu was easily Hole’s biggest hit. It rose to number three on the modern rock charts and even earned a Grammy nomination in 2000.
37. Somewhere In Stockholm – Avicii
Avicii is from Stockholm, hence the title of this song and the production of an ode to this city. No matter how badly he wants to leave and find fame in the US, Stockholm will always be his home and a place he can return to.
38. Portland – Drake
Portland is an important city for Travis Scott and Drake, as it’s one of their favorite places in the US. It’s also home to the NBA team, the Trailblazers, a team symbolizing people who find their own way to success. And that climb was essentially the point of this braggadocious single by the rappers.
39. Kashmir – Led Zeppelin
When even Led Zeppelin says that their biggest musical achievement was a specific song, you should listen. Look, Kashmir in no way references any city of that name, but it was inspired by a trip by the band members to India and the Kashmir Valley, so I’m counting it.
40. Midnight Train to Memphis – Chris Stapleton
Chris Stapleton wrote a great country song here if a country song needs jail, trains, and stuff like that. Midnight Train To Memphis is about his time spent in jail, listening to a train roll by every night and counting the days based on that.
Recommended: Songs about trains
41. Hamburg Song – Keane
Hamburg Song is much more of a song about friendship than it is about the city of Hamburg. Keane wrote it to describe his feelings for his wife and his friendship with his bandmate and friend Tom Chaplin.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.