The Best Music Venues in Baltimore

Photo of Jonaki Mehta
11 December 2015

Baltimore is home to some of the greatest artists of all time, like Billie Holiday and Cab Calloway. It is a city full of music lovers and wide-ranging styles, making it a hotbed for fantastic live music. Here are some of Baltimore’s best live music venues.

The Ottobar | © James Blucher/Flickr


The Ottobar is a bar upstairs and a music venue downstairs, and even has a balcony for a close and intimate view of the performances. The bar area is great for dancing during themed nights, and the downstairs area features carefully curated performances. There are also other wide-ranging events like karaoke, trivia nights, or burlesque shows. Make sure to arrive early to get a good parking spot, and check the website for potential cover charges.

Jay’s on Read | © A. Currell/Flickr

Jay’s On Read

Located in a quiet storefront in Mount Vernon, Jay’s on Read is a LGBTQ friendly establishment with a casual, corner bar feel. Featuring live piano on Fridays and Saturdays and other live music gigs during the rest of the week, Jay’s on Read provides a relaxing atmosphere for music lovers. The antique decor and personable bartenders add warmth to the experience at Jay’s. If you are with a group, don’t miss Karaoke night for a fun and lively time on Thursday nights. Jay’s may be closing some time soon according to a Facebook announcement made a few months ago, so be sure to stop by this local favorite soon.

Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall | © A. Currell/Flickr

Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall

Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall is a 33 year old music venue in Mount Vernon, just walking distance from Baltimore’s Penn Station. This beautiful music hall is home to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, which has been internationally recognized and which is heavily involved in education outreach in Maryland. While this venue mostly features classical music performances, there are also occasional unconventional visual performances to accompany the music, like films or dances. You can also catch touring bands every now and then. The acoustics in this building are phenomenal, so for lovers of classical music, this is the best place to go in all of Baltimore.

The 8 x 10 | © Gavin St. Ours/Flickr

The 8×10

In the heart of Federal Hill is a gem of a music venue inside of a purple building called the 8×10. A small and intimate space, The 8 x 10 has a dance floor and bar on the first floor with a U-shaped balcony on the second floor that overlooks the stage and also has a smaller bar. The 8×10 invites local bands as well as touring bands to perform, and has a residency program for Wednesday nights where the same band plays weekly for an entire month. In this way, The 8 x 10 supports spurring artists. If you come early before a show, you can catch $4 drafts and $2 off cocktails during Happy Hour.

The Sidebar Tavern

The Sidebar Tavern is a pub and live-performance venue tucked away amongst the old, historic buildings of downtown. This is an unpretentious underground spot for those who interested in an eclectic mix of music and stand-up comedy. Though the decor and some of the live shows are punk, hard-rock, and metal, the Sidebar actually features a variety of musical genres and welcome all ages, making it a mixed crowd and adding to the welcoming atmosphere of this dive-y bar. The beers on the fairly extensive menu are cheap, especially during happy hour, and the bartenders are friendly.

Bellevederes at the Metro Gallery | © Dorret/Flickr

The Metro Gallery

The Metro Gallery is a multipurpose space in the Arts District of Downtown Baltimore where artwork is shown and performances are held. The gallery is specifically focused on supporting budding local artists of all kinds, and The Metro has hosted several larger scale acts as well, such as Sharon Van Etten, the Dirty Projectors, Wye Oak, and Future Islands. The acoustics here are great, and the bar serves strong drinks. The eclectic performances and displays keep visits at the Metro exciting, and makes for loyal and regular patrons. This is also a great way to keep discovering new music and art by dropping in during a show or exhibition.

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