For music obsessives, there’s nothing better than visiting the significant sites of a favourite artist’s life. Even in the case of a long-dead composer, standing in the places they lived and breathed makes their presence on earth seem all the more real. Here, we look at ten places from the life of Ludwig van Beethoven that all true obsessives should visit.

Inside the Beethoven-Haus Bonn Museum © Beethoven-Haus Bonn
Inside the Beethoven-Haus Bonn Museum
© Beethoven-Haus Bonn

1Bonn

Where it all began. In this city along the Rhine, Beethoven was born in December 1770 to Johann van Beethoven and Maria Magdalena Keverich in the small attic room of a house on Bonngasse. From the very first he was surrounded by music: his father was a tenor at the court of Electoral Prince Maximilian Friedrich, and another court musician, Johann Peter Salomon, lived in the same building. Beethoven lived in the garden wing of the house for the first four years of his life, but the family eventually moved and the composer spent much of his adolescence in another house. This residence, however, was destroyed, which is why the Bonngasse house (after functioning variously as an inn, music hall and merchant’s home) has become the famous Beethoven-Haus museum.

View of Malá Strana © Prague City Tourism
View of Malá Strana
© Prague City Tourism

2Prague

Bust of the composer outside Palac Beethoven © David Karlin
Bust of the composer outside Palac Beethoven
© David Karlin
While he spent the majority of his adult life living in Vienna, musical commitments brought Beethoven further afield on a number of occasions. In 1796 he spent time in Prague, lodging in the Malá Strana district near the city’s castle. While staying at the Golden Unicorn inn on Lázeňská (now an apartment building called Palac Beethoven), he penned several chamber works for the aristocrat Josephine de Clary, and he also ventured down to the House at the Three Fiddles on Nerudova Street to have his violin seen to by the Edlinger luthier family. Though it’s now a restaurant, three crossed violins still adorn face of the building.

Beethoven came again to Prague in 1798 to première his First Piano Concerto, and that wasn’t the last time he came to that part of the world. In July 1812 he travelled to the spa town of Teplice (around 90km north of Prague) where he met his poetic counterpart in German Romanticism, Goethe.

The Beethoven Museum in Heiligenstadt © Birgit and Peter Kainz
The Beethoven Museum in Heiligenstadt
© Birgit and Peter Kainz

3Heiligenstadt

Beethoven had travelled to Vienna in 1786 in the hope of meeting Mozart, but was forced to return on hearing that his mother was gravely ill. Six years later he came again and built his life in the city and surrounding areas. One such area was Heiligenstadt – then an independent wine growing town, now one of the districts of Vienna. He’d come to the spa town in 1802 on the advice of his doctor in a bid to mitigate his deafness, and it was here that he wrote his famous Testament. It wasn’t all doom and gloom though: Beethoven put some of his frustrations into composing his Second Symphony, and the nearby hills Kahlenberg and Leopoldsberg provided ample opportunity for nature-based meditations. The summer residence on Probusgasse now houses a small museum dedicated to the composer.

Inside the Theater an der Wien © Peter M. Mayr
Inside the Theater an der Wien
© Peter M. Mayr

4Theater an der Wien

It’s thought that Beethoven lived in no less than 60 residences during his time in Vienna, and in 1803 he was offered one of the grandest: an apartment in part of the Theatre an der Wien complex. The theatre’s manager, Zauberflöte librettist Emanuel Schikaneder, secured Beethoven the digs, and the theatre itself proved centrally significant in his compositional output: the Third, Fifth and Sixth Symphonies premiered there, as did Fidelio and other works. The building that Beethoven lived in no longer exists, but you can still experience living musical history in the Theater an der Wien itself.

Inside the Pasqualati House museum © Hertha Hurnaus | Wien Museum
Inside the Pasqualati House museum
© Hertha Hurnaus | Wien Museum

5Mölker Bastei

Getting away from the city centre seems to have aided Beethoven in his musical quest. In 1804 he took an apartment on Mölker Bastei, near the city walls. Its high position allowed Beethoven to look out his window beyond the confines of the city, and he lived here intermittently over the next eight years, working on the Fourth, Fifth, Seventh and Eighth Symphonies alongside Fidelio. Beethoven’s landlord Johann von Pasqualati gives his name to the small Pasqualati House Museum that now occupies the building, where acolytes can bow down to the piano on which the composer worked out his Fifth Symphony.

The ceiling of the "Eroica" hall © Theatermuseum | KHM-Museumsverband
The ceiling of the "Eroica" hall
© Theatermuseum | KHM-Museumsverband

6Palais Lobkowitz

In a moment of republican fervour, Beethoven dedicated his Symphony no. 3, “Eroica” to Napoleon Bonaparte. But on realising that doing so would put the local aristocracy’s nose out of joint and cost him the composer’s fee, he changed the dedication to his patron Franz Joseph Maximilian, the prince Lobkowitz. A smart move, since the Baroque festival hall in the prince’s palace was subsequently named the “Eroica” hall. Today, the palace houses Vienna’s Theatre Museum, but you can still enjoy concerts in the Eroica hall (you can also visit the house where he composed the third, the Eroica House, on Döblinger Hauptstrasse).

Festive hall of the Austrian Academy of Sciences © Hubertl | Wikimedia Commons
Festive hall of the Austrian Academy of Sciences
© Hubertl | Wikimedia Commons

7Austrian Academy of Sciences

Within this busy research institution lies an important spot in Beethovenian history. At the beginning of the 1800s the building’s beautiful concert hall was among the most prestigious of Vienna’s venues, and it was here that in December 1813 the composer premiered his Seventh Symphony alongside the “battle piece” Wellington’s Victory as part of a charity concert for combatants injured in the Battle of Hanau.

Outside the Beethovenhaus in Baden © C. Schörg
Outside the Beethovenhaus in Baden
© C. Schörg

8Baden

As you’ll probably have realised by now, Beethoven was partial to a spa or two, and a spa town that he especially favoured was Baden bei Wien, which lies about 30km south-west of the capital. He spent a number of summers there between 1807 and 1825, and many of the buildings in which he stayed survive to this day. One of the most celebrated, however, is the house at Rathausgasse 10, as it was here that he composed sections of his Ninth Symphony. Now, the small Beethovenhaus Baden museum commemorates the composer’s time in the town.

View over Mödling © C Bwag | Wikimedia Commons
View over Mödling
© C Bwag | Wikimedia Commons

9Mödling

Another artistically nourishing escape from the city: Beethoven worked on portions of the Missa Solemnis, Symphony no. 9, Piano Sonata no. 29 and Diabelli Variations in the town of Mödling, blowing off steam in a local inn called The Three Ravens. It’s no longer a pub, unfortunately, but fanciful travellers may just be able to hear the strains of the dance band that Beethoven enjoyed listening to there, and for whom he purportedly wrote the Mödling Dances. The Hafnerhaus, where the composer worked in between 1818 and 1819, now houses the Beethoven Memorial Rooms.

10Helenental

Walkers' rest-stop in Helenental © Sae1962 | Wikimedia Commons
Walkers' rest-stop in Helenental
© Sae1962 | Wikimedia Commons

Something rather less cheery to round off the list of Beethoven pilgrimage spots. As could be expected of a Romantic-oriented composer whose “Pastoral” Symphony rhapsodised his feelings toward nature, Beethoven was fond of walking in rural areas outside Vienna. One particular region he enjoyed exploring was the Helenental valley near Baden, and there is now a “Beethoven path” that commemorates his time there. Unhappily, the area was also reportedly the site of Beethoven’s nephew’s attempted suicide in 1826, just a year before the composer himself died.