Sightseeing in Europe - Famous Classical Composers

Care to see Beethoven's last purchased piano-forte?  Place a flower in remberance of Franz Schubert at his beautiful tomb in Vienna?  If you're a classical music lover like me, you'll definitely want to stop by these birthplaces, museums, and graves.  If it wasn't for these men, music today would be entirely different.

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Beethoven Birthplace, photo by Sir James
Beethoven Birthplace, photo by Sir James. Sir James

Where to Find: 20 Bonngasse, Bonn - Germany
Born in Bonn, Germany, in 1770, in a tiny attic room, Ludwig van Beethoven has become one of classical music's most celebrated composers.  As his family grew in numbers, they moved into larger houses, however his birthplace is the only one that remains.  Now, over 240 years since his birth, Beethoven's very first home has become a major tourist attraction and houses the world's largest Beethoven memorabilia collection, which includes manuscripts, letters, pictures, busts, musical instruments, furniture, and household items Beethoven used.  The museum also owns the original "Moonlight Sonata" manuscript and Beethoven's last piano-forte.

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Beethoven's Grave

Beethoven's Grave, photo by James Grimmelmann
Beethoven's Grave, photo by James Grimmelmann. James Grimmelmann

Where: Zentralfriedhof (Central Cemetery), Vienna - Austria
After visiting Beethoven's birthplace and museum, travel nearly 1,000 kilometers to the beautiful city of Vienna and pay your respects to the legendary composer at Zentralfriedhof (Central Cemetery).  Beethoven was originally buried next to Franz Schubert in the Waehringer Ortsfriedhof (Waehringer local cemetery), several kilometers away, but both were later exhumed and moved to the Central Cemetery in 1888.

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Mozart's Geburtshaus

Mozart's Birth House (Mozart's Geburtshaus)
Mozart's Birth House (Mozart's Geburtshaus). Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Where to Find: Getreidegasse 9, 5020 Salzburg - Austria
Austria is home to many musical greats, including the young musical prodigy, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  In 1756, Mozart was born on the third floor of a building named after, and owned by, a family friend, Johann Lorenz Hagenauer.  Today, the brightly colored building is hard to miss while walking down the streets of Salzburg.  The museum houses Mozart's instruments including his childhood violin, concert violin, clavichord, and harpsichord; family letters and documents; memorabilia; and many portraits painted during Mozart's lifetime.  You'll also find exhibits of Mozart's operas, childhood life, and his family members.

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Mozart's Grave

Leopold Mozart Grave
Leopold Mozart Grave. Martin Schalk/Getty Images

Where: St. Marxer Friedhof, Vienna - Austria
There are plenty of mysteries surrounding Mozart's death and burial, but it's common fact the man was a musical genius. Though the exact burial site of Mozart is unknown, a tombstone was erected based on a few educated guesses.  It is said that a gravedigger named Joseph Rothmayer knew where Mozart's body was buried.  He supposedly recovered Mozart's skull in 1801, which is now in possession by the International Mozarteum Foundation.  It is the spot where Rothmayer found the skull that the tomb is located today.

Mozart's father, Leopold, and his widow, Constatia von Nissen, were buried in Salzburg within the Saint Sebastian churchyard. (Pictured at left.)

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Brahms' Grave

Johannes Brahms Grave
Johannes Brahms Grave. Johannes Brahms

Where: Zentralfriedhof (Central Cemetery), Vienna - Austria
On April 3, 1897, just a few years from the turn of the century, Johannes Brahms died from liver cancer and was laid to rest in Vienna's Central Cemetery.  This is the same cemetery where both Beethoven and Schubert are buried - two composers he greatly admired.

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Schubert's Birthplace

Franz Schubert Birthplace
Franz Schubert Birthplace. Franz Schubert

Where: Nussdorfer Strasse 54, 1090 Vienna - Austria
What looks like a picturesque home with a lovely courtyard was actually home to about 16 different families when Franz Schubert was born.  Though Schubert and his family lived here for only four and half year's after his birth, the home is now a museum that houses artifacts from the composers life including his spectacles and manuscripts, as well as paintings, drawings, and Schubert's guitar.  During the summer months, concerts are often performed in the courtyard. 

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Schubert's Grave

Franz Schubert Grave
Franz Schubert Grave. Franz Schubert

Where: Zentralfriedhof (Central Cemetery), Vienna - Austria
Vienna's Central Cemetery is a wonderful place to find the gravesites of several world renowned classical music composers.  Not only will you find Franz Schubert, you'll find Beethoven, Brahms, and Strauss.  As with Beethoven, Schubert was originally buried in Vienna's Waehringer Ortsfriedhof, but was later moved to the Central Cemetery after his grave fell into disrepair.

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Bach Museum & Grave - St. Thomas Church

Johann Sebastian Bach Grave
Johann Sebastian Bach Grave. Johann Sebastian Bach

Where: Thomaskirchhof 15/16, 04109 Leipzig - Germany
Johann Sebastian Bach, the father of counterpoint, lead a pretty normal life.  With a steady income and secure employment, Bach spent the latter half of his career working as the Kantor at the Thomasschule at St. Thomas Church.  He was in charge of arranging the music of the four main churches in the town.  The Bach Museum located at St. Thomas Church is a fine exhibition of Bach's personal and professional life.  You'll find original manuscripts, recordings, and artifacts from his life, along with his final resting place.

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Richard Wagner Museum at Lucerne

Richard Wagner
Richard Wagner.

Where: Richard Wagner Weg 27, CH- 6005 Lucerne - Switzerland
For six years, Richard Wagner occupied this manor perched along the shore of Lake Lucerne.  The building was bought by the city in 1931, and converted into the museum just two years later.  Inside the lovely estate, you'll find various manuscripts and objects from Wagner's time spent in Lucerne.  The manor itself is even a registered and protected historic site, and can be traced back to the 15th century.

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Other Places of Interest

Musée-Placard d'Erik Satie - Paris, France
What may be the world's smallest museum, this one room museum modeled after Satie's tiny apartment can only be visited by appointment. Admission is free. Inside are original drawings and manuscripts by Satie as well as a few other documents and scale models.

Maison Claude Debussy - Rue au Pain 38, Saint-Germain-en-Laye 78100 (outside of Paris)
This quaint museum is located in Debussy's birthplace, and houses original manuscripts, documents, and artifacts. There's also a small performance hall on the third floor.

Maurice Ravel's Grave - Cimetiere de Levallois-Perret - Paris, France
Ravel's most notable work, was the Bolero. While in Paris, make sure to put a flower next to his grave.