FThe city was a little Paris for Goethe, in GDR times it was a window to the west thanks to the large trade fairs, today many celebrate Leipzig as the “new Berlin”, just as creative, just as lively, just as rich in culture, but cheaper than the capital. The travel guide Bible “Lonely Planet” named Leipzig (before the permanent rival Dresden) one of the coolest cities in Saxony.
There is something about it: the creative mix of bohemian, citizen and revolution concert, which heralded the end of the GDR dictatorship 30 years ago, characterizes the place – and makes it one of the most exciting travel destinations in Germany, which is well received from all corners of the Federal Republic can be reached by train.
Arrival by train
Right in the city center is the main train station, built in 1915, one of the largest in the country (23 tracks) and a sight in itself: from waiting rooms to entrance halls, everything is splendid – and there are two, because it is half for the Prussian and the Saxon railways was built.
With the ICE you can get from Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt, Erfurt, Munich, Nuremberg and Dresden without changing trains, in the direction of Cologne and Düsseldorf there is a direct IC connection.
Explore the city
Best on foot! Leipzig is compact, the city center is criss-crossed by pedestrian zones and a kilometer-long network of historical passages that is unique in Europe. The first were created 500 years ago, the best known is the Mädlerpassage with “Auerbach’s Cellar”, one of the locations in Goethe’s “Faust”.
If you prefer to ride a bike: Rental bikes from Nextbike.de are available in large parts of the city area (from one euro for 30 minutes, nine euros per day).
Leipzig’s public transport company offers the most unusual city tour: a two-hour tram tour in glass or open tram cars through Wilhelminian style quarters and old industrial areas, past the Schillerhaus and town hall to the Monument to the Battle of the Nations (Saturdays and Sundays, ticket: 15/17 euros) .
And then there are Weißen Elster, Pleiße and Karl-Heine-Kanal, filthy in GDR times, today a nice area for individual or guided canoe tours and for trips in an open electric boat through the revitalized industrial district of Plagwitz or the Leipzig floodplain forest (ranaboot.de , elsterboot.de).
Sightseeing in Leipzig
The 854-year-old Nikolaikirche is a must: not only because of its photogenic pastel-colored interior, but also because it emanated the strength that started the fall of the Wall in 1989 – the Monday demonstrations started from here.
A few minutes’ walk away, the “Runde Ecke” memorial in Leipzig’s former Stasi headquarters shows the depressing exhibition “Stasi – Power and Banality” about the oppression apparatus in the GDR in original rooms (linoleum floors, brown wallpaper, window grilles).
Another highlight that puts you in a good mood is the six-hectare cotton spinning mill in the Lindenau district, a bundle of brick workshops and chimneys. Until the turn of the century, it was a state-owned company, Germany’s largest art factory since the mid-1990s, by the “Guardian” as “Hottest place on earth” celebrated. More than 100 artists can be found here in gym-sized studios (the best known: Neo Rauch), eleven galleries exhibit world-class contemporary art, spinning tours take place regularly, smaller tours every Friday and Saturday (spinnerei.de).
Of course, Leipzig also has something classic to offer: The Thomaskirche is a place of pilgrimage for fans of Johann Sebastian Bach, who worked here as a cantor, and home to the St. Thomas choir; Fridays and Saturdays you can visit motets with the famous Boys’ Choir.
The “Seaside Park Hotel” is located directly opposite the main train station in the historic city center, friendly, bright and colorful, double rooms from 114 euros (parkhotelleipzig.de).
The “Pension Meisterzimmer” offers the most exciting accommodations on the grounds of the cotton mill – four loft-like apartments, spread over the old factory buildings, between 42 and 116 square meters in size, furnished with a mixture of industrial chic and Bauhaus, double rooms 90 to 110 euros (master room. de).
It would be a bit banal to recommend the all-round vegetable mix of Leipzig’s various things for a visit to Leipzig. Leipzig larks are more exciting – not the songbirds (they have not been allowed to be caught and eaten since 1876), but pate-shaped marzipan pastries, which were then created as a substitute specialty.
The Kleinert craft bakery (Brühl 14/16) sells top quality, Lerchen also serves the “Riquet coffee house” in an Art Nouveau building with elephant decorations (Schuhmachergässchen 1). If you like Saxon cuisine and historical ambience, the “Auerbach cellar” from 1525 is the right place (try Leipzig black beef), while the “Stelzenhaus” serves up exotic dishes with a view of the Karl-Heine Canal, such as Ossobuco with vanilla.
After a nightcap you switch to the “KarLi” (Karl-Liebknecht-Straße), Leipzig’s trendy district, where so many casual clubs, bars and dance rooms are lined up that you feel as smooth as in Berlin-Kreuzkölln.
This article was first published in May 2019.