THE BKB TRAVEL GUIDE TO LEIPZIG
You will find detailed information for preparing and enjoying your trip to Leipzig in our guidebook “3 Days in Leipzig”. Compact, easy to use and informative! A programme for three days, a city plan, special tips and addresses. We show you the highlights, the pleasant districts, take a break with you, and tell stories … just as much as you need for three days!
“3 Days in Leipzig” is available as a paperback from your bookstore or from the BKB shop, where you can also buy it as an eBook!
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Much has been written about Leipzig, hype describing it as the new Berlin. But it’s better to explore this vibrant city with all its contrasts for yourself: green wasteland and industrial monuments, burghers’ houses, concrete housing blocks and post-modern architecture have made their mark on the city. Magnificent arcades invite you to go shopping, lakes in former open-cast mines to go swimming and relax, and everywhere you will find street cafés and beer gardens where you can linger!
THE OLD CITY HALL
The heart of Leipzig is the marketplace, site of the Altes Rathaus (Old City Hall), one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture in Germany. This long building was constructed in only nine months, in 1556–57, by Hieronymus Lotter, mayor of Leipzig and architect to the prince elector. Today the first floor is home to a museum of city history that takes visitors on an exciting trip back in time to the golden days and the low points in the story of Leipzig. For a long time now, the city has been governed from the Neues Rathaus.
MAGNIFICENT BUILDINGS OF THE OLD MERCHANTS
Everywhere in the city centre you come across merchants’ houses with so-called through-yards, many of them now used as shopping arcades. As a trading city needs a lot of space for delivering, storing and selling, on a plot of land there was usually a front house and one or several houses in back yards, linked by a narrow passage. They enabled carts to be loaded quickly without turning. Trading took place in the vaults of the ground floor, with offices and residential accommodation above and storage space for goods in the attics. An example of this is the 18th-century Barthel Hof, where the crane beams with which goods were hauled up to the stores can still be seen.
A REAL MASTER OF MUSIC: JOHANN SEBASTIAN
One of Leipzig’s most famous people is the man who became director of music for the city and for St Thomas’s Church in 1723. You can feel closest to him in the church, which was his second home in Leipzig. Whatever is performed, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” or “Praise the Lord”, a choral or a motet, there is nothing more impressive than listening to a concert of his work in St Thomas’s Church: every Friday at 6pm and Saturday at 3pm you can do this.
The church, altered in 1496 as a hall church in late Gothic style and later given a Baroque tower, has been connected to music for over 800 years, as its choir, the world-famous Thomanerchor, was founded at the same time as the first church in the 12th century. When he was master of music in the church, Bach conducted the boys’ choir with its high, bright voices. Go to the Bach Museum to find out more about the life and works of the great composer and musician.
A PLACE TO FEEL THE HISTORY:
“WE ARE THE PEOPLE!”
“WE ARE THE PEOPLE!”
The Nikolaikirche (Church of St Nicholas) is known as the church where the “peaceful revolution” in the German Democratic Republic began in 1989. Every Monday Christian believers and others met after the church service to express their concern about the situation in the republic, and then demonstrated peacefully in the city centre with a motto that became famous: “Wir sind das Volk” (we are the people).
Over time the Monday demonstrations became a mouthpiece for people who wanted their dissatisfaction to be heard. Many prominent persons such as Kurt Masur, director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus orchestra, joined the movement, which soon gained support beyond Leipzig. The result was the “peaceful revolution” that led to the reunification of Germany.
Today the Nikolaikirche is a must for all who take a tour of Leipzig. It was built in 1555 in honour of Saint Nicholas, patron of the merchants. A hall church with a conspicuous octagonal central tower, it is one of the landmarks of the city.
THE PLACE THE GREAT ELECTOR GAVE HIS NAME: AUGUSTUSPLATZ
Today the university dominates this square. Until 1968 it was considered one of the most beautiful public squares in a Germany city centre. Then the demolition gangs of head of state Walter Ulbricht came in and paved the way for the “modern face of socialism”. The City-Hochhaus high-rise, opera house and Gewandhaus date from this period.
The New Augusteum, the main building of Leipzig University with its Auditorium Maximum, the Paulinum with its hall and the university church of St Pauli are a modern complex with historical references as a reminder of the old university ensemble. The superb Mende Fountain in front of the Gewandhaus is the last remaining testimony to the square as it once was.
To get a good view of Leipzig city centre, don’t fail to go up to the roof of the panorama tower.
LEIPZIG AT NIGHT
If you would like to get to know Leipzig’s nightlife with a tour of some pubs, there are many alternatives. Start in Auerbach’s Keller, made famous by Goethe’s drama Faust. Here Goethe heard of the legend of Dr Faustus riding on a barrel, and incorporated the story in his most famous dramatic work. Have a hearty meal here to prepare for the evening ahead.
Drallewatsch is the entertainment quarter in the city centre, with many small restaurants and trendy bars around the alley called Barfussgässchen. After that, go to the theatre district stretching along Gottschedstrasse to KarLi (Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse), at the south end of the city centre.
There is a separate nightlife scene in Karl-Heine-Strasse in the Plagwitz district. Leipzigers like to sit in the open air, so it is not surprising that there are beer gardens (the local word is Freisitz) attached to most locations. They have become a real cult.
WHERE EUROPE STOOD TOGETHER – THE BATTLE OF THE NATIONS
It may have a martial appearance, but it is a major testimony to history: the Völkerschlachtdenkmal, a monument commemorating the Battle of the Nations, which put an end to Napoleon’s domination of Europe in 1813. Flanked by embankments and gateways, the monument rises behind a large pool of water, the “sea of tears” intended as a symbol of the blood and tears that were shed in the battle. A lift takes visitors up to the Hall of Fame, where the crypt serves as a symbolic tomb for more than 120,000 soldiers who fell in the Battle of the Nations. Don’t pass up an opportunity to listen to a concert given by the Denkmalchor Leipzig (Monument Choir) in the Völkerschlachtdenkmal. The acoustics are unique! Every sound is reflected back with a time lag of seconds, and this remarkable echo means that a classical choir concert is an unrivalled experience. If you find the interiors too gloomy, you can enjoy a wonderful view of Leipzig from the observation deck of the monument.
LEIPZIG’S MUSICAL TRAIL
To follow in the footsteps of great composers in Leipzig and walk through 800 years of music history, in the city centre simply follow the curving ribbon of stainless steel in the ground. It is part of the Leipzig “trail of notes”, connecting the places where composers and musicians such as Telemann, Bach, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Wagner, Grieg, Mahler and Reger lived and worked. It leads from the Gewandhaus via the opera house to the Paulinum and the concert hall called MDR-Kubus. To make the music audible, at all 23 stations of the trail there are panels and sound installations. With this globally significant heritage, Leipzig is applying to be included on the German list of proposals for UNESCO World Heritage sites.
SHOPPING IN THE ARCADES
“To the Venetians their bridges, to the Leipzigers their arcades”, according to a local saying. The pedestrian-friendly inner city of Leipzig its two main axes, Grimmaische Strasse and Petersstrasse, is characterised by a unique system of passages and “through yards” such as Mädlerpassage, Barthels Hof and Speck’s Hof. Shopping is fun outside the city centre, too: along Gottschedstrasse, a street of pubs, you will find many small but high-class stores with a highly individual range of goods. For the alternative scene, walk along KarLi, a street south of the city centre named after the co-founder of the German Communist Party, Karl Liebknecht. The Promenaden in the central station, the biggest rail terminus in Europe, is an extremely modern shopping centre.
CULTURE IN THE EVENING
You have to set priorities. Leipzig is famous as a city of music, home to internationally renowned ensembles like the Gewandhaus Orchestra and the choir of St Thomas’s Church (Thomanerchor). Events include the International Bach Festival and many other music festivals, ranging from a capella and jazz to street music and wave gothic. The
Leipzig Opera is famous far beyond the city, and the Leipzig Ballet is one of the great international dance ensembles. Dramas are performed in large and small theatres, and a host of small venues staging satire and cabaret has given Leipzig the nickname “German cabaret capital”.
You can find listings here.
Order tickets at home before you travel to Leipzig.
If you don’t believe that you can take a trip in a genuine Venetian gondola in Leipzig, go to the Ristorante da Vito in Plagwitz. Here, on the Weisse Elster river, there is an unbelievable variety of industrial architecture from the late 19th century that has been renovated and is now sought-after residential, office, retail and workshop space. On foot or in a gondola you can explore these beautiful buildings with picturesque back yards, small gardens and idyllic stretches of canal. Take a stroll along the Karl-Heine-Kanal past former factory sites that are turning into exciting places in modern Leipzig.
THE OLD COTTON SPINNING MILL
Where cotton was once spun, today you can discover one of the most fashionable addresses for contemporary art! The spinning mill, founded in 1884 and one of the biggest in Europe, even had its own plantations in east Africa. When it had to close in the 1990s, the first artists moved into its halls of red brick. Today the whole of the New Leipzig School, well-known artists such as Neo Rauch, Tilo Baumgärtel, Julius Popp, Rosa Loy and Hans Aichinger, are represented in what used to be a factory zone. The artists were followed by galleries, craft workshops, designers, architects, the Residenz theatre and the LuRu cinema. And so the artists’ colony means there is a lot to explore!
OLD AND NEW MASTERS …
The Museum der Bildenden Künste (Museum of Fine Arts) in a glass-and-concrete block on Sachsenplatz takes you on a journey through art history! Whether you prefer old masters, the Barbizon School or the Leipzig School, paintings or sculpture, graphic, photographic or video works, there are many highlights to admire.
Naked, wrapped only in a cloak and wearing sandals on his feet like an ancient god, Beethoven sits on a throne decorated with allegorical scenes, an eagle at his feet. The sculptor Max Klinger used marble, onyx, ivory, precious stones and bronze to depict as a heroic divinity the composer whose works had raised him to the sphere of the gods.
This colossal statue of Beethoven on the first floor is only one example from Klinger’s oeuvre that is displayed here: with Salome, Cassandra, Christ on Olympus and the Crucifixion, the city of Leipzig honours its illustrious son with a wide-ranging exhibition of his work.
COFFEE HOUSE CULTURE
Leipzigers love their coffee houses. Long ago Goethe expressed his delight after staying in the city: “Praise to my Leipzig!” Round off your trip to Leipzig with a visit to the Riquet coffee house. This well-known café in an Art Nouveau building with elephants’ heads on the door has a long tradition. You will feel transported back to the days when waitresses in starched white aprons served delicious cake and excellent coffee, ladies in their finery met here for a chat, and distinguished gentlemen leafed through their newspapers. In the age of Starbucks and coffee to go, this is only a nostalgic vision, of course, but time spent in this café is still very enjoyable.
TO GO TO LEIPZIG BY RAIL OR PLANE
Leipzig central station has good links to all places in Germany. Situated on the edge of the city centre, it is a good starting point for a first exploration of the city.
By air you can reach Leipzig via Leipzig-Halle Airport, which is served by many airlines. It lies approx. 15 km outside the city but has good public transport connections. The journey to Leipzig by local train takes about 15 minutes. For small groups of up to 8 persons, the airport shuttle is a good alternative. Alongside the airport shuttle, taxis and transfer providers operate trips to the airport (journey time approx. 30 minutes).
Picture credits: all photos BKB Verlag except Leipzig, Aussicht vom Völkerschlachtdenkmal: fotolia.com, Urheber: aro49, Foto-ID#150148049; Kunstszene EIGENART Ausstellung: Urheber: Stella Hamberg; Paulinum: Leipzig Tourismus und Marketing GmbH, Urheber: Andreas Schmidt; Gewandhaus bei Nacht: Gewandhaus zu Leipzig/Urheber: ©Jens Gerner; Gewandhausorchester: Gewandhaus zu Leipzig, Urheber: ©Jens Gerner;