10 things to do in Leipzig
The process of unification of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic into one Germany can rightly be called one of the most significant events in the XX century. Not many people know that the unification of the country began in Leipzig. Long before this event, in the city’s oldest and largest church, the Nicolauskirche, parishioners dissatisfied with a “divided” life and regime began to gather for services, where they discussed possible solutions to the problem. It then led to a large demonstration on October 9, 1989, beginning after prayers in the church and attracting 70,000 Germans, who marched through the city with candles in their hands in protest. The police did not disperse the demonstrators, whose demonstration culminated in the fall of the Berlin Wall exactly one month later, on November 9, 1989.
2. TO BE CULTURED IN THE PHILHARMONIC
The Leipzig Philharmonic’s Gewandhaus is located in the heart of the city near Market Square. The first concert hall on this site appeared in 1743, but has not survived to this day. 100 years later, a second building was built, which, however, also only lasted for 100 years: the Allied bombings in 1944 left no stone unturned. The modern building was built in 1981, as before, the symphony orchestra “masters” here. Every year more than 800 official events – concerts and conferences – are held in the Philharmonic Hall.
3. INDULGE YOURSELF WITH A LARK
While in Leipzig you should certainly try a local culinary speciality – these marzipan-filled almond dough cakes with strawberry preserves are called “Leipziger Larks”. The history of these pastries goes back to the XIX century, when one of the most popular and favorite treats of the citizens was roasted lark meat. Birds were hunted on an industrial scale, and birds were massacred (sometimes the number of hunted game reached up to half a million per month). And so it was until 1876, when King Albert I of Saxony issued a decree forbidding the hunting of skylarks. The confectioners subsequently invented a new pastry and named it after the skylarks to commemorate them in the city’s culinary history. Leipzig’s skylarks are sold everywhere, both in cafes and in small outdoor pastry shops.
4. TO GAZE AT THE DIVERSITY OF ARCHITECTURE
Lovers of architecture and the great outdoors can enjoy themselves in the historic quarter northwest of the city center near Waldstrasse. The city is proud of the fact that the Waldstraßenviertel (as it is called in German) is now the largest Gründerzeit quarter in the country. For reference, the Gründerzeit period is a period in German history that lasted from the mid-19th century to the beginning of the crisis in 1873, accompanied by industrialization, rapid economic growth and growth of cities. Leipzig experienced a boom from the 1830s onward: the city became the richest trade, business and cultural-spiritual center of the country. Businessmen and merchants who came here from all over Europe settled in this young quarter. Most of them were Jews, so it’s not surprising that the area was later called “New Jerusalem”. Much of the historic buildings survived the difficult times of World War II, and now attracts tourists who want to dive into the history of urban German architecture. All well-known architectural styles are represented here: classicism, jugendstil, bauhaus, post-war art nouveau.
5. ENJOY THE ORGAN MUSIC
Leipzig’s oldest church, the Church of St. Thomas, is famous for two historic facts. Firstly, Martin Luther, the founder of the Reformation, preached here in 1539. Secondly, Johann Sebastian Bach worked in this church from 1723 until his death in 1750, who was a teacher in the church school as well as the music director of all the city’s churches. As is often the case, Bach died in utter poverty, and world recognition did not come to him until after his death. Since 1950, St. Thomas Church has housed a tomb with the famous composer’s remains at the altar, and a monument outside in front of the church. Check the church’s website for a calendar of events and concerts of organ music and the boys’ choir, of which Bach himself was once a cantor.
6. SEE “EVERYTHING.”
In 2003 Yadigar Azizi, an Austrian of Iranian origin, opened the city’s first panorama museum in an old gas holder building, where circular panoramas of different historical places and events are on display. Until recently, it featured a panorama from the summit of Mount Everest, the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef, the Battle of Nations in 1813, Ancient Rome, and others. An exhibit about the sinking of the Titanic will open very soon, and dates and admission prices can be found on the museum’s website.
7. WANDER THE ARCADES
Leipzig is the city of arcades, reminiscent of Bologna with its arcades. There are now 24 arcades, and once there were more, but unfortunately the Second World War left its mark on the architectural makeup of the city. The most famous and most popular shopping mall is the Madler Passage, which has remained virtually intact. The building was built in 1914, and has been pleasing people with its spectacular architecture, bright showcases and luxurious stores for 100 years (with interruptions).
8. MEET FAUST
The Auerbach Wine Cellar, located in the same Madler Passage, is one of the oldest and most famous establishments not only in Germany, but also in the whole of Europe. It owes its popularity above all to the writer Johann Goethe, who often visited it, and it was here that he heard the legend of Faust, about whom he later wrote his most famous work. And so the wine cellar became the setting for the first part of Faust. The entrance to the restaurant is decorated with a huge bronze statue of Faust and Mephistopheles.
9. REFRESH YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF HISTORY
Two museums devoted to the history of Germany during the partition of the country deserve special attention – the Museum of Modern History and the Stasi Museum. The former contains a unique collection of objects and historical documents covering the period from the partition of Germany to the fall of the Berlin Wall. In front of the entrance to the museum you can see an interesting sculpture, called the “Step of the Century,” which represents a marching man with a long outstretched arm in the Nazi salute and the other clenched into a fist. The sculpture symbolizes the two evils of the 20th century: National Socialism and Communism. As for the Stasi Museum, it is located in the building of the former headquarters of the German KGB and has professional wiretaps, disguises and uniforms of the GDR security service. What is especially nice, both museums are open to all visitors absolutely free of charge.
10. FEEL LIKE A MIDGET.
Leipzig is home to the largest monument in all of Europe – a monument to the Battle of Nations in 1813, when a coalition of Russia, Austria, Prussia, and Sweden defeated the armies of Napoleon. Up until the two world wars, this battle was the largest in human history (over half a million soldiers from both sides took part in it). This impressive monument with a height of 90 meters and a total mass of 300 thousand tons was erected to the centennial of the battle about 3 kilometers from the center of Leipzig. Panorama lovers will certainly be pleased with the observation deck at a height of 57 meters, from which they can clearly see the neighborhoods and residential areas of the city. In addition, in the monument itself there is a museum where you can get acquainted with the details of the great battle and military exhibits of those times.
Leipzig sights: 12 best places
The ancient and amazingly beautiful German city of Leipzig is located in the federal state of Saxony in eastern Germany. Since time immemorial, Leipzig has been famous for its colorful and bustling fairs, which are still held here today. Moreover, Leipzig is recognized as the music capital of Europe: at various times Johann Sebastian Bach, Richard Wagner, Felix Mendelssohn and other world-famous composers lived and worked here. In this article we present the most important sights of Leipzig that should not be missed.
1. Leipzig’s Old City Hall and History Museum
The Old City Hall, located in the historical heart of the city, is one of the most interesting sights in Leipzig. It is one of the few surviving Renaissance structures in Germany. Inside the Old City Hall is an exhibition of the Museum of the History of Leipzig. It contains a rich collection of coins, tapestries, engravings, photographs and other exhibits that tell the story of the city from the Middle Ages to the present day. Especially popular among visitors to the Old City Hall are the Great Hall of Celebrations, the Armory, the Treasury, the Felix Mendelssohn Hall and the Johann Sebastian Bach Hall.
2. Auerbach’s cellar
The old Auerbach Cellar is well known not only in Germany, but also beyond its borders. The locals proudly say that he who has not drunk wine at Auerbach’s, has not seen Leipzig. The history of the famous restaurant dates back to the Middle Ages. Back then it was a small wine cellar, owned by doctor Heinrich Strohmer von Auerbach in the middle of the 16th century. Johann Wolfgang Goethe was a frequent guest. The poet enjoyed spending time in the cellar, where he heard many fascinating stories. Some of them are reflected in his works, and Auerbach’s cellar itself became the setting for the first part of the tragedy Faust. Today, the Auerbach Cellar offers its guests a hearty meal of Saxon cuisine and the unique atmosphere of an old wine cellar. The walls of this tourist hotspot in Leipzig are decorated with murals based on the tragedy “Faust”, and at the entrance to the restaurant guests are greeted by Dr. Faust and Mephistopheles cast in bronze.
3. Leipzig Zoo
Leipzig’s zoo has a well-deserved reputation as one of Leipzig’s best places for families to visit. It is not just a zoo in the traditional sense of the word, but a veritable zoo that is as much fun for children as it is for adults. Animals here do not languish in cramped cages, and walk on spacious open areas, separated from each other by moats with water. The vast area of the zoo is divided into thematic sections, so visitors can stroll through the wild jungle, the sultry savannah and the arid steppe. You can admire exotic plants in the lush tropical garden, take a boat trip on the forest river, look into an African hut and see the life of marine creatures through the glass of a giant aquarium.
4. Church of Saint Nicholas
The Church of St. Nicholas is one of Leipzig’s historical sights. It is the oldest church in the city – its history dates back to the 12th century. Since then the church was repeatedly rebuilt, but even today in its architecture it is possible to discern elements of the ancient Romanesque style. The walls of the ancient church are literally permeated with the spirit of history: Martin Luther preached his sermons here, the composer Johann Sebastian Bach held his organ music concerts, and in the late 80s of XX century there was a peaceful demonstration of supporters of the unification of Germany, which soon led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Inside the church, of great interest are the intricate murals and the magnificent 19th-century organ. It is a must-see in Leipzig!
5. Church of St. Thomas
Another beautiful architectural attraction that will be interesting to see in Leipzig for the tourist. St. Thomas Church was founded in the 13th century, and became widely known thanks to Johann Sebastian Bach. For 27 years, the great musician led the church choir and instrumental ensemble here. In remembrance of this, a bust of the composer stands by the walls of the church, and his grave is also located here. A few steps from the church is the Bach Museum. In the history of St. Thomas Church, other great men left their mark: Martin Luther, Felix Mendelssohn and Kaiser Wilhelm I, whose images decorate the wall stained glass windows of the church. It is also interesting to see a collection of 18th-century church musical instruments, including the double bass, viola, cello and kettledrums.
6. Monument “Battle of the Nations at Leipzig”
In 1813, Leipzig went down in history as the site of one of the largest military battles in Europe, called the Battle of the Nations. During the grand battle the united forces of Russia, Austria and Prussia defeated the army of Napoleon. In memory of tens of thousands of soldiers who did not return from the battlefield, a giant monument was erected in Leipzig, which to this day is the largest monument in Europe. The memorial complex of stone and concrete 91 m high resembles an enormous bell from afar, and the pond in front of it symbolizes the tears shed for the fallen heroes of the battle. Bas-reliefs on the facade of the monument depict battle scenes, and the entrance to the “Hall of Fame” is guarded by the figure of the Archangel Michael, the heavenly patron of the German army. Inside the monument is the “Hall of Glory,” a symbolic tomb of all the dead with hundreds of sculptures of brave soldiers carved in stone.
7. Market Square
When you arrive in Leipzig, it’s worth going to the Market Square. Take a leisurely stroll there and enjoy the atmosphere of the old German city while discovering Leipzig’s modern charms. Here you can admire the Old Town Hall, the Auerbach Cellar, and the Madler Passage. Since the Middle Ages, the world-famous Leipzig Trade Fairs have regularly taken place on the Market Square. Today the most colorful and impressive holiday markets are held here on Easter and Christmas Eve: colourful stalls sell original souvenirs and traditional delicacies, and musicians greet fair visitors from the balcony of the Old Town Hall.
8. New Town Hall
The imposing New City Hall is one of Leipzig’s most impressive architectural landmarks. The New City Hall has an appearance reminiscent of an ancient castle, which makes it a popular attraction for tourists. Until the end of the 19th century the monumental medieval castle Pliessenburg stood here, on whose foundations the town hall was built. The new government building was built in the eclectic style: a powerful castle tower, elegant bas-reliefs and numerous sculptures remind of the former beauty and splendor of Castle Plaissenburg. The spacious New City Hall has about 600 meeting rooms for city officials. Exhibitions are held in the galleries, and the Leipzig restaurant is situated in the former wine cellar.
9. “The Madler Passage.
Located in the historic center of Leipzig, the luxurious Madler Passage is a fine example of the city’s old-fashioned shopping arcade. The “Madler Passage” was built in the early twentieth century by merchant Anton Madler, modeled on the world-famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan. Here you can find boutiques of the world’s most famous brands, a variety of stores and pavilions under one roof, making it the best place in Leipzig for shopping. The passageway is covered by a glass roof with a large glass rotunda in the middle. Porcelain bells attached to one of the rotunda’s arches play a classical or folk tune every hour. In the basement of the Madler Passage is the aforementioned old restaurant, Auerbach’s Cellar, where Johann Wolfgang Goethe liked to spend time.
10. South Cemetery
The southern cemetery is located in the immediate vicinity of the monument dedicated to the Battle of Nations. Therefore, after viewing the monument, you can continue your walk here and pay homage to the Soviet prisoners of concentration camps. The Southern cemetery is not a gloomy place with dismal tombstones, but a kind of landscape park with manicured walkways, plenty of exotic plants, fascinating sculptures and a magnificent chapel in neo-Romantic style. This Leipzig landmark is one of the largest and most beautiful park cemeteries in Germany. If you would like to learn more about the history of the cemetery and the famous people buried there, you can hire the services of a guide.
A must for museums in Leipzig is the Grassi Museum, which owes its founding to Franz Dominik Grassi, the famous Saxon merchant and philanthropist. Grassi decreed in his will to leave the city a huge sum of money, which was spent on the construction of the museum. There are three major museums in the museum complex. The Ethnographic Museum has many exhibits about the life of the indigenous peoples of Europe, Asia, America and Australia. Museum of Applied Arts has a large collection of works of blacksmiths, potters, glassblowers and other craftsmen. In the museum of musical instruments there is a unique collection of violins, violas, flutes and other old instruments, some of which were made in the 16th century.
Leipzig Museum of Fine Arts
The Leipzig Museum of Fine Arts has a fine collection of paintings, sculptures and graphics from the Middle Ages to the present day, making it famous not only in Germany but also abroad. Of great interest are canvases by Dutch, Italian and German masters of the 15th to 18th centuries, French paintings of the 19th century and works of modern German art. Among the numerous paintings in the museum, works by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Andreas Aachenbach and Claude Monet are very popular.