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Leipzig, Germany — Travel Guide

Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) in Leipzig, Saxony (Germany) [photo: Jungpionier, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons]
Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) in Leipzig, Saxony (Germany) [photo: Jungpionier, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons]
Federal Administrative Court of Germany (Bundesverwaltungsgericht) in Leipzig, Saxony (Germany) [photo: Jungpionier, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons]
Federal Administrative Court of Germany (Bundesverwaltungsgericht) in Leipzig, Saxony (Germany) [photo: Jungpionier, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons]
Peterkirche in Leipzig, Germany [photo: Joeb07 (Johannes Kazah), CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons]
Peterkirche in Leipzig, Germany [photo: Joeb07 (Johannes Kazah), CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons]
Leipzig Naschmarkt [photo: Tino Strauss, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons]
Leipzig Naschmarkt [photo: Tino Strauss, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons]
Goethe Statue in front of Alte Börse at the Naschmarkt in Leipzig / Der junge Goethe von Carl Seffner vor der Alten Börse/Naschmarkt, Leipzig [photo: jpvargas, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons]
Goethe Statue in front of Alte Börse at the Naschmarkt in Leipzig / Der junge Goethe von Carl Seffner vor der Alten Börse/Naschmarkt, Leipzig [photo: jpvargas, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons]

There are of course far more than 10 good reasons for visiting Leipzig, a city dating back over 800 years and a major centre of both commerce and the arts to boot. Its countenance is changing day by day, and the atmosphere of growth underlined by the slogan “Leipzig kommt!” can be felt throughout the city. Old exhibition buildings and shopping arcades are adjacent to earthworks heralding new architectural masterpieces.

City of music: hardly any other city in the world has a musical history which can quite match Leipzig’s. Names like Johann Sebastian Bach (who headed St. Thomas’s Boys Choir from 1723 to 1750) and Felix Mendelssohn (the house where he lived and died is not to be missed!) are inseparably linked to Leipzig.

The Gewandhaus Orchestra and the Gewandhaus concert hall have cultivated classical music in Leipzig for over 250 years and personify the city.

St. Thomas’s Boys Choir emerged over 800 years ago from church services organised by the Augustinian Canons. Its most famous choirmaster was J.S. Bach. Cantatas and motets performed by the choir can be heard every Friday evening and Saturday afternoon at St. Thomas’s Church (except when the choir is touring and during school holidays).

Oper Leipzig fronts an unbroken tradition of opera dating back over 300 years. With manager and artistic director Henri Maier at the helm, it stages spectacular traditional and modern operas and ballets.

Commercial hub

Leipzig has long been a major commercial centre. In 1997 it celebrated the 500th anniversary of the imperial trade fair privileges granted by Emperor Maximilian, and the Leipzig Fair is regarded as the “mother of trade fairs”. Leipzig’s future commercial development was given a boost by the construction of the ultramodern Leipzig Fair Exhibition Centre with its fascinating architecture.

Leipzig Sightseeing overview

Old City Hall in Leipzig [photo: Krzysztof Golik, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons]
Old City Hall in Leipzig [photo: Krzysztof Golik, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons]

Leipzig’s compact city centre is ideal for a stroll and window-shopping. Since it is located inside the central ring road with a length of 3½km/2 miles, many of Leipzig’s sights are within walking distance.

Leipzig Central Station: one of Europe’s largest railway terminuses in Europe, and also one of its most beautiful since its conversion into a modern shopping centre.

Goethe and Auerbachs Keller: J.W. Goethe, the father of German literature, studied in Leipzig between 1765 and 1768. Auerbachs Keller is a tavern which was immortalised by a scene in Goethe’s national drama “Faust”.

The Monument to the Battle of the Nations (Völkerschlachtdenkmal): a vast edifice with an observation platform at a height of 91 metres built to mark the centenary of the 1813 Battle of Leipzig where Napoleon was decisively defeated.

Old City Hall: one of the finest Renaissance town halls in Germany.

Drallewatsch: a collection of bars and restaurants in the heart of Leipzig which is ideal for a pub crawl or “bar-hopping”.

Leipzig was the cradle of 1989’s Peaceful Revolution, and visitors can follow the trail of the democracy movement which toppled East Germany’s communist regime by visiting ‘venues’ such as St. Nicholas’s Church, Augustusplatz, the ring road and the Stasi Museum in the “Runde Ecke”, the Stasi’s county headquarters.

Auenwald: a swathe of parks, woodlands and floodplains which cuts right across the city and is unique in Europe

MORE DETAILS further below on this page

Climate & Temperature

Leipzig is situated in the continentally influenced interior lowlands; annual mean temperature: 9°C (0°C in January, 18°C in July); annual precipitation: 500–600mm

Average temperatures

Juli/August: high’s up to around 30C / 86 F. Average temperature is just the half of it!
Winter: around freezing point

Best time to travel / Season

In general year-round, however, most tourists prefer the time between Spring and Fall.

Leipzig, Germany, Visitor Info & Getting Around

Population

ca. 600.ooo (2019)

Getting there

by air: Leipzig/Halle Airport;
by road: A9 (Berlin–Munich), A14 (Dresden–Halle), A38 (southern bypass);
by rail: Intercity and other services (including night trains)

Phone

Area (City) code: 0341 if calling within Germany; +49 341 if calling from abroad

Public Transportation

Public transportation is operated by ‘Leipziger Verkehrsbetriebe’ (LVB).

Website: Leipziger Verkehrsbetriebe

Location

North-western Saxony, central Germany.

Tourism Office / Congress Services

Leipzig Tourism: Leipzig – Welcome to the Leipzig Region
Richard-Wagner-Straße 1, D-04109 Leipzig, Germany

‘Must-See’ top attractions in Leipzig

The Mädler Passage, for centuries the city’s most exclusive arcade, is home to the famous Auerbachs Keller.
Serving wine since 1525, this tavern was immortalized in Faust by Johann Wolfgang Goethe, the father of German literature.

The Museum Zum Arabischen Coffee Baum (Kleine Fleischergasse 4) is one of Europe’s oldest coffee houses and used to number Robert Schumann among its regulars. Nowadays the museum there contains an exhibition on the history of coffee – the Saxons’ ‘national drink’. Web: Museum Zum Arabischen Coffe Baum – Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig (stadtgeschichtliches-museum-leipzig.de)

The Old City Hall, one of the finest Renaissance buildings in Germany, can be admired on the Market Square and houses the Museum of City History. To the rear is the Old Stock Exchange fronted by a statue of Goethe. Goethe studied in Leipzig, affectionately referring to the city as Little Paris: “You’re right! Leipzig’s the place for me! ’Tis quite a little Paris; people there/ Acquire a certain easy finish’d air.”

St. Nicholas’s Church (Nikolaikirchhof 3, 04109 Leipzig), the oldest and biggest church in Leipzig, rose to fame in 1989 as the cradle of the Peaceful Revolution.

Services for peace were (and still are) held here every Monday – and the following demonstrations at the end of the 1980s finally toppled the East German government, paving the way for German reunification.

Leipzig – Auerbachs Keller

Leipzig’s most famous restaurant has been welcoming visitors since 1530. Featured in Goethe’s most famous work Faust, diners can enjoy a unique atmosphere. In addition to the menu’s culinary delights, guests are fascinated by the sense of history which comes to life in the basement restaurant. …
More: Auerbachs Keller

Leipzig – Central Station

Leipzig Central Station was built in 1915 by architects William Lossow and Hans-Max Kühne as the largest railway terminus in Europe. Its cathedral-like structure of stone and steel impressively embodies the bourgeoisie’s sense of identity of the time. …
More: Central Station

Leipzig – Old City Hall

The Old City Hall is one of Leipzig’s most famous landmarks. It has a colourful history, once being the seat of the feudal highest court of appeal and also a prison. The market square in front of the Old City Hall was used in centuries past as a place of execution, so condemned prisoners never had far to go to the scaffold. …
More: Old City Hall

Leipzig – St. Thomas’s Church and Bach Monument

Especially two names are connected with St. Thomas’s Church in Leipzig. Johann Sebastian Bach worked here for 27 years as cantor of St. Thomas’s Church and Martin Luther preached in the Church at Whitsun in 1539 on the occasion of the introduction of reformation. …
More: St. Thomas’s Church and Bach Monument

BMW plant tour

BMW has a production plant in Leipzig. Finished in 2002, this innovative design connects the different work areas of the factory.
The central building is designed as a dynamic nerve center, connecting and incorporating the whole factory, combining the function of the factory with futuristic aspects of modern work organization.
Tourists can discover the great design of the BMW factory and take a fascinating look into modern car production with guided tours throughout the week.
BMW Plant Leipzig – Visitor Service Team, BMW Allee 1, 04350 Leipzig

BMW Visitor Service: Visit BMW – BMW Visitor Service (bmw-besuchen.com)

Read more about German Automobile Companies and How to visit Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and Porsche

The Pub Mile Drallewatsch

A unique mixture of gastronomic history, scene meeting point and cultural tradition

The heart of the city center beats on the popular Drallewatsch pub mile found in 1996. The area comprises Richard-Wagner-Platz and Burgplatz including Große and Kleine Fleischergasse, Matthäikirchhof, Barfußgässchen, Klostergasse, Thomaskirchhof and Burgstraße.

Here every night people crowd and the chairs of the different bars, pubs and restaurant get mixed to form a colorful and lively picture. More than thirty restaurants attract guests to what the Leipzigers call jokingly the ”Bermuda Triangle”, which has already seen many a missing person.

Strolling along the Drallewatsch – an old Saxon expression for having fun and going out to dance and maybe something more – is an absolute must if you want to feel the city’s pulse. The pub mile’s name had, by the way, was decided upon by a readers’ competition of the local newspaper Leipziger Volkszeitung (LVZ) in 1996.

As Leipzig has profited from travelling salesmen and trade fair guests ever since its foundation, the city developed a special relationship to hospitality at a very early stage of history. Often the annual number of guests surpassed the number of inhabitants.

On the pub mile trade fair tradition, gastronomy and culture work hand in hand. Beside important museums like the Coffee Museum, the Saxon Apothecary Museum and the Bach Museum, there are also the inner courtyards of the Renaissance building Webers Hof and of the Rococo building Becksches Haus, now Paulaner Restaurants. Fresh and frivolous summer theatre is on the menu there every year. In this romantic ambience wine and culture can be pleasantly combined!

Beside the heavily populated scene meeting points Markt Neun (mother of all Leipzig scene pubs), Sacharow, 100 Wasser, Bellinis, Zigarre and SPIZZ, you will also find gastronomic history on Drallewatsch without equal in Germany. Leipzig’s living history offers a Who Is Who of the German intellectual elite. Especially the oldest café-restaurant of Germany Zum Arabischen Coffe Baum (Kleine Fleischergasse 4) was a popular meeting place for prominent figures. Beside Goethe, Lessing, Wagner and E. T. A. Hoffmann there was Robert Schumann who regularly met his friends here. But also Helmut Kohl and Gerhard Schröder have meanwhile visited the traditional café-restaurant.

A few meters away, in Barthels Hof – opened again in 1998 – typical Saxon food and atmosphere in historical rooms and in the Baroque inner courtyard attract many guests.

In one of the most original historical restaurants, Zills Tunnel (Barfußgässchen 9), a former regular guest – Karl Friedrich Zöllner – wrote one of Germany’s most popular folk songs: Das Wandern ist des Müllers Lust. Old Leipzig city views and rustic wooden wall panels radiate old Saxon coziness. Beer has been sold in this place since 1785.

Another traditional place is located in Burgstraße 19: the Thüringer Hof. Dating back to 1454 it is the oldest Leipzig restaurant. Already Martin Luther enjoyed worldly delights in this place. In 1996 the restaurant was opened again after a complete reconstruction.

Finally, at the end of Drallewatsch, there is the Ratskeller (Lotterstraße 1), located in the basement of the New City Hall. The impressive stone gate already tells about its 100 years of bacchanalian history. The subterranean vaults are a great place for carousing in the footsteps of the former city councilors.

The restored Antikhaus (Große Fleischergasse) is a remarkable place, too. Under one roof there are the potato restaurants Pelle, the egg pub Eierei and the maritime gourmet fish restaurant Fregatte. Solid Saxon food is offered in the little Leipzig pub Spatz and in the potato restaurant Kartoffelhaus No. 1. The finest aspects of Italian cuisine are presented in the Dolce Vita.

Museums

Music and museums

All visitors to Leipzig are drawn to St Thomas’s Church, home of the world-famous St Thomas’s Boys Choir and where Johann Sebastian Bach was employed for 27 years as organist and choirmaster. His grave can be seen in the chancel of St Thomas’s. The motets performed every Friday and Saturday by the choir as well as the concerts in front of the statue of Bach just outside in July and August are especially popular. The Bach Museum is situated opposite St Thomas’s Church.

Another regular musical highlight is the Sunday recitals at Mendelssohn House. Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy himself used to live in the building, which now contains the only museum in the world dedicated to the composer.

Two more important centres of music are to be found on the redesigned Augustusplatz: Leipzig Opera House and the Gewandhaus concert hall. The Gewandhaus Orchestra, which dates back more than 250 years, regularly performs in both venues.

Schumann House is dedicated to the memory of Robert und Clara Schumann. Visitors can find out more about the Schumanns’ time in Leipzig, including their many friends and visitors.

Leipzig also hosts a whole string of music festivals large and small. The most prominent ones are doubtless the International Bach Festival in June, the A Capella Festival in April, the Leipzig Jazz Festival in October, and the Mendelssohn Festival in October/November.

Leipzig Museum of Fine Arts owns one of the most prominent collections of art in central Germany. Meanwhile contemporary trends can be viewed and discussed at for example the Leipzig Gallery of Modern Art, opened in 1998. Art-lovers should also make for the Baumwollspinnerei – an old industrial site which has been converted into studios and galleries for young artists cultivating the ‘Leipzig School’.

Map Leipzig, Germany

Food & Drink

You will find restaurants, bars, cafes in many neighborhoods (in German called ‘Stadtteile’) and always in Downtown. German cities are walking cities.

Leipzig – Popular Spots, the places to go

Downtown, the Leipzig City Center.

Quick reference of nightlife / restaurant districts:

Drallewatsch (we covered that further above in this article), Schauspielviertel (near Leipzig’s Schauspielhaus Theater, around Gottschedstraße. It starts just across the street from St. Thomas’s Church.), Südmeile (stretches along Karl-Liebknecht-Straße south of Leipzig’s city center and offers a mix of culture and cuisine. ‘In’ places are e.g. Flower Power, Ilses Erika or naTo and Volkshaus), Münzgasse (connects Drallewatsch with Südmeile), Gohlis (neighborhood north of Leipzig city center; enjoy beautiful Art Nouveau villas and Leipzig’s only remaining authentic Gose beer pub – Gosenschenke ‘Ohne Bedenken’. Gose is a top-fermented Leipzig beer speciality which you drink pure or mixed with fruit syrups or liqueurs. The area is also home to Leipzig’s only palace, the baroque Gohlis Palace, which houses an elegant restaurant.), Plagwitz (A former industrial area located west of Leipzig city centre.

Find restaurants and cafés – some are situated on the banks of the Weiße Elster river and the canals in the area. Visit e.g. the ‘Stelzenhaus’, built into one of the canals, or check out the ‘Ristorante Da Vito’ where you can make a ride in a genuine Venetian gondola.).

‘Freisitz’?

Roughly translated: seating outside.

Meanwhile ”LE”, as the locals call their Leipzig with affection, has gained a great reputation as a city with street culture. The German word Freisitz (meaning something like street restaurant or café), which in other cities is often replaced by beer-garden, has become something like a cult word. Really big beer-gardens, like those in Bavaria, are rare in Leipzig.
Instead, pubs and restaurants invite their guests to sit outside on the Freisitz. Of the 1,100 gastronomy enterprises in Leipzig (everything from scenic pub to Chinese restaurant) 385 have meanwhile established a Freisitz. With the exception of restaurants in concentrated residential areas, all places may stay open as long as they (or their guests) want.
No closing time!

City Center is the place to go

From 11 o’clock at night, especially the city center radiates a festival atmosphere. Young and old gather, according to the motto: ”See and be seen” and enjoy the ”street theatre”.

The phenomenon of Freisitz culture had already existed in GDR times. The Freisitz boom, however, only started in 1990. One catalyst for the development was certainly the concept of the pedestrianized city center as well as the generous granting of Freisitz permission by the city government. Roaring engines and exhaust fumes from cars have meanwhile become foreign words for visitors of the Drallewatsch pub mile (we covered that further above in this article).

The variety of food on offer is breath-taking. On the 0.8 square kilometers of the city center alone there is a wide range of gastronomy present, from the traditional Saxon restaurant via the elegant Italian food temple up to crowded Irish pubs. This variety leads to a phenomenon generally called ”pub hopping”, which is especially popular with the Leipzigers. When young people are asked about their favorite places they can hardly ever give a definite answer. What is ”in” today will be ”out” tomorrow.

Restaurants with a ‘view’

Also there are hardly any places in Leipzig where only tourists go. That is why it is relatively easy to make friends with the locals or the students of Leipzig. The historical sites in the city center are of course of special interest for tourists.
Sitting in one of the Nikolaikirchhof street restaurants you can enjoy the view of St. Nicholas’ Church, the starting point of the peaceful Monday demonstrations in 1989. Historical flair is also present on Naschmarkt. There you can sit next to the Goethe statue, which shows the great poet as a young student during a time when pretty Leipzig girls and nightlife in Auerbachs Keller was more important to him than his studies at the university. In his vicinity the centuries meet. There are the Baroque Old Stock Exchange and the Old City Hall, one of the finest examples of German Renaissance.

Dance: discotheques

After satisfying your hunger and quenching your thirst you can go on to Moritzbastei, Europe’s biggest students club, and dance the night away with music from blues to samba or dark wave. There is a unique flair in the old fortification vaults and an international public. Close by there are also other popular discotheques like Nachtcafé, JAM Dance Hall, Dark Flower and SPIZZ, which with current music trends attract above all a younger clientele.

Further places are the discotheques Markt 1 and New Eden, where oldies and pop music dominate and instead of Reudnitz or Ur-Krostitz beer sparkling wine is consumed.

More ‘dance’…

More ”work-out” , of a different kind – is guaranteed at the Metropolis, at the start of the Drallewatsch pub mile in Große Fleischergasse. Here you can watch others dance – attractive young ladies who entertain the guests all night long with table dancing.

Relax and chill with a beer

If you need a break, you can go to the next Freisitz just a few meters away and enjoy a nice cold lager. Looking for a clock in crowded Barfußgässchen will be in vain as there is no official closing time in Leipzig …

Shopping

Shopping in downtown and retail centers. The city offers a variety of specialty shops and souvenier shops.

Central Leipzig: Shopping in a friendly atmosphere

Leipzig’s development into a centre of trade fairs and commerce began with the granting of municipal status and market rights back in 1165. In 1497, Leipzig was awarded imperial trade fair privileges by Emperor Maximilian, enabling the city to flourish as of the 15th century. When August the Strong was on the throne, Leipzig became the economic centre of Saxony and underwent its second major upswing. Buildings testifying to this exciting period include Romanus and Fregehaus, as well as the Old Exchange.

In the early 20th century, Leipzig became the world’s leading trade fair centre. It was here that the principle of the samples fair was born and successfully applied. Indeed, the architecture in Leipzig’s city centre continues to be dominated by old commercial and exhibition buildings, with most of the buildings reflecting the wealth and power of commerce in past eras. Examples include Barthels Hof and trade fair buildings both old and new such as Städtisches Kaufhaus and Zentralmessepalast.

Leipzig is also famous for its beautiful arcades, and at the beginning of the 20th century there were 44 in Leipzig. Many of them have been elaborately restored in recent years and now radiate new splendour. Historical arcades with famous names are to be found wherever you go in the centre of Leipzig, such as Mädler Passage, Strohsack, Barthels and Specks Hof.

Nowadays many small, exclusive shops alongside superlative restaurants and bars provide a unique atmosphere for shopping, browsing, or simply enjoying a stroll.

Moreover, Leipzig is known as a city of change and bold new beginnings. The Peaceful Revolution in 1989 was born in St Nicholas’s Church in central Leipzig, and the results of German reunification can be seen everywhere – for example in the form of new office blocks and other commercial buildings tucked in between the city centre’s historical architecture.

It could be argued that Leipzig’s development into the shopping capital of central Germany began in 1994 when Peek & Cloppenburg‘s fashion store was opened on Petersstraße. The first privately financed department store to be built in eastern Germany following reunification, it paved the way for other brand-new construction projects such as Strohsack-Passage and Petersbogen, which contains an arcade linking Petersstraße to Burgplatz.

Department stores in Leipzig include: Galeria Kaufhof, Karstadt, Galeria Kaufhof, H&M, Wöhrl and Sport Scheck Don’t miss the Marktgalerie on a prestigious site opposite the Old City Hall. Some 11,000 square metres has been reserved for fashion retailer Breuninger. Marktgalerie has been designed to match the surrounding architecture and incorporates the traditional system of arcades.

In addition to 350 shops and 250 cafés, bars and restaurants, the city centre is also home to a varied arts scene. Ranging from the Gewandhaus concert hall and Leipzig Opera House through theatres, comedy revue and variety theatre to the world-famous St. Thomas’s Boys Choir, it really does have something for everyone.

The inner ring road creates a natural boundary, giving the centre a compact area of half a square kilometre. Measuring just 600 x 800 metres, the entire area is easily within walking distance. Ample parking near the centre is provided by the 5,300 spaces in the underground car parks on the ring road. Moreover, a modern traffic guidance system makes the time-consuming search for a parking spot a thing of the past. And the completion of the city centre tunnel makes it easy to reach the centre of Leipzig by rail.

“The centre’s where the station is” was the advertising slogan used years ago by the German railways. Yet how apt it remains for modern-day Leipzig! In addition to being the gateway to the city centre, the restored Leipzig Central Station combines the atmosphere and charm of central Leipzig with the international air of Europe’s biggest railway terminus.
With over 140 shops and eateries, the shopping mall at Leipzig Central Station reflects the diversity found in the main shopping area with the added bonus of protection from the elements. Another attraction is that many of the shops are open until 10pm.

The city centre of Leipzig is continuing to enjoy rapid development. Thanks to its compact size, variety of functions and a superb blend of shopping, the arts and eating out, it is well on the way to becoming one of Germany’s most attractive city centres.

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