Five reasons to include Leipzig in your German itinerary
Last month I had the opportunity to enjoy a pleasant staycation in Leipzig. I have to admit, up until a few months ago, I was never considering visiting it, but as it was on the top of my niece's list of places she'd like to study, and it was brought to my attention inevitably. With the beginning of school year and my niece effectively moving there to attend Leipzig's University, planning a trip to Leipzig became a priority. I wanted to spend some quality time with her before she started classes, but I also didn't want to bother her during orientation week, so I also had plenty of time by myself to explore and get to know the city. And here are a few reasons why I think you should do it, too.
Reason #1: Location-wise, it is very easy to reach it. Yes, Leipzig has its own airport, but Berlin is just around 2 hours away, with plenty of options to travel between both cities (by train or by bus), with prices starting at less than 10 euros each way. You can even opt to visit Leipzig as a day trip, though I personally would give it more time.
Reason #2: It's a cosmopolitan city, though a very calm and safe one.
At least this is how I saw it. Leipzig is Saxony's largest city, with a population of almost 600,000 people. Even though the city is definitely larger than it appeared to me, most of its tourist sights are all located close to each other - in the city center. This is also where I chose to stay and everything was within walking distance for me, which was really convenient. Germany is not a very affordable country, so having a fully equipped kitchen, where I could prep my breakfast and some quick dinner if I'd like to was a also major plus.
Reason #3: Leipzig paid an important role in German history
Before Germany's reunification, Leipzig was standing on its Eastern side. This month the world marked the 30th anniversary of the falling of Berlin wall and the peaceful Monday revolution (the movement that led to the reunification) stared in Leipzig indeed - every Monday since 1982 "prayers for peace" were held in St. Nicholas Church in Leipzig city center until one day, after the mass people went on the streets. This day is still celebrated today with Leipzig Festival of Lights, every year on October 9th.
Also, within just a few minutes walking distance from St. Nicholas church, stands the museum showing how everyday life in Eastern Germany used to be like - Zeitgeschichtliches Forum.
Reason #4: Architecture masterpieces
Leipzig's city center is an open air museum when it comes to architectural beauty. From Renaissance and Gründerzeit architecture, through typical communism-styled structures all the way to 21st century modern buildings, you can spot it all within a short walk.
Reason #5: Local Fests
Leipzig's cultural agenda is quite busy. Almost every day there is something happening on its Market Square (right in front of the Old Town House). In just a few days exactly there, its local Christmas market will take place, as well. This year it starts on November 26th and goes to December 23rd. Apparently this is one of the oldest and most beautiful Christmas markets in Germany, dating all the way back to 1458. So sad I won't be able to go back so soon and experience it.
For the week I spent in Leipzig however, I was able to attend two local celebrations. The first was the Leipzig Festival of Lights, which takes place every year on October 9th in front of the Opera house. It was really impressive that despite the rain and not very welcoming weather, so many people gathered together to pay tribute to the history that marked their live not so long ago.
The second one was Leipzig's Oktoberfest. I'm not a beer drinker, I'd definitely rather wine, but I have to admit that German beer tasted much better than I was expecting. If you, like me as well, don't drink beer, then Leipzig's Oktoberfest is just for you - they also serve cocktails. And no, nobody will spill beer on you if you're not drinking. Everyone is just too busy having fun. The atmosphere was amazing, the food was easily accessible and delicious, there were no lines - not to get inside, nor at the bar, and there were even heaters in the restrooms. It also had that local feeling and nothing from all the mess and confusion I've heard that happens in Munich for example (though I personally haven't been to Munich's Oktoberfest). Just put on some comfortable shoes, because even if you have a table, you will be using the benches to dance (a lot) and not to sit.
Have in mind that Leipzig's Oktoberfest happens on weekends only (Friday and Saturday nights), so recommend you to buy tickets in advance, specially if you plan to attend the first or the last weekends of the event.
Side not: not everybody wears dirndl or traditional clothing. There were many people who went there dressed completely normal just to have fun with their friends. If you want to be part of the Oktoberfest spirit, but don't want to spend too much for only one night (a traditional dirndl starts at around 100 euros), check out the stores around. We found some dirndls on sale in H&M and NewYorker, though we thought they were a bit ugly, so bought just a shirt instead. For the guys, as long as you're wearing a gingham shirt, you're fine.
What not to miss in Leipzig?
As I already mentioned above, Leipzig got me with its architecture. I wasn't expecting to find such gems in a city form Eastern Germany, yet they are everywhere. Right upon arrival, the enormous structure of Leipzig's Hauptbahnhof welcomed me and it's impossible to not be impressed.
The Renaissance styled Old Town House (Altes Rathaus) is a building, straight out of a fairytale, that served the city from 1556 to 1909. On the Market Square's cobblestone in front of it, you can spot the city's coat of arms.
Near by, on both sides of the Old Town House are St. Nicholas and St. Thomas churches. Both deserve attention, but the second one is most known because of Johann Sebastian Bach, who worked here as a Kapellmeister from 1723 until his death in 1750. The church also holds his remains and right in front of it is located the Bach Museum.
The Maddler Passage is a hallway-like shopping center, with stores and some cute bars. Its curvy ceilings are a delight for the sight, but they are not the only thing that attracts visitors to stop by. At its underground floor is the Auerbach's Cellar - a beautiful restaurant, where the arch theme continues. Apparently, this is the second oldest restaurant in town, with a great wine bar reputation since the 16th century. However, it is most known from Goethe's play "Faust" as the first place Mephistopheles takes Faust on their travels. We didn't try the food though - I went in during the afternoon to check it out with the idea of going there for dinner later, but the strong scent of food and sauces was everywhere, so decided to skip it. If you give it a try, tell me if it was worth it.
The Opera house and University are both located at Augustusplatz. The University is the second oldest one in Germany and perfectly combines old and new architecture. This is also the place where the pedestrian street Grimmaische starts to lead you to all of the above mentioned sights.
The New Town Hall also deserves attention, believe me. It's a magnificent example of Gründerzeit architecture.
A bit further outside the city center, Peterskirche is a beautiful lutheran church to check out.
Check out the following gallery for more beautiful buildings from all around Leipzig's streets.
Where to eat in Leipzig?
Right at the building of the Old Town House there's a restaurant with the same name "Das Altes Rathaus". The chilly wurst there is so yummy.
Close to it, on the other side of the Market Square there's a restaurant called "Augustiner". It's actually a Bavarian chain, but if you'd like to try several German beers, this is the right place. Also, their Wienner Scnitzel is to die for.
I was not expecting to find so many Italian restaurants in Leipzig, but apparently Italian cuisine is in high demand there (as well as Indian and Asian food). We tried the one called "Andria" and loved it so much we went back for a second round. Plus, it was just outside our's apartment door, which was very convenient.
Once we went to "Cafe Cantona" for a brunch and while all the ingredients tasted good and fresh, the entire experience was ruined by the amount of olive oil everything was covered by. Despite that, the atmosphere was pleasant, so I'd give it another try for an afternoon glass of wine for example.
If you have a sweet tooth, then you have to check out the "Magic Waffle". As the name suggests it, the waffles are really good and I sure confirm it. And of course, let's not forget the Lukas bakeries that are literally at every corner and offer a great variety of pastries you can enjoy throughout the entire day.
Where to stay in Leipzig?
I personally stayed right in Leipzig's old center heart. Rented an individual apartment, with a fully equipped kitchen and rooftop balcony, and stunning views of the surrounding skyline. Plus, just outside our door, there was a supermarket, a bakery and several restaurants. Here you can find a link to the property.
By the way, we had to check out at 11 am, but our bus back to Berlin wasn't until the early afternoon. So, the central location once again paid off and we went to Leipzig's Hauptbahnhof to leave the bags at the luggage boxes available to rent. There are two sizes and prices are much more accessible than I'd thought.
I hope I have already convinced you to include Leipzig next time you plan a trip to Germany. If all this information wasn't enough, may be the Leipzig Zoo with do the job. Spread at over 27 hectares of land, it is home to more than 850 different species from Africa, South America and Asia. It even has the world's largest indoor rainforest atrium and a volcano tunnel, where you can personally examine some of the world's oldest creatures. Sounds amazing, right? You better plan to spend a full day here.
See you in Leipzig?
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