Leipzig is a lively city with a rich cultural, art and musical heritage in Eastern Germany, in the state of Saxony. It’s no wonder Leipzig has been dubbed Hypezig, drawing comparisons to Berlin in the 1990s and 2000s! Affordable, diverse, and open, the city has in the past decade attracted young people from across Germany, Europe and beyond, leading to a trendsetting atmosphere of art and culture.
I spent a long autumn weekend in Leipzig and fell in love with this city I knew so little about before. My schedule was packed full – there’s no shortage of things to see and do in Leipzig! It’s also a compact city and bike-friendly, with a historic and commercial centre surrounded by residential and hip neighbourhoods, so it’s easy to get around. We used Leipzig Card which provides unlimited travel on public transportation and other discounts to get around by tram and bus.
Whether you’re interested in exploring Leipzig’s rich cultural history, enjoying its vibrant nightlife, or simply soaking in the city’s atmosphere, there’s something for everyone in this Eastern German gem.
Leipzig’s cultural heritage
Leipzig has a long history as one of Germany’s wealthiest cities and a hub of arts and culture. Its extensive range of galleries, museums, and concert halls make it a destination worth visiting, and many important sights can be found within half a mile of the city centre.
Leipzig is also known for its rich cultural and musical heritage – composer Johann Sebastian Bach, lived and worked in the city, as did Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who wrote his famous play “Faust” here. The Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra is one of the oldest symphony orchestras in the world.
The city’s affordability, diversity, and openness have attracted young people from across Europe, leading to a trendsetting atmosphere of music, dance, and art. If you’re looking to experience all that Leipzig has to offer, it’s definitely a city worth visiting.
How to get to Leipzig and where to stay
I travelled to Leipzig by car from Poland, but if you’re coming from further afield, you can easily fly to Berlin and then connect by train, which takes an average of 1h 40m. I stayed at Townhouse Leipzig, which I loved because of its prime city center location, next to St Thomas’s Church and the Bach Monument.
What’s also great about this hotel is the in-house restaurant, where breakfast is served every morning, but it’s also a great spot for dinner and cocktails. On that note, we were offered free welcome drinks at the bar in exchange for not getting our room’s towels washed every day, which we of course agreed to. I think it’s wonderful when hotels take steps towards sustainability and make it easy for their guests to choose right. Not surprising as Leipzig is a very progressive and green city, but more on that later!
Leipzig City Centre
From Townhouse Leipzig I could walk everywhere in the old town and explore the city’s most famous, historic sights on foot with a Leipzig private tour – Half day. Our certified guide Johannes (from Leipzig Erleben) took us on a walking tour through the city centre to discover the most famous sights of Leipzig in a short time.
Hard to imagine it now, but Leipzig city centre suffered heavy destruction during WWII, with about two thirds being damaged. Despite being a major urban hub in East Germany in the decades after the second world war, little changed to the city during the Soviet era. It’s only since the fall of the Berlin Wall – a historic event to which Leipzig and its people played an important part – that Leipzig came back to life.
Over the past 25 years, numerous Baroque, Renaissance, and Art Nouveau structures have been carefully restored. The city centre is now a lovely place to walk, with a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere, and a great destination for shopping.
The Leipzig Markt, the main square of the city, hosts farmers markets on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well as a Christmas Market which dates all the way back to 1458 – a great time to be visiting!
Stadt Leipzig, the Old Town Hall – which dominates the east side of the market square – is a grand building and outstanding example of German Renaissance architecture. In its 53 metres long ballroom, royal balls and weddings for the Saxon princes used to be held. Today, it is home to the Museum of City History.
Thomaskirche, or St. Thomas Church, is a Romanesque and Gothic architectural masterpiece that dates back to the 13th century.
Famous for Johann Sebastian Bach (who worked as a Kapellmeister) and Martin Luther (who introduced his religious reform while preaching at the church), the church is a must-visit for any visitor to Leipzig. Don’t miss one of the choir’s performances: St. Thomas Boys’ Choir is one of the most renowned boys’ choirs in Germany.
In the square, you’ll also find the Bach Museum which celebrates the composer’s life, with interactive musical displays and original manuscripts.
Speaking of music, Leipzig is also home to one of the oldest symphony orchestras in the world, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra.
Leipzig has a long tradition as a centre of trade: the Leipziger Messe is one of the oldest trade fair venues in the world, with more than 850 years of history! Proofs of that are still visible today in the form of impressive trading house and exhibition buildings, passageways and arcades – now home to luxury shops, restaurants and offices.
The best-known arcade is the Mädler Passage, built in 1912–14 with elegant skylights and a famous restaurant, Auerbachs Keller, once a favourite haunt of Goethe. Specks Hof is the oldest original shipping arcade in Leipzig.
I particularly enjoyed visiting Leipzig’s St. Nicholas Church and learning about the Prayers for Peace and Monday Demonstrations that use to be held in the square outside this church. These examples of activism turned into a global symbol of the Peaceful Revolution of 1989.
St. Nicholas Column, a column with a crown of palm branches, was erected in 1999 as a place of remembrance at the spot where the Leipzig Monday Demonstrations began.
Art lovers, don’t miss the MdbK Museum of Fine Arts which hosts a diverse collection of European and German art, including works by Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh.
Other notable landmarks in Leipzig include the New City Hall, a beautiful town hall known for its ornamental facade and artistic interior, and the Monument to the Battle of the Nations which commemorates the battle of Leipzig. With a height of 91 meters, it is one of the greatest monuments in Europe.
Where to eat around Leipzig’s city centre
I mostly dined in Plagwitz, but I had a few meals and coffees in the city centre so here’s a couple of places I definitely recommend you try in Leipzig. Definitely go to GAO Vegan restaurant, the best Vietnamese food in the city.
I love bakeries so a top spot for me is Macis Leipzig Biobäckerei: get artisanal bread and pretzel, freshly-prepared sandwiches, pastries and cakes. Look out for the traditional Leipziger Lerche, a unique almond and apricot marzipan pastry.
For German fare, go to Pilot which serves traditional East-German dishes. And because we are in Germany after all, you cannot leave without a taste of locally crafted beer at Bayerischer Bahnhof (housed in Germany’s oldest preserved railway), at Doldenmädel Braugasthaus, or at Goldhopfen.
A little farther away, but certainly worth the walk, is 7 shots coffee, a speciality coffee shop showcasing the best beans from German and European roasters.
Venture out of the city centre to Plagwitz
If you want to explore the coolest neighbourhood in Leipzig, look no further than Plagwitz, a western district that has become a hot spot for cultural and creative activity. An abundance of young artists, designers, gallery owners, architects, and freelancers who call Plagwitz home.
Start your journey with a walk along Karl-Heine-Strasse, where you’ll find a variety of bars, restaurants, bakeries, and unique shops such as Hafen Concept Store – great place to buy cute accessories and gifts.
I loved this neighbourhood and ended up going back there because of the appeal of good food and lively vibe. Karl Heine is home to cultural venues such as Westwerk, where a flea market takes place every Sunday.
If you’re in Leipzig on a weekend, don’t miss Plagwitzer Markthalle, a Saturday market where you can buy seasonal food from the region.
From there, stroll along the Karl-Heine canal and stop for a photo on King Albert Bridge. Don’t be surprised to see many people on kayaks on the canal – personal boat trips are possible year-round.
One must-see destination in Plagwitz is the Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei, or simply Spinnerei, a former cotton mill that has been transformed into a hub of art and culture, with galleries, exhibition halls, studios for 120 artists and one arthouse cinema housed within its walls.
Other notable attractions in Plagwitz include the Niemeyer Sphere, a café designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer; and Kunstkraftwerk Leipzig, an experimental factory for art, culture, design, and happenings housed in an old power plant.
Plagwitz is a foodie destination, and a walking food tour with Allerleipzig is a great way to experience it. Not only did we learn about the history of this district, we also met local shop owners, tasted the best foods and drinks (my favourite discovery was Bamboo’s Streetfood inside former industrial building Westwerk), and uncovered the culinary traditions of Eastern Germany.
Best places to eat and drink in Plagwitz
If you don’t have time or interest to join a food tour, you can of course explore the neighborhood’s best places to eat and drink on your own.
Seidels Klosterbäckerei is a small family-run bakery in beautiful Nossen in central Saxony with more than 100 years of baking tradition. They supply fresh bread and great quality cinnamon rolls to their Plagwitz bakey every morning,
To spend a perfect evening in Karl-Heine-Strasse, start at Le Petit Franz for a glass of wine and then cross the street to Süß & Salzig for a bistro dining experience.
We enjoyed a light snack and flat white at Mono Loco Kaffeebar on Karl-Heine-Strasse (try the franzbrötchen!). For more speciality coffee in Plagwitz, head to OBENAUF Kaffeemanufaktur or to Kaffeerösterei BRÜHBAR.
Südvorstadt: Clara Zetkin Park
Südvorstadt is a neighborhood located in the south of Leipzig, known for its rich cultural and artistic scene. The heart of it is Clara Zetkin Park – named after the famous German socialist and women’s rights activist – where you can enjoy a peaceful stroll through the lush greenery, rent a canoe to paddle along the canal, or have a picnic on the grass. I was in Leipzig at the end of October and the trees looked incredible in all the shades of red and yellow!
Südvorstadt main street, Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse (also known as “KarLi”), is a popular destination for students and expats thanks to its cool and edgy vibe. On this street, you’ll find plenty of bars, shops, restaurants, and nightclubs extending all the way down to the next district of Connewitz.
KarLi was my favourite discovery of Leipzig and one afternoon was definitely not enough to discover it all!
I don’t have any food recommendations for KarLi, but two of my favourite speciality coffee shops of Leipzig are located there: grato espressobar the new-ish sister café to Dankbar Kaffee and a must for breakfast, pastries and all day coffee drinks; and Kalas Coffee, a popular café and weekend brunch spot opened by a well-established Korean speciality coffee roaster from Seoul;
There is plenty to do and see in Leipzig for a long weekend and I hope this post has made you want to visit this Eastern German gem! If you have more time, the surrounding region offers many opportunities for excursions and outdoor activities, such as boat trips in the lakes and waterways, hiking or cycling.
Disclaimer: I travelled to Leipzig as a guest of Leipzig.Travel tourism board.