The East German city of Leipzig played a pivotal role in the fall of the Berlin Wall, with the nation’s first wave of protests against the notorious division taking place here. Today it is a thoroughly modern and outward looking city, but also one with a firm eye on its past, seen in the historic cobbled main square lined with monuments, renaissance buildings and meandering arcades.
Culturally, it has always been a hotbed for world class art and music, and it is a heritage that endures to this day – in the city’s music houses, museums and galleries. A quintessential café culture can also be found here, offering ample opportunity for people watching, while serious foodies will find plenty to satisfy them too.
For those planning a visit to Leipzig, we’ve selected 12 of the best and most unique things to see and do. We hope you get to experience at least some of them during your stay.
1. Designers’ Open
When you think of cutting edge design and innovation, it is not long before the mind turns to Germany. In Leipzig, the design conscious are invited to explore the latest trends at Designers’ Open, an international exhibition that showcases where and how the design world is advancing in the fields of technology, fashion, furniture, jewellery and plenty more besides. Held over three days each October at the conference centre Kongresshalle am Zoo Leipzig, it is one of the city’s flagship trade events of the year, attracting leading thinkers, key industry figures and other international design enthusiasts. Well worth a visit if you’re in town.
2. Leipzig Panometer
From the outside, few would guess that the Leipzig Panometer is home to some of the city’ finest cultural output. A former gasometer, its industrial appearance tells only half the story, because in its modern guise the building’s vast confines play host to a richly diverse assortment of visual exhibitions, displays and performances, often utilising state-of-the-art technology. This year, the venue stages the eagerly awaited 360° Panorama “TITANIC – The Promise of Modernity” by Yadegar Asisi, an underwater expedition to the sunken passenger ship in the North Atlantic. As well as remembering the actual maritime tragedy, the event also seeks to promote contemplation of man’s efforts to overcome nature. A must-see for any visitors to Leipzig in 2017.
3. Museum in der “Runden Ecke”
Housed in the former district headquarters of the East German State Security Service – or “Stasi” as they are better known – this museum offers a comprehensive window into the functions and methodologies of the notorious organisation and its staff. As you walk through its corridors, you’ll see what the building was like in the days when Stasi officers engaged in such nefarious tactics as recruiting informers with incentives or blackmail, compiling reports on East German citizens, opening mail from abroad, and interrogating prisoners.
4. The Market
A platform for creatives and young entrepreneurs, The Market is pretty much the perfect venue for a leisurely weekend activity in Leipzig. Held every Sunday, the event offers a veritable smorgasbord of street food concepts, handmade vintage fashion, design and urban art. It also features regular workshops and musical concerts.
This is one of Leipzig’s oldest and most popular house and techno clubs, and when it comes to nocturnal hedonism, Distillery is where the fun’s at. Renowned figures from the world of dance music including Carl Craig, Sven Väth, Richie Hawtin, and Ricardo Villalobos have all appeared behind Distillery’s decks. And even if those names mean little to you, if you like raucous music, smoke machines and plenty of booze, there’s no obstacle to having a great time here.
6. D21 Kunstraum
For an extensive collection of superb and often beguiling contemporary art, the gallery at D21 Kunstraum must be at the top of the list. Created to showcase international contemporary art exhibitions, and serve as a laboratory for local and foreign artists and curators to play with concepts and ideas, the displays are often focused on new media, installation and performance.
Whichever city you’re visiting, a trip to Germany is incomplete without popping along to a beer keller – where lashings of food and drink are invariably in ample supply. One of Leipzig’s finest is Auerbachskeller, which was founded way back in 1525 and became steeped in folklore due to its role in the legend of Faust, a play written by iconic poet and playwright Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, as the first place the character Mephistopheles takes the protagonist Faust on their travels. The venue is divided into two sections: the vaulted Grosser Keller for hearty Saxonian dishes and four separate historic rooms of the Historische Weinstuben for upscale German fare.
8. The Leipzig Gewandhaus
Leipzig’s official orchestra is – quite literally – music to the ears of anyone who hears them. The ensemble hosts regular performances across the city, but there’s nowhere better to watch them than the Opera House, where the pitch-perfect acoustics along with the general magnificence of the venue will create a sensory experience you’ll not forget in a hurry.
This vast brick compound was once the largest cotton mill in Europe. But after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it became part of the wave of new art movements to take hold across East Germany and today houses a wide range of galleries, artist studios, a few boutiques shops and a cafe. A great place for an afternoon wander, especially for art enthusiasts.
10. Westflügel Lindenfels
At the beating heart of Leipzig’s cultural life is the Westflügel Lindenfels theatre, a place where creativity and innovation are not just embraced but cherished as if they are the source of life itself. Visitors can come and watch a diverse selection of performances, all with one thing in common – they turn inanimate materials into art. Intrigued? Come and see for yourself.
11. Leipzig Zoological Garden
Dating back over 120 years, Leipzig Zoo is one of the oldest and most famous zoos in Germany. It is home to many rare animal species such as the Baikal seal, the musk deer and the okapi, while an exceptional aquarium features landscaped pools, a terrarium and a panorama shark tank, offering a fantastic insight into underwater worlds and their exotic inhabitants.
12. The Mendelssohn House
Fans of classical museum will love exploring this fascinating house-cum-museum, which was once the residence of legendary German composer Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. Artefacts relating to his life and career, including original letters and scores, along with watercolours and original furniture where the great man would rest his weary legs, are just some of the highlights. With so much to see, we recommend blocking out a full afternoon in your schedule to look around.