Among the many cultural capitals of Europe, keep a place of honor for Leipzig. It was founded in the Middle Ages, and soon became an important center of trade, culture and internationalism. Its location at an important crossroads at the time made it a lively center that attracted the best minds. An impressive proof of this is the city’s university, which was founded at the beginning of the fifteenth century and is one of the oldest in Europe (and the world).
Leipzig has been internationally renowned for its cultural scene for centuries, and is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Germany. It was home to some of the greatest musicians Europe has ever known, such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann and many others. Its music and theater school, founded in the middle of the 19th century, is known throughout the world. The city is filled with many museums dedicated to art and culture in their various and varied forms. In the Jewish context, the city was a very important center of Jewish life in Europe in general and in Germany in particular, as evidenced by the many personalities who lived and worked there, as well as those who wrote about it (including Rabbi Nachman of Breslav, SH Agnon and many others).
In addition to all these, Leipzig plays a particularly important role in the modern history of Germany. It was the second largest city in post-World War II East Germany, after the capital Berlin. Nicholas Church in the city is where the silent Mary meetings began that eventually led to the revolution that precipitated the fall of the Berlin Wall and the unification of Germany. Leipzig has a lot to offer its visitors, especially for those looking for culture, art and history.
Due to its important role in the history of Germany in particular and Europe in general, Leipzig is full of ancient buildings, museums, heritage sites and monuments. Although it was badly damaged during the Second World War, some of its districts were restored and some were saved from the Allied bombings. Due to their variety and large number, we will dedicate a separate section to the review of some of the most famous museums of the city.
As part of the wars of the coalition of nations under the French Napoleon Bonaparte, the largest battle that Europe knew until the First World War took place near Leipzig, when the total forces present in the field reached about one and a half million soldiers. The battle spread over four days in October of 1813, and a total of about one hundred thousand soldiers died in it, and many tens of thousands more were wounded and taken prisoner. This is one of the most significant battles that ultimately led to the complete defeat of Napoleon.
The monument commemorating the battle began to be built in the middle of the nineteenth century, but it was only completed in 1913, on the centenary of the famous battle. It is still one of the tallest monuments in Europe built to commemorate a war, and is the largest in Germany. It stands out from afar with its great massiveness, being built of concrete and gloomy granite. The setting of the monument is deceiving in its beauty, as the pool next to it and the many trees that surround it instill a pastoral and calm atmosphere.
Among other things, you can find in the monument an especially large statue of the Archangel Michael, the crypt dedicated to the memory of the dead warriors as well as the second floor, where there are four human statues representing the four noble qualities attributed to the German peoples – faith, sacrifice, productivity and courage.
You can’t miss this building, especially if you come to the market square. This beautiful building began to be built in the middle of the 16th century. It is considered a spectacular example of Renaissance architecture, and is probably one of the most beautiful you will see on your trip. The tower (which leans slightly to the left), the facade, the windows, the arches and more, all these help you imagine the centrality of this structure in the life of the city for almost five hundred years.
To add to the overall atmosphere, under the building’s many arches you will find a host of luxury restaurants, while the building itself is now home to the Leipzig City Museum. Here you will find many exhibits and explanations that will educate you about the history of the city, including the darker one (you can visit the remains of the dungeon of the city hall). One of the famous exhibits you’ll find here is the transcription of the Sachsenspiegel, the Holy Roman Empire’s 13th-century law book.
During the Nazi regime, almost all of the city’s Jews (about 14,000 in number) were sent to be exterminated in the Tersenstadt camp, while according to the community’s records, only 15 Jews remained at the end of the war. After the war, about 200 survivors returned to her, who rebuilt the community. Today the Jewish community in Leipzig is one of the most active in Germany.
The monument in memory of the Great Synagogue in Leipzig, which was built in the middle of the 19th century and burned to the ground on Kristallnacht in 1938, was inaugurated in June of 2001. The monument extends over the area where the synagogue once stood, and includes 140 chairs made of bronze, standing desolate and waiting for the Jews of the city to sit on them . In addition to the performance itself, you will find memorial plaques as well as signs that include information about the city’s Jewish community in Hebrew, English and German.
Leipzig, as mentioned, is one of the cultural capitals of Europe. Its rich musical history, the ancient university and the great artists who visited it, all these made it a center of attraction for creators and artists from the best known on the continent. The city is full of many museums of every possible type, so you will surely find one that suits your taste. Museums dedicated to art, music, trains and even a museum about the secret police of East Germany, all these and more you can find in the city.
Anyone interested in the history of East Germany, which existed from 1949 until German reunification in the late 1980s, must visit this museum, which is entirely dedicated to the lives of Germans and the conduct of Germany under the communist regime. You can find everything here, from propaganda and propaganda posters, to speeches by the leaders of the Socialist United Party (SED) that ruled East Germany, communication equipment, art of the time, personal documents and rare photos. Life in East Germany after reunification is also presented in the museum.
In addition to the various performances, and due to the central location of Leipzig and its residents in the process, you will find here an entire section dedicated to the non-violent protests that began here and spread all over the country, until they led to the fall of the wall.
Another destination to visit for those interested in Germany’s post-war history is the Round Corner Museum, which is entirely dedicated to the activities of East Germany’s Ministry of State Security (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit), better known as the Stasi. This office was actually East Germany’s secret police and central intelligence agency, considered one of the best in the world during the Cold War. He used a variety of methods, more humane and less (to say the least), in order to follow the citizens of East Germany as well as in order to implant spy agents in Europe and the United States.
The Stasi headquarters in Leipzig was one of the first places that the people of the non-violent protest entered, only about a month after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The building itself has been preserved in its original form, and it presents visitors with the activities of the Stasi. The place you will find documents, uniforms, spy tools such as receivers and hidden cameras, and much more.
This is one of the buildings in Leipzig that suffered the destruction of the Second World War in the most severe way, which led to the fact that for decades it stood desolate and desolate. Fortunately for art, the important works that were confined there in the period before the war were stored in other places during it, so that they were not damaged and could return to it when the renovation was completed, in 2004.
The structure of the museum itself can be somewhat misleading, because it looks like a museum of modern art. A huge rectangle made entirely of glass, which looks as if it landed from some architectural plan of a modern city, and not as one that contains masterpieces of European art from the past centuries, starting with the Middle Ages. Among other works here you can find the work of German Renaissance artists (for example Frans Hals and Lucas Cranach), German Romantic artists and even French Impressionists. The museum is a must visit for art lovers.
For those wanting to trace Leipzig’s impressive musical history, it’s hard to find a better place to visit than the Bach Museum. The museum, which is close to many other tourist sites, is entirely dedicated to the life, work and genealogy of the great baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach. This is not a particularly large museum, but one that will ignite the imagination of classical music lovers.
Among the other items displayed here you can see parts of the piano that Bach himself played, a violin from his orchestra and even a viola d’amore (a bowed instrument that is no longer in use today), which was built by the famous violin maker Johann Sebastian Hoffmann, who was also his close friend of Bach. On top of that, you can see the composer’s family tree, and understand how influential the Bach family was on the European Baroque music scene (and beyond).
The most interesting exhibit resides in the Treasure Room, where Bach’s original manuscripts are alternately displayed. The writings are in such delicate condition that they can only be displayed for a few months at a time, leading to the exhibit being on-site and the manuscripts on display changing frequently.
In order to complete the musical experience of Leipzig, you are invited to visit the last (and only preserved) apartment where the converted 19th century Jewish composer Felix Mendelssohn (who changed his name to Bartholdi after converting to Christianity) lived. Mendelssohn lived with his family in this neoclassical building for only two years before he died (in 1847), and 150 years later, in 1997, a museum dedicated entirely to the life and work of the great and prolific composer was opened there.
The items displayed in the museum include both original manuscripts by Mendelssohn himself, and furniture that was used by him and his family while they lived there. In order to make the museum accessible to a younger audience, the museum underwent a significant renovation in 2014, as part of which, among other things, an interactive exhibit was added that illustrates the feeling of conducting your own orchestra.
In addition to the museum itself, the area on which the building sits maintains its original condition as it was in the nineteenth century. Classical music lovers will be pleased to hear that the building’s carriage house has been converted into a small concert hall, and chamber music concerts are held there on a regular basis.
It may seem strange that we are talking about coffee in Leipzig, and more about a museum dedicated to it, but if you are a coffee lover, you must not miss this experience. The Coffe Baum cafe is one of the oldest institutions of its kind in all of Europe, which has been standing for more than 300 years, starting with its opening in 1717. As a cafe that is aware of its heritage, a 15-room museum has been opened there, which presents both the history of coffee in general, and the The boom of coffee shops and the coffee scene in Saxony in particular. Entrance to the museum is free, but it is not recommended to give up a cup of fine espresso before you start the tour.
Besides the excellent coffee served here, you can walk around the various rooms of the museum, get an impression of ancient storage containers, tools for brewing coffee, roasting machines that are decades and hundreds of years old, old advertisements and more. After visiting here, you will understand the claim that the German obsession with coffee shops began here, in Leipzig.
Leipzig Hauptbahnhof (photo: Appaloosa)
Leipzig has a lot to do beyond museums and heritage sites, but even those who don’t speak history immerse themselves in it and smell it from afar. That’s how it is when you visit the city that was and is the center of Saxony’s life for so long. However, even if your heart is torn from history and heritage, you are guaranteed to have something to do in Leipzig. Vibrant markets, contemporary art, luxury shopping centers, all these and more you can find here.
Although the market square (and the buildings surrounding it) is of great historical importance, today it is mainly known for its lively and unique atmosphere, which you will not find anywhere else in Leipzig. The square is home to a wide variety of markets, from a colorful weekly farmers’ market, to the traditional Easter market, to the city’s famous giant Christmas market. The activity in the square justifies its name, and the tradition of markets here dates back hundreds of years.
Apart from the fact that it is an especially large square that is fun to stroll through even without connection to the markets, the square is a fascinating combination of old and new. You will find the city’s old town hall, the city’s weights and measures building that was built in the sixteenth century and was the beating heart of the city’s commerce and other ancient buildings, as well as newer buildings built in modern times.
In addition to the square’s architecture, markets and many entertainment venues, cultural events, concerts and festivals are often held here. One of the most famous of them is the Leipzig Medieval Festival (Wave Gothic Treffen), which is the largest Gothic festival in the world.
South of the center of Leipzig, in a quiet suburb called Connewitz, there are two round and tall buildings, which were once used to store gas and over the years were taken out of use. The dimensions of the larger structure are enormous, as it is 50 meters high, and 57 meters in diameter. It was built at the beginning of the twentieth century, but fell into disuse and stood desolate for a long time.
It wasn’t until the early 2000s that the larger building was converted into a panometer, which is basically a display of huge panorama paintings spanning the inner perimeter of the building. The panorama paintings are 30 meters high, and more than a hundred (!) meters long. The painting changes every few years, when, among other things, paintings depicting the Battle of Leipzig, the Titanic, ancient Rome and more were displayed there. In addition to the painting itself, there is a modest display of the subject shown in the panorama painting in the panometer at any given time.
If you are a shopaholic, and even if you don’t have enough money to spend here, it is highly recommended to visit this prestigious shopping avenue, which is strategically located between the New Market (Neumarkt) and Grimmaische Straße. This avenue was opened at the beginning of the twentieth century by a rich leather merchant, which explains its noble design and the European feel of the turn of the century.
This shopping center is much bigger than its name suggests. It spans four floors with a length of about 140 meters each, so there is definitely somewhere to go. Here you will find the best of the most prestigious international fashion chains, as well as local boutiques. This is a perfect place to visit to experience a bit of old Europe, and also to spend some money on fine European fashion.
You may be surprised to find a train station as a tourist attraction, but it is not just another train station. The railway station of Leipzig is the third largest in Germany with 24 platforms, and the largest in the world in terms of the area on which it is built. The station covers an incredible area of about 83 dunams (more than ten football fields), and the length of its frontage alone is about 300 meters.
In addition to its daily use in transportation between cities in Germany (and abroad), platform 24 of the station serves as a museum where train carriages and engines from different periods are displayed, exhibits that can fascinate those interested in the field. In addition to that, about twenty years ago a part of the station was converted into a three-story mall, full of boutiques, restaurants and a variety of fashion stores that could provide you with employment for a whole day.