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Leipzig beyond the Altstadt: where to have fun in 'Hypezig'

Synonymous with cultural giants such as Bach, Wagner and Mendelssohn, Leipzig is a city whose illustrious history is, for many, the most obvious draw.

At Leipzig’s heart, the Altstadt (Old Town) has excellent museums and some wonderful Saxon architecture, but it's actually fairly unrepresentative of the place quickly garnering a reputation as 'the new Berlin' – the city's party-hardiness, liveability and population of young creatives have earned it the nickname 'Hypezig'. Here's a look at two of the most fun areas of the city, often overlooked by visitors.

Zentrum Süd & Südvorstadt

Despite its name, there’s nothing remotely suburban about Leipzig’s ‘Southern Suburb’; this is the city's delightfully eccentric, student hub. The focus of the action lies on the main artery of Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse, or Karli, as anyone who has been here for more than five minutes calls it. Karli begins just at the edge of the Altstadt and carries on all the way down through Zentrum Süd and Südvorstadt to punky Connewitz, dotted on both sides by bars, restaurants and cafes.

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A colourful building in anarchic Connewitz © Juergen Stumpe / Getty Images

Karli is currently undergoing a much needed modernisation, which will mean it should soon be even more fun to wander along. In the meantime there are still ample places to keep visitors occupied: Leipzig’s most famous techno club, Distillery, a clutch of awesome bars such as legendary student pub Beyer Haus, performance space, cinema and bar naTo and funky Café Waldi, and over a dozen döner outlets. Don’t miss having your photo taken in the iconic Photoautomat, where almost every local has at some point posed for black and white passport photos with friends.

These neighbourhoods come to life at night; on long summer evenings crowds of merrymakers sit outside as the darkness slowly descends, before heading out to dance or watch bands play. Conne Island in anarchic Connewitz is the place to do the latter, while party people shouldn't miss Flowerpower, the kind of dingy, retro place where last orders are hardly ever called, and which is open well beyond dawn. You can even spend the night upstairs for a small consideration, should the prospect of going back to your hotel be too much for you.

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Südvorstadt's naTo is a performance space, cinema and bar in one © Roetting / Getty Images

Plagwitz

Crossing the Weisse Elster river, which splits Leipzig in two, you’ll pass through luscious parkland on both sides before coming to Plagwitz, an up-and-coming area of the city which is fast attracting new arrivals in search of somewhere cheap and fun to live. Here, pretty cobbled side streets meet canals and converted factories and warehouses to give this area an identity all of its own. The main street in Plagwitz is the wide, tree-lined Karl-Heine-Strasse, which runs through the heart of the neighbourhood. It passes over the eponymous Karl-Heine-Kanal to Plagwitz S-Bahn station, the main transport hub for the area, aside from the trams that run along the street into the Altstadt.

Buntgarnwerke und Karl-Heine-Kanal im Abendlicht, Leipzig/ Deutschland
Karl-Heine-Kanal © Westend61 / Getty Images

Plagwitz is known for its funky bars and pubs, which are concentrated along Karl-Heine-Strasse and its side streets. Two of the best known are Noch Besser Leben (‘Live Even Better’), which is a smoky pub with a sociable atmosphere, and the darker, rather cooler Westwerk, located inside a converted factory, where the crowd plays ping pong and table football as the music gets pumped up on the dance floor.

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The expansive exterior of Baumwollspinnerei © Andreas Bauer / Getty Images

Perhaps Plagwitz’s most iconic landmark, the enormous Baumwollspinnerei (spinnerei.de) complex will please anyone interested in industrial spaces that have been reimagined for the 21st century. This vast group of buildings, just beyond the S-Bahn station, has been converted into design studios, art galleries, offices and other imaginitive spaces, refocusing Leipzig’s creativity into one giant, interrelated area. A funky garden cafe and a cooler-than-cool loft hotel complete the scene, and it’s a good place to wind up after a walk through this part of town.

Where to eat

Both the Südvorstadt and Plagwitz have an enormous choice of eating options.  The two main streets in each area, the Karli and Karl-Heine-Strasse, are chock-full of options. Some favourites on and around the Karli include Tobagi for Korean food and Café Pushkin for comfort food, while on Karl-Heine-Strasse head to Reisladen to fill up on the lunchtime specials, which change daily.

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Café Puschkin serves up comfort food in Südvorstadt © Torsten Maue / CC BY-SA 2.0

Make it happen

Leipzig is well connected by train to several cities in Germany including Berlin, Dresden and Frankfurt. There’s also a small airport, Leipzig/Halle Airport, which has direct flights to London, Vienna and several other cities in Germany.

There’s a good selection of hotels and hostels in Leipzig and, while most are located in the Altstadt, a few options can be found in the city’s lesser known areas, including the minimalist and stylish self-service lofts available at Meisterzimmer in the Baumwollspinnerei, and the retro Hostel Blauer Stern, in Plagwitz’s Lindauer Markt.