Walking Tour: Leipzig's Top Trading Palaces

  • Start Grimmaische Strasse
  • Finish Burgplatz
  • Length 1km; one hour

Leipzig's 500-year pedigree as a trading hub is splendidly reflected in its many historic arcades, courtyards and trade-fair palaces dotted around the city centre, each one flaunting its own character and design details. Today, the often-grand buildings harbour boutiques, cafes and restaurants alongside offices and apartments on the upper floors. Trading arcades create an alternative street grid, an additional dimension in the city's layout that is not immediately apparent to outsiders.

The most famous arcade is the 1914 Mädlerpassage, a lavish mix of neo-Renaissance and art nouveau and home to Auerbachs Keller, the restaurant featured in Goethe's Faust. Before setting off, fuel yourself up with coffee and Leipziger Lerche, the city's signature dessert, at Kümmel Apotheke cafe. On the way out, don't forget to touch the foot of the Faust statue near the Grimmaische Strasse exit – it will bring you good luck (or so they say).

Make your way to Reichsstrasse and the gorgeously restored 1908 Speck's Hof, whose light-flooded atriums are decorated with murals, tiles and paintings by local artists Moritz Götze, Bruno Griesel and Johannes Grützke. Exit onto Nikolaistrasse via the attached Hansa-Haus, past a water-filled basin that's a copy of a 3500-year-old Ming Dynasty sound bowl. Wet your hands and run them over the two pommels to make the water fizz.

Follow Nikolaistrasse down to Universitätsstrasse and the 1893 Städtisches Kaufhaus. It's on the site of Leipzig's first cloth exchange (Gewandhaus) and the original concert hall of the Gewandhaus Orchestra, which was torn down to make room for this neo-baroque complex.

Exit onto Neumarkt and immediately enter the Messehofpassage, which was the first post-WWII trade building to be completed in 1950. Remodelled a few years ago, the mushroom-shaped column near the Peterstrasse exit is the only vestige of the old arcade.

Turn left on Peterstrasse and head down to the Petersbogen, an elegantly curving glass-covered arcade from 2001 that replaced the Juridicum Passage, which was destroyed in WWII. Before that, Leipzig's esteemed law school stood in this place for 500 years.