'Hypezig!' cry the papers, 'the New Berlin', says just about everybody. Yes, Leipzig is Saxony's coolest city, a playground for nomadic young creatives who have been displaced by the fast-gentrifying German capital, but it's also a city of enormous history, a trade-fair centre and solidly in the sights of music lovers due to its intrinsic connection to the lives and work of Bach, Mendelssohn and Wagner.
To this day, one of the world's top classical bands (the Gewandhausorchester) and oldest and finest boys' choirs (the 800-year-old Thomanerchor) continue to delight audiences. When it comes to art, the neo-realistic New Leipzig School has stirred up the international art world post-reunification with such protagonists as Neo Rauch and Tilo Baumgärtel.
Leipzig is known as the Stadt der Helden (City of Heroes) for its leading role in the 1989 ‘Peaceful Revolution’ that led to the reunification of Germany.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Leipzig.
This church has Romanesque and Gothic roots, but since 1797 has sported a striking neoclassical interior with palm-like pillars and cream-coloured pews. While the design is certainly gorgeous, the church is most famous for playing a key role in the nonviolent movement that led to the downfall of the East German government. As early as 1982 it hosted ‘peace prayers’ every Monday at 5pm (still held today), which over time inspired and empowered local citizens to confront the injustices plaguing their country.
The university-run Museen im Grassi harbours three fantastic collections that are often overlooked, despite being a five-minute walk from Augustusplatz. At the stellar Musikinstrumenten-Museum you can discover music from five centuries in rarity-filled exhibits and an interactive sound laboratory. The Museum für Völkerkunde takes you on an eye-opening journey through the cultures of the world. The Museum für Angewandte Kunst has an excellent art nouveau and art deco furniture, porcelain, glass and ceramics collection.
This imposing modernist glass cube is the home of Leipzig's fine art museum and its world-class collection of paintings from the 15th century to today, including works by Caspar David Friedrich, Cranach, Munch and Monet. Highlights include rooms dedicated to native sons Max Beckmann, Max Klinger and Neo Rauch. Exhibits are playfully juxtaposed and include sculpture, installation and religious art. The collection is enormous, so set aside at least two hours to do it justice.
The happy marriage of a pano rama (a giant 360-degree painting) and a gas ometer (a giant gas tank) is a panometer. The unusual concept is the brainchild of Berlin-based artist Yadegar Asisi, who uses paper and pencil and computer technology to create bafflingly detailed monumental scenes drawn from nature or history. Each work is about 100m long and 30m high.
At Leipzig's Ethnological Museum, you can plunge into an eye-opening journey through the cultures of the world.
Leipzig's largest cemetery is a vast and beautiful park, filled with rosebay shrubs, populated by squirrels, rabbits and foxes and centred on a building that looks like a Disneyland castle, but is in fact a purpose-built crematorium. A monument to antifascists who died at the hands of the Nazis can be found in front of the building. The cemetery is a last resting place of Leipzig's many celebrities, including artist Max Klinger and the Baedeker family of travel guide fame.
In the GDR the walls had ears, as is chillingly documented in this exhibit in the former Leipzig headquarters of the East German secret police (the Stasi), a building known as the Runde Ecke (Round Corner). English-language audioguides (€4) aid in understanding the all-German displays on propaganda, preposterous disguises, cunning surveillance devices, recruitment (even among children), scent storage and other chilling machinations.
This fascinating, enormous and well-curated exhibit covers the political history of the GDR, from division and dictatorship to fall-of-the-Wall ecstasy and post-Wende blues. It's essential viewing for anyone seeking to understand the late country's political power apparatus, the systematic oppression of regime critics, milestones in inter-German and international relations, and the opposition movement that led to its downfall.
Half a million soldiers fought – and one in five died – in the epic 1813 battle that led to the decisive victory of Prussian, Austrian and Russian forces over Napoleon’s army. Built a century later near the killing fields, the Völkerschlachtdenkmal is a 91m colossus, towering sombrely like something straight out of Gotham City. Views from the top are monumental. If you need to bone up on your history, stop by the integrated Forum 1813 exhibit within the monument complex.