Visiting Leipzig felt as if I was in Berlin’s younger brother. It was smaller, a bit of an underdog, but rawer, cooler and more honest. And don’t get me wrong, I love Berlin! But, in Leipzig, I felt like I had discovered a new rising star. Filled with fantastic cultural and musical heritage, beautiful architecture, numerous great museums and a buzzing art scene, it’s a German town you should plan your trip to. Here is the Culture Tourist guide to that fantastic city, including some great things to do in Leipzig.
Things to do in Leipzig
Leipzig is filled with history, but it isn’t stuck in it. The best example is its fascinating musical heritage, with artists like Johann Sebastian Bach, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Clara and Robert Schumann and Gustav Mahler living and working there. During the few days I spent in Leipzig, I got a chance to attend two fantastic classical music concerts. I also saw numerous street musicians performing classical music on various instruments around the city centre. However, Leipzig is also home to one of the world’s largest gothic metal music festivals, Wave-Gotik-Treffen.
These kinds of contrasts could be seen all around Leipzig. In its architecture, visual arts or lifestyle. While in Leipzig, you feel like you’re in a city filled with history, but the one still making history. It became one of the music centres in the 18th and 19th centuries. However, it’s one of the most vibrant European centres of visual arts today.
Leipzig is also home to one of the oldest European universities and is still home to many students. It’s a young city filled with many great restaurants, hipster cafes, artist studios, independent galleries and shops selling products made by local designers.
It’s also a green city with many parks, surrounded by forests and lakes. I especially felt that while riding through it on a bicycle which immediately made me feel like a local in that pretty town. All of that makes Leipzig a wonderful, liveable city.
It’s located in the eastern part of Germany, halfway between Berlin and Prague, and close to the border with Czechia and Poland. You can visit it on a day trip from these places, only needing around an hour and a half to visit from Berlin on a train. With so many fantastic things to do in Leipzig, it’s a city I could visit over and over again.
1 – Stroll around its historic city centre
My favourite way of getting the first impression of the city is to wander around its city centre. I loved getting lost in its cobbled streets, exploring its historical architecture, meeting some locals and sipping coffee at one of its terraces.
So, the first thing I did in Leipzig was going on a guided tour. My guide took me on a walk around the city centre and told me about Leipzig’s musical heritage, its famous citizens and important historical events. We also visited some of its beautiful buildings, which gave me a sense of that blend between traditional and modern in Leipzig.
One of the most fascinating buildings in the city centre is the New Town Hall. Built in 1905, with a 114,8 metres (377 feet) tall central tower, it’s home to the highest city hall tower in Germany.
2 – Visit St. Nicholas Church
Another genuinely fascinating building I visited during my city tour was the St. Nicholas Church. Its construction started in 1165, making it the oldest and largest church in Leipzig. St. Nicholas Church serves as a main parish church in Leipzig. It was built in the late Gothic style, however, its interior was reconstructed in the late 18th century. Its unique pillars and ceiling decoration are among the most unusual and beautiful ones I have ever seen.
During his time in Leipzig, J. S. Bach was responsible for St. Nicholas Church’s music. It was one of several places in Leipzig where he was employed. J. S. Bach also cared for music in St. Thomas Church, New Church of St. Matthäi and St. Peter’s Church.
St. Nicholas Church also played an integral part in the recent Leipzig history. It was a starting point of the Peaceful Revolution in 1989, which led to the German Unification and the end of the Cold War. With its beautiful interior design and one of the greatest organs in the city, visiting that beautiful church is one of the best things to do in Leipzig.
3 – Explore Leipzig Waterways
The following day, I borrowed the bicycle at my hotel and cycled to the small city port (Stadthafen). I went on a one-hour-long boat tour around the Leipzig canals. The city got its nickname, the Little Venice, because of its numerous channels. Although, the fun fact is it has more bridges than Venice.
Riding on its canals gave me a different perspective of the city. Some channels were quite tranquil and romantic, with beautiful historic buildings on them. At the same time, some showed the industrial history of Leipzig and reminded me of Hamburg a bit.
TIP: Leipzig is a bicycle-friendly city. The bike lanes are everywhere, cars are used to sharing the road with cyclists, and the town is mostly flat. Exploring the city on a bicycle was one of my favourite things to do in Leipzig. If you’re comfortable doing the same, rent a bike!
4 – Explore art in Plagwitz & Lindenau neighbourhoods
Leipzig’s Plagwitz neighbourhood used to be an industrial area with many buildings abandoned after the German reunification in 1989. In the 1990s and 2000s, artists and creative entrepreneurs started taking over the buildings, transforming them into cultural hubs. Today, the neighbourhood is a vibrant alternative area filled with galleries, small shops, artist studios and many local cafes and restaurants.
The best way to explore it is by riding a bicycle around its former industrial buildings covered by fantastic street art. This is precisely what I did, accompanied by my guide, Peggy, who told me about its history, people living there, and their lifestyle.
One of the best-known locations there is the Spinnerei, a former Leipzig cotton mill. It became a meeting place for artists from the New Leipzig School, many of which have studios there. The site is still home to many of their studios, art galleries and local shops.
When tired of exploring, take a break and have lunch at Cafe Mule at the Spinnerei entrance.TIP:
Felsenkeller, which also marks the entrance to the urban, hip district around the Karl-Heine-Straße, where you can find a lot of great bars, restaurants and pubs. Walking down this street, you would end up at the Westwerk Leipzig, a former industrial workplace, now transformed into a mix of ateliers and galleries, offices and shopping facilities. A real hidden gem there is the Kokille, a micro-brewery where you can end the day with a local craft beer and (if you are lucky) a small live gig of a local artist.” (Thomas Nörlich, director of sales and marketing at Marriott Hotel in Leipzig)LOCAL’S TIP: “Visit a beautiful beer garden of the
5 – Visit an immersive exhibition at Kunstkraftwerk
Close by is another fantastic Leipzig cultural spot, the Kunstkraftwerk. Located in a former industrial building, this prior power station was transformed into a cultural venue in 2014. Today, they organise temporary immersive art exhibitions dedicated to various artists, art movements, fairytales, etc. During my visit, I saw the one about Gustav Klimt’s art.
However, the art installations inspired by Klimt in the second part of the expo were even more surprising than the digital exhibition. Check the Kunstkraftwerk program on this link, and put it on your list of things to do in Leipzig.
6 – Get on top of the Panorama Tower
With its 142,5 metres, the Panorama Tower is the highest building in Leipzig. Built in 1972, it was a home to the Leipzig University. However, today, it’s well known for its observation deck, from which you get a panoramic view of Leipzig and its surroundings. You can spot numerous Leipzig landmarks from its top. It’s also a great place to see how green the city and its surroundings are.
On its 29th floor, you’ll find one of the best restaurants in Leipzig, named by the tower. Besides the fantastic view, it’s also a place where I had the best dinner during my trip to Leipzig.
7 – Attend the concert at the Gewandhaus Concert Hall
Leipzig is the city of classical music, and the Gewandhaus Concert Hall is the place to go for all the classical music enthusiasts in Leipzig. Although the building looks quite modern (it was built in 1981), the Gewandhaus has a long history spanning back to the mid-18th century. It is when a group of Leipzig music lovers founded a sort of club to get a chance to listen to some high-class music regularly. Over the years, it welcomed some of the leading names from classical music at its concert halls, like I. Stravinsky, J. Brahms, P. I. Tchaikovsky, R. Strauss, and many more.
I attended a symphonic concert with a famous Finnish violinist, Pekka Kuusisto, as a special guest during my visit to Leipzig. It was a wonderful musical experience that shouldn’t be missed in Leipzig. You can check the musical performances and get entrance tickets on the Gewandhaus Orchester website.
8 – Visit the Monument to the Battle of the Nations
One of the most exciting things to do in Leipzig is visiting its fascinating landmark, the Monument to the Battle of the Nations. The Battle of Leipzig, or the Battle of the Nations, occurred in 1813 on the outskirts of that town. It was the battle between Napoleon’s troops and the coalition armies of Austria, Prussia, Sweden and Russia. The coalition won, making Napoleon flee back to France and exile on Elba a year later.
To commemorate these events, a hundred years later, in 1913, the Monument to the Battle of the Nations was erected. It’s a fascinating building 215 metres (705 feet) tall, making it the tallest monument in Germany. I was especially fascinated by its sculptural decoration, which gives the building a sacred feel.
9 – Explore the Tapetenwerk
Tapetenwerk is another former industrial building turned into a cultural venue. A former wallpaper company hosts art galleries, co-working spaces, a restaurant and other creative spaces today.
After a quick lunch there, I visited artist Malte Masemann’s studio across the street from Tapetenwerk. Visiting artists’ studios always feels special, giving a unique insight into the artist’s world. Malte Masemann’s art is colourful and vivid, with a solid link to the past, but very innovative at the same time. Just like the City of Leipzig, right?
Joseph Pub! This pub is cozy and has delicious food. You feel there always like home.” (Peggy Enders, Tourist guide in Leipzig)LOCAL’S TIP: “Visit
10 – Visit MdbK
Leipzig is home to many museums and cultural institutions. However, the place that shouldn’t be missed is its Museum of Fine Arts (MdbK). Its glass cube architecture reminded me of another fantastic cultural venue, the Kunsthaus Bregenz. The building was clearly designed to serve as a museum, making it easy to navigate and offering the best possible setup for the artworks.
The MdbK collection is equally impressive. It spans 600 years of European art, including a fascinating collection of Dutch Golden Age paintings, the Leipzig-born Max Beckmann’s artworks and paintings made by the members of the New Leipzig School. The term refers to the group of artists active in Leipzig after the German reunification.
11 – Try Leipziger Lerche
Leipziger Lerche is a pastry from Leipzig with a centuries-long tradition you should try while there. The original version was made of the songbird lark or lerche in German, giving the name to the pastry. When the songbird hunt was banned in the second half of the 19th century, the Leipzig pastry chefs created a sweet version of the Leipziger Lerche.
Today, it’s made of shortcrust filled with almonds, nuts and a cherry. It’s recognisable by the crossed dough strips on its top.
12 – Attend the St. Thomas Choir concert
Founded in 1212, the St. Thomas Choir of Leipzig is one of Germany’s oldest boys’ choirs. It consists of around 90 boys aged 9 to 18. It’s a choir of St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, and they mostly perform there. It’s a beautiful Gothic church where Mozart once performed and where Martin Luther preached, as well. J. S. Bach was the choir director between 1723 and 1750. The famous composer is buried in the church; you can see his grave there today.
Besides the evening concerts, the famous choir performs weekly motets on Fridays at 6 pm and Saturdays at 3 pm. You can see the concerts schedule and reserve your ticket on this link.
Musikalische Komödie (engl. Musical Comedy Theatre). It is a rather small, but beautiful building, only recently renovated and the musicians are just the same as in the Opera and part of the famous Gewandhaus Orchester.” (Thomas Nörlich, director of sales and marketing at Marriott Hotel in Leipzig)LOCAL’S TIP: “As a hidden cultural highlight, I would suggest the
13 – Learn about Bach & visit the Bach Museum
Johann Sebastian Bach was one of the most famous people who lived in Leipzig. The renowned composer came to the city when he became in charge of the city’s music and the St. Thomas Choir director in 1723. He composed numerous of his pieces while living in Leipzig.
The city still celebrates the musical heritage of the famous musician. Numerous concerts with his music are organised there each year. The annual Bach festival is organised in Leipzig every June.
Besides attending some music events, a great place to learn more about the famous composer, his work and his private life is the Bach Museum. It’s a place to put on your list of things to do in Leipzig.
TIP: Cafe Bigoti is an excellent place for a short break during your visit to Leipzig. I had a brunch there after exploring the Bach Museum. It’s located next to St. Thomas Church and just around the corner from the Bach Museum, so it could make a nice place to relax after visiting some of these venues.
14 – Shop at the Madler Passage
In the past, Leipzig was an important trade centre with many fairs organised throughout the year. The reminiscence of that are beautiful passages you’ll find around the city. The most beautiful among them is the Madler Passage. Besides its beautiful architecture, you’ll also find some great shops selling products made by local artists and designers.
15 – Visit Stadtgeschichtliches Museum at the Old City Hall
Leipzig was a booming city in the second half of the 19th century with a rapidly growing population. By the end of the century, the Old City Hall became too small for it, so it was replaced by a new one. However, the old one was turned into a museum.
The Stadtgeschichtliches Museum consists of two areas. The first one is located on the first floor of the building, and it tells the history of Leipzig from the Middle Ages until the Battle of Leipzig in 1813. The second part is located on the second floor, and it deals with the modern history of Leipzig. It’s fascinating to explore the events that shaped the city in the 20th century, from the Second World War, East Germany (DDR) time and the Peaceful Revolution. It’s a fantastic museum that could be a role model to others in dealing with complex history.
Tips for visiting Leipzig
Rent a bicycle – Have I mentioned that I loved cycling through Leipzig? If you’re comfortable riding a bike, I recommend renting one in Leipzig.
Where to stay in Leipzig
During my trip to Leipzig, I stayed at the Marriott Hotel Leipzig. It’s centrally located, just a few minutes on foot from the central train station and the majority of Leipzig landmarks. My room was on the second floor, which is a part of their Plan T. It’s a tremendous sustainable program with which the hotel tries to change the hotel industry, making it more green. In the room, less energy is being used. You also get a free bicycle to use, and a tree is planted for each night of your stay. I loved the hotel, which, with this fantastic sustainable program, makes a great place to stay in Leipzig.
Where to eat in Leipzig
Panorama Tower Restaurant – Located on the 29th floor of the highest building in Leipzig, the Panorama Tower restaurant offers a fine dining experience with a view.
Macis restaurant – With its industrial setting, the Macis restaurant is a lovely place to have a nice lunch or dinner, making delicious meals made of organic ingredients.
Cafe Bigoti – A perfect place for a coffee, cake or brunch in the city centre. The Cafe Bigoti‘s cosy interior and large windows make it a great stop while exploring the city.
TIP: Try the Gose beer while in Leipzig! It’s a very special fermented beer first brewed in the 13th century. It’s not a regular German beer with a strong aroma. Instead, it’s a light drink, with lemon, salt and coriander being some of its ingredients.
How to get to Leipzig
Leipzig-Hale Airport – Leipzig has an airport a few kilometres outside the city. It’s a small airport, directly connected with a few international destinations. I flew to Frankfurt and came to Leipzig-Hale Airport from there. There is a direct train service between the city and the airport, departing every 30 minutes and taking only around 15 minutes to travel between them.
Leipzig train station – Leipzig is well connected with many cities in Germany and abroad by train. So, check out your train travel options, too.
With its fantastic musical heritage, so much art and culture, fascinating history, and so many things to do in Leipzig, this German town is worth planning a trip to. This Culture Tourist guide to Leipzig will help you in planning your trip.
I visited Leipzig on a press trip organised by Leipzig Tourism. Many thanks to them and their partners for organising such a wonderful visit for me. As always, all opinions are my own.