“Wir sind das Volk!”
That was the Leipzig war cry during those world changing weeks in the autumn of 1989: “We are the people!”
On 9 October 1989, 70 000 people gathered in Leipzig. This is where it all began, the Peaceful Revolution that ended one month later with the earth shattering fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the country known as DDR – Deutsche Demokratische Republik, better known as East Germany.
I’ve been curious about Leipzig for some time, so when VisitSaxony and the German Tourist Board invited me to have a peek at this legendary city, I did not hesitate. Due to time constraints, my visit was an all-too-brief one, just 24 hours, but… better than nothing. I liked what I saw, and so will you, if you’re into music, arts, history come alive, intellectual discourse, spirituality, architecture, shopping, a vibrant nightlife, or all of the above.
During and after my visit, I shared these images on our social media channels, and here they are all together. Let’s begin with the city’s facades:
1. Leipzig Facades
2. New City Hall
This is just a part of Neues Rathaus, the new City Hall in Leipzig, a town of just half a million inhabitants. Magnifique. And huge!
3. Hidden corners
Look for Leipzig’s hidden secrets, like this little garden. You won’t find it unless you peek around the corners, behind the doors, just a little further…
4. Socialist Realism
The aesthetics of the Socialist Classicism East German architecture is sometimes debatable. But the Opera House in Leipzig is quite beautiful, I think.
5. Look up!
Look up! Whether you’re indoors or outdoors, don’t forget to raise your eyes occasionally. That’s where you’ll frequently find the curious, the intriguing… Here’s Nikolaistrasse, Leipzig’s main shopping street. Loved the early 20th century buildings here. In fact, the intriguing mix of architecture is one of Leipzig’s highlights.
6. City of Music since the 13th century
In Leipzig, there’s music everywhere – on street corners, in churches, in concert halls and in the homes of many of the city’s former residents: Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Gustav Mahler, Robert and Clara Schumann, Richard Wagner – even my fellow countryman, Edvard Grieg, resided here in Leipzig for a while in 1888, and met the great Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Most famous of all, though, is Johann Sebastian Bach, who was musical director in Thomaskirche here for 30 years. He lived here with his second wife, Anna Magdalena, and the majority of his 20 children(!), plus a variety of other family members.
7. Bach’s Garden, and music to another world
And speaking of Bach, the city is home to the most excellent Bach Museum Leipzig, where you’ll find an organ console Johann Sebastian himself played, original manuscripts from the great composer, and much more. Don’t miss the little garden, for a bit of quiet contemplation or daydreaming. During one of my favourite moments in Leipzig, this is what ran through my mind:
Just now, I’m sitting in the garden of the Bach Museum, listening to the Brandenburg Concertos on my phone. You know, if I was ever to send a postcard out into the universe – in case someone out there is curious about earth, and us – I think I’d send this music; some of the most beautiful ever created by man.
Leipzig travel recommendations
- Book a Leipzig guide to show you the city’s many hidden secrets.
- An affordable and convenient place to stay is Intercity Hotel Leipzig just metres from the central railway station
- Have lunch at Leipzig’s oldest restaurant, Thüringer Hof, where Martin Luther frequently did, as you can see from the copy of a letter from 1520 displayed here.
- In fact, you can find several fascinating venues on the Martin Luther trail in Leipzig. This is where he came for the famous 3-week-long Leipzig Disputation. Leipzig was one of the most important cities in the Holy Roman Empire, after all.
- Do have dinner at the vaulted cave that is Auerbach’s Keller, established as a wine cellar in 1525(!), and one of the world’s most famous restaurants. Not only is the food excellent, but you’ll be dining where not only Martin Luther, but also where Johann Wolfgang von Goethe used to dine as a young student. Goethe’s masterpiece Faust was inspired by just this establishment; make sure you see the Goethezimmer, and be prepared for various portrayals of the devil! You can’t miss this place in the Mädlerpassage – Mephistopheles marks the entrance.
- I loved wandering along Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse (locally known as KarLi) on a balmy September night; so much life and music.
- If shopping is your thing, Leipzig has it all, including 142 shops in Europe’s largest central railway station. And just across the street is Nikolaistrasse, the main shopping street with many department stores and exclusive fashion labels.