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Leipzig City Guide

Where the Fall of Communism Originated

by André Gayot

The skyline of Leipzig
The skyline of Leipzig, the city Goethe dubbed "Little Paris"

Goethe dubbed Leipzig “little Paris,” meaning a lively cultural and artistic centre thanks to its University created in 1409, one of the oldest in Europe. It was the major platform for Martin Luther and for Protestantism, and the seat of a major debate with the Papacy.

This fierce city obtained its municipal privileges since 1165, promptly acquiring a commercial reputation.  Today, book publishing thrives in Leipzig, which hosts the German National Library, although Frankfurt with its annual book fair is a strong competitor. The trade fairs in the spring and fall attract crowds from all over.

More so than commerce and industry, music is the prestigious “cachet” of a city where Johann-Sebastian Bach spent thirty years of his life and is buried. The new “Gewandhaus” (Concert Hall) has a world-wide reputation and has kept the echoes of the music of Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schuman, and of the native  Richard Wagner under the stick of  Bruno Walter, Kurt Furtwängler and Kurt Masur. Music lovers can’t miss the Bach museum, the museum of musical instruments, Mendelssohn house and the Gewandhaus.

Philosophers such as Leibnitz and Nietzsche and revolutionary socialists like Rosa Luxemburg lived and wrote in Leipzig. This vibrant intellectual activity is not a stranger to the collapse of communism. On October 9, 1989, 70,000 citizens, out of a peace prayer in St. Nicholas church, took to the streets chanting “No violence. We are the people.” The peaceful demonstration ignited the process that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall one month later and marked the end of Communism in Europe. Leipzig also has an industrial and engineering mind. It shows in the colossal “Hauptbahnhof” (Central Station, 1915), a complex of two stations conceived of for two rail companies and the contemporary ultra modern Porsche factory, in the prolongation of the early twentieth-century tradition of luxury car making.  

Leipzig's colossal "Hauptbahnhof" (Central Station) was built in 1915
Leipzig's colossal "Hauptbahnhof" (Central Station) was built in 1915

Leipzig is said to possess the largest stock of nineteenth- century and art nouveau constructions and it’s obvious that the city has a knack for passages like the Handwerkerpassage (Artisans’ Passage) or the Mädler-Passage with the Auerbachs Keller café, where Goethe situated one scene of his drama Faust. Most of the highlights of Leipzig are accessible by foot from the centre: the Central Station, the New Gewandhaus, the Opera,  the baroque "Alte Handelsbörse" (Old Stock Exchange), the well-restored, early twentieth-century Specks Hof shopping arcade with the covered passage, the Mädler-Passage, St. Nikolas church, Nikolaikirche,  St. Thomas church,  Thomaskirche (where J-S Bach is buried), the polyvalent Grassi Museum, the Museum der Bildenden Künste (which hosts paintings from Lucas Cranach the Elder), the old elegant town hall of the 16th century. Out of the city, a massive monument commemorates the bloody Battle of Nations in 1813, and the final defeat of Napoleon.

LEIPZIG HOTELS:

Hotel Fuerstenhof
Troendlinring 8
49 34 11 40 0

www.starwoodhotels.com
Enjoy the luxuries and feel of a classic patrician's palace in the heart of Leipzig.

Leipzig Marriott Hotel
Am Hallischen Tor 1
49 34 19 65 30
www.marriott.de
The Marriott brand's trusted style in the historic heart of town.

The Westin Leipzig
Gerberstrasse 15
49 34 19 88 0
www.westin-leipzig.de
Centrally located, The Westin Leipzig hotel was originally built by the communist government for foreign visitors of the Leipzig Trade Fair.

LEIPZIG RESTAURANTS:

Auerbachskeller
Grimmaische Strasse 2-4
49 34 12 16 10 0
www.auerbachs-keller-leipzig.de
Great location in the Mädler-Passage, good Saxon food and a must-do — not just because Goethe ate here.

Falco
The Westin Leipzig
Gerberstr. 15
49 34 19 88 27 27
www.falco-leipzig.de
Chef Peter Maria Schnurr has copyrighted his cuisine passion légère. Great view of Leipzig above the city! Expect to spend some money.

Piagor
Münzgasse 3
49 34 11 49 47 78
www.piagor.de
The sophisticated menu changes weekly, the wines are top and the atmosphere unpretentious.

Restaurant Stadtpfeiffer im Gewandhaus zu Leipzig
Augustusplatz 8
03 41 21 78 92 0
www.stadtpfeiffer.de
Haute cuisine at a price; but it's worth it. Professional service.

 

<< Previous | Next >>

Intro: East Germany, a Luminous Past and Thriving Present
Hamburg: Venice, German-Style
Lübeck: City of Steeples, Scribes and Marzipan
Wismar: A Walk in Medieval Times
Stralsund: Created by the Sea and for the Sea
Leipzig: Where the Fall of Communism Originated
Dresden: Devastation and Reconciliation

* Skyline image courtesy of the Leipzig Tourismus und Marketing GmbH / Central train station image by André Gayot

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(Updated: 10/17/12 CT)

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