A German Jewel: The City of Leipzig

Written by Susan Lanier-Graham

September 4, 2017
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October is a popular time to visit Germany. The summer vacation season is over, and the hillsides are awash in brilliant shades of color. The fall harvest in this country, famous for its wine and beer, is underway. Though Oktoberfest celebrations are often a draw, avoid the raucous crowds and party atmosphere in the beer halls and take to what was once the playgrounds of royalty in the state of Saxony. Here are my favorite recommendations to see while you’re visiting Leipzig. Planning to stay longer? Check out the requirements for a Germany tourist visa and enjoy exploring Leipzig!

Discovering Leipzig

Saxony, once one of Germany’s richest areas, was home to such historical figures as Johann Sebastian Bach, Felix Mendelssohn, and Martin Luther. It was here, 500 years ago, that the Reformation and Protestantism were born. But after World War II, Saxony fell under Soviet control and became part of the German Democratic Republic. Closed off from the West for 50 years, its largest cities were in ruins, and its historical shrines were destroyed. Without any control, pollution dirtied its rivers and skies.

Thomaskriche in Leipzig

Thomaskriche in Leipzig. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Today, as part of a reunified Germany, Saxony is again flourishing. At its heart, the city of Leipzig—dubbed “The New Berlin” by many—is one of Germany’s most popular tourist destinations, restoring the grandeur and magic that was always part of this area.

Saxony, located in the far eastern part of Germany, sits near the Polish and Czech borders. From the U.S., the best way to get to Saxony is to fly into Berlin and take the fast—and easily accessible—train into Leipzig.

A quick 15-minute taxi ride from the airport puts you at the front steps of the train station, where everything is marked in German and English. In about two hours, you’ll arrive in the city of Leipzig. Another 10-minute taxi ride will get you into the city center.

Exploring Downtown

The best way to experience Leipzig is to book a room in the walkable downtown. INNSIDE Leipzig is an ideal hotel while exploring this great city’s art, culture, and food. Despite the building’s neoclassical facade, the hotel is cutting-edge on the interior with top-of-the-line amenities. Rooms and suites are modern, and common areas are chic, with room to work and relax. Room rates include full breakfasts daily.

Lobby of INNSIDE Leipzig

Lobby of INNSIDE Leipzig. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Just a block away from the hotel is the old town, filled with elegant arcades and courtyards that have defined the architecture and style of Leipzig for more than 500 years.

Leipzig Old Town Hall

Leipzig Old Town Hall. Photo by LTM Andreas Schmidt. Courtesy Visit Saxony

Don’t miss the MädlerPassage near the Old Town Hall, home to the restaurant Auerbachs Keller, where you can order a classic German meal with a beer or glass of German wine. It was here that famed writer and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe spent time.

While in the old town, step inside St. Nicholas Church. It was here, on Oct. 9, 1989, that people gathered to demand the change that eventually led to the collapse of the Berlin Wall. There is a memorial outside the church commemorating the Peaceful Revolution, where crowds chanted “we are the people,” and Leipzig became known as the Stadt der Helden (City of Heroes) for its leading role in this historical movement.

One of the most famous historical Leipzig residents was the great composer Johann Sebastian Bach. Across the street from INNSIDE Leipzig is Thomaskirche (St. Thomas Church). Founded in 1212 as a monastery, it became important when Martin Luther preached there during the reformation. Later, it was Bach’s home church where he composed music for the choir, and he is even buried inside.

A great way to get perspective on the city, literally and figuratively, is with a visit to Panorama Tower. Take the elevator to the 31st floor to glimpse Leipzig from the viewing platform. The restaurant at the top, Plate of Art, serves modern creative dishes.

At the tower’s base is the Paulinum, part of the Leipzig University campus. Originally the Church of St. Paul, it was the site of Luther’s final sermon in Leipzig and the location of Bach’s magnificent organ. While the church made it through World War II relatively unscathed, it was demolished by the East German regime in 1968, taking all the artifacts down with it. The new building today outlines the original church.

Wandering Leipzig

As you wander the streets of Leipzig, especially during warmer months, you’ll notice locals and visitors lingering at sidewalk tables to sip coffee and watch passers-by. Zum Arabischen Coffe Baum, the oldest coffee house in Germany, is in Leipzig – they have been serving food and coffee since 1720. Save room for a favorite German after-lunch treat: eiskaffee, a delicious blend of ice cream and coffee.

Beyond being a historical and cultural mecca, Leipzig is a playground for creative minds. Have the concierge arrange transportation for you to visit The Spinnerei, a few minutes beyond downtown. What was formerly Europe’s largest cotton mill during the 19th century is now home to galleries, more than 100 artist studios, a large art supply store, a funky artistic theater, and a coffee shop.

The site is in the midst of ongoing renovations and is likely to be that way for many years to come. On your visit, you’ll be among artists from around the world who live and work on-site, as well as international visitors, including movie stars and art collectors, who show up to buy art from known and unknown artists.

To discover more about Saxony tourism, visit www.saxonytourism.com. Read more about things to see and do in Germany here on Wander. A version of this article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of So Scottsdale!

Written by Susan Lanier-Graham

Founder and publisher Susan Lanier-Graham has traveled the world for the past twenty years, filling a passport or two along the way. She has wandered through the jungles of Thailand, explored the mysteries of the Great Pyramids, and shared the night with a leopard in Zambia. She sailed in the Mediterranean, sipped her way through Burgundy canals and Champagne caves. She followed Rembrandt’s footsteps through Amsterdam. Susan found her center on the red rocks of Sedona and soaked up an exquisite sunset over the Indian Ocean in Bali. Susan is always looking for wow moments around the world or across the street to share with adventure lovers everywhere. She has authored more than 75 books and hundreds of magazine articles. Susan is an award-winning travel writer and member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA). She is a Certified California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS). Susan is also the managing editor of North Peoria Lifestyle, a print lifestyle publication in the Phoenix, Arizona, area. Susan's work regularly appears in print and online in a variety of publications. These include various AAA publications, Postcards for Travel Leaders, Alamo.com, Hotels.com, Fairmont.com, Sofitel.com, Paradise Valley City Lifestyle, Scottsdale City Lifestyle, So Scottsdale, Green Living AZ, Modern Luxury, Marriott.com, WHERE Arizona, WHERE Traveler Phoenix + Scottsdale, and more.