Top 10 Attractions in Leipzig
Leipzig has a rich cultural and musical heritage famous for its composers Johann Sebastian Bach and Felix Mendelssohn. The city has impressive architecture and a cool art scene to rival Berlin. It's a great city to explore with many things to do in the compact Old Town.
OLD CITY HALL AND MARKT
At nearly 500 years old, the Old City Hall is considered one of the most beautiful Renaissance buildings in Germany. Inside the Rathaus, you can discover over 1000 years of history at the Museum of City History from prison cells in the basement to the 1989 'peaceful revolution'. This architectural landmark faces the large market square where there are regular weekly and seasonal markets. Highlights include the Christmas and Easter markets plus the annual Bach Festival in June. During the Wave-Gothic-Treffen (the world's largest gothic festival) there are medieval-themed stalls and jousting in the square.
In a city with such a rich musical legacy, Leipzig Opera is well worth a visit. It's one of the oldest opera houses in the world (it opened in 1693) and has not only opera performances but also musical comedy and Leipzig Ballet. If you can't go to a show, do try and get on one of the behind the scenes guided tours as it is a surprisingly stylish building. From the ground level towards the roof, the lighting in the foyer and audience seating area mimics the life cycle of the dandelion.
The Leipzig Music Trail takes you right past the Opera House as well as Mendelssohn House.
This was the last private residence of the 19th-century composer Felix Mendelssohn. It was built in 1844 and he lived here with his family from 1845 until he passed away in 1847. The building was turned into a museum of Mendelssohn's life and work in 1997 on the 150th anniversary of his death. The building has been authentically restored according to the original plans and there are handwritten documents and watercolour paintings by Mendelssohn to see. An interactive display allows you to feel what it's like to conduct your own orchestra, and you can dress up in period costumes for photo opportunities. The grounds are also maintained as a historic garden, and the music salon is used, as it was in Mendelssohn's time, for weekly Sunday Concerts.
ST. THOMAS CHURCH
St. Thomas Church was built as an Augustinian monastery church in 1212. It has been altered in later centuries and in the 15th century was given the form of a Late-Gothic hall-church. From 1723 to 1750 Johann Sebastian Bach was the Choirmaster and the St. Thomas Boy's Choir still enjoys international fame. There are regular weekend concerts and you can climb the Baroque tower from April to November. Regarded as an important centre of classical music, Richard Wagner was baptised in the church while around 20 years earlier in 1789 Mozart played the organ here. St. Thomas Church is Bach's final resting place. There is a statue of Bach in the square outside.
Johann Sebastian Bach lived in Leipzig for 27 years and many of his most important compositions were created in the city. Though he lived 300 years ago, Johann Sebastian Bach is considered to be one of the greatest composers of all time.
The Bach Museum is in the Bosehaus – one of Leipzig's most important Renaissance buildings. It is also one of the oldest preserved buildings on the southern side of the St. Thomas Church Square. This is opposite where he lived (the house is long gone). You can find out more about his role as St. Thomas Choirmaster and see Baroque instruments. And in the Treasure Room there are original handwritten musical manuscripts and works of art. Note, admission is free on the first Tuesday of the month.
ST NICHOLAS CHURCH
Leipzig was the first large city in the GDR to have peaceful anti-government protests that led to the downfall of the Berlin Wall. St. Nicholas Church (Nikolaikirche) was the venue for weekly 'peace prayers' from 1982 and they are still held on Mondays at 5 pm. The prayers were followed by candlelit demonstrations and by October 1989 70,000 citizens took to the streets. Armed security forces had been given orders to shoot but the size of the crowd and their non-violence convinced them not to fire. This led to similar demonstrations in other East German cities and the Berlin wall fell on 10 November 1989 bringing an end three decades of division and the reunification of Germany.
Built in the 12th century, the 1,400-seat church has Romanesque and Gothic roots but since 1797 it has had a stunning neoclassical interior with palm-like pillars and cream-coloured pews.
Johann Sebastian Bach was the Musical Director at St. Nicholas from 1723 to 1750 and some of his major works were premiered here as well as at St. Thomas Church. The church's organ is known for being one of the finest in Europe.
Zeitgeschichtliches Forum is a large museum about Germany's contemporary history with a focus on East Germany from 1949 to reunification. Free to visit, the museum is open Tuesday to Sunday. The permanent exhibition documents all aspects of life in the GDR under the repressive SED (Socialist Unity Party) regime. The story starts with when Germany was split in two following the Second World War, features the building of the Berlin Wall and reunification in 1989, and continues until the present day. Over 3,000 exhibits cover personal accounts, excerpts from speeches, propaganda posters, art, photographs, medals and more. As this is in Leipzig, where the Monday Demonstrations started, there is plenty explaining the resistance and civil courage leading up to demos and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
BATTLE OF THE NATIONS MONUMENT
A 15-minute tram ride from the city centre is the imposing Battle of the Nations Monument (Volkerschlachtdenkmal). At 91 metres high, this is one of the largest war memorials in Europe. It was completed in 1913 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of the Nations in Leipzig in 1813. On this battlefield, around 600,000 soldiers clashed in a decisive victory of Prussian, Austrian and Russian forces over Napoleon’s army. Shockingly, 100,000 were killed or wounded.
You can go inside the granite-clad Monument and the Forum 1813 Museum in the base of the Monument, provides information on the Battle of the Nations. You can also climb the 500 steps to the viewing platform at the top for excellent views of the city.
Leipzig Zoo first opened in 1878 and has 850 animal species to discover living in conditions close to their natural habitats. The popular Gondwanaland biome is an indoor tropical rainforest the size of two football fields with animals and plants from Africa, Asia and South America. You can walk through following the jungle path or treetop trail and there's a boat ride option too. You can see rare and endangered species, such as komodo dragons and pygmy hippos, as well as squirrel monkeys, giant otters, fish, turtles and frogs.
You can watch elephants swim through an underwater glass wall and go in Pongoland, the indoor ape enclosure. In a volcano tunnel you can see some of the world's oldest creatures or watch Amur tigers, the world's largest cats, in a Siberian landscape. Snow leopards and red pandas are in a high-mountain landscape of the Himalayas and there is one of Germany's largest aquariums too.
MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS
Founded in 1837, Museum der Bildenden Künste (MdbK) is one of the oldest public collections in Germany. It has been housed in a large, imposing, modernist glass cube in the city centre since 2004. The museum has more than 3,500 paintings from the Middle Ages to the present day. There are over 400 paintings by 17th-century Dutch artists and more than 700 19th-century German works illustrating the progression from Classical to Romantic to Impressionism to Symbolism. One of the museum's strong points is its works by German Renaissance Old Masters including 18 works by Frans Hals and the two Lucas Cranachs. The French art of the 19th century includes Delacroix and Camille Corot plus Impressionists such as Monet and Degas. There are 55,000 drawings and graphics with works by William Hogarth, Daniel Chodowiecki and Anton von Dyck plus room to showcase local talent too with works from Neo Rauch and Max Klinger on display.
WHERE TO STAY
Capri by Fraser Leipzig is in an excellent location in the old town on the corner of Brühl- and Goethestraße. Capri by Fraser Leipzig great design attracts both leisure and business travellers who appreciate the electronic online check-in. The four-star serviced apartments have a kitchenette and a work area, plus a fully equipped gym with day light.
Written by Laura Porter - Travel Writer for Frasers Hospitality