Leipzig, a long-lived city, has joined the league of thousand year old German cities such as Trier, Worms, Cologne and Magdeburg.
The city played an important role in the history of Germany and Europe in two noteworthy incidents, both of which culminated in German unity. In the 18th century, it was the battlefield that marked the end of the French dominion over German states; a hard-won battle that led to an increased sense of nationalism on the German side.
Later in the 19th century, the peaceful political rallies against communism were started by the people of Leipzig, popularly known as the Montagsdemonstrationen (Monday demostrations). These demonstrations then intensified across the country to bring down the Berlin wall and re-unite east and west Germany.
Devoid of mountains or rivers to accentuate its landscape, Leipzig seems a bit dull and inconspicuous when weighed up to the cultural and artistic capital city of the state of Saxony, Dresden, situated on the banks of the Elbe and to the vibrant German capital city, Berlin, situated about 150 kilometers to its north. After the fall of the wall, the decrepit buildings, the industrial smoke polluted air and the vapid topography of Leipzig were visible to the world.
This city, like many others in eastern Germany, stood testimony to the conditions that prevailed behind the iron curtain.
While Dresden and Berlin made plans to revamp themselves to re-affirm their place in a united Germany, Leipzig behaved like a neglected child that lacked self-motivation. It seemed confused about what it stood for. Dresden had a unique Baroque and Rococco heritage to build upon. Berlin, after the wall came down, was the new mecca for the dare-to-dream, younger generation. Leipzig had no such allure. The industrial pollution from the communist era made it look bleaker in comparison. So it continued to atrophy for a few more years until in early 2000 leading German automotive brands opened plants in Leipzig, empowering it with the much needed money for rebuilding. Around the same time Leipzig was chosen to host the Football WM in 2006. These two events gave it the impetus it lacked until then for a spruce-up.
As the monotonous and monstrous industrial buildings were razed down, the fragments that revealed Leipzig’s distinct and illustrious pre-communist past became evident. The city had produced a vast number of world beaters in different fields. Stringing the lives of all the home grown heroes, Leipzig employed their individual contributions to the nation and the world at large, to strengthen its identity. The lives of these famous people and their contributions were brought to the foreground.
In the process of rebuilding and restoring, Leipzig found a footing in the world famous heroes that were the sons of its soil. Nietzche, Bach, Richard Wagner and Leibniz were born here. Many more well-known names in the areas of music, science, literature, history and politics were in the annals of the city: Friedrich Schiller, Goethe, Felix Mendelssohn, Werner Heisenberg, Angela Merkel, Wilehlm Ostwald. The Leipzig university had produced a significant number of noble prize winners, too!
Young and aspiring German artists from all over the country were attracted to the city’s revamped industrial buildings and relatively lower cost of living. The city burgeoned with creative minds. It naturally turned into that chosen destination for young up-and-coming artists who shunned skyrocketing rentals in big cities for Leipzig’s the vast low-priced living spaces that they could refashion. The rest of Germany responded to this growth by dubbing Leipzig a wannabe Berlin. Rejecting that tag in favor of a unique identity, the city constantly searches for ways to be inventive - ways to stand apart from the country’s capital.
Whatever the cynics and prophets reckon, Leipzig is swathed in the limelight. The entire city is a stage for various cultural, musical and literary events reminiscing the highlights of the past thousand years. From street parades to culinary arrangements to a thousand member choir and open air performances of legendary music composed by the city’s musical legends, every week is packed with diverse events. On the 20th of December 2015 it blew out 1000 candles on its birthday cake to celebrate its long journey - key achievements and historical events it has overcome to be what it is today.+
There are daily direct flights from major German and European cities to Leipzig. US gateways such as Washington D.C, NYC, LA and SFO offer daily carriers to Leipzig. More connections can be found to and from Frankfurt or Berlin. From Frankfurt a direct flight to Leipzig airport will take you less then an hour. While a car (rental cars at Avis, Sixt or Europcar available at Frankfurt and Berlin airports) or train (bahn.de) will take up to four hours to get to the city. Berlin to Leipzig via Potsdam by car can be achieved in a little over two hours. The Deutsche Bahn offers seasonal offers and weekend deals that can be booked at bahn.de.
For a luxury stay, the Steigenberger Grandhotel Handelshof (steigenberger.com) and Hotel Fürstenhof (hotelfuerstenhofleipzig.com) are elegant upscale hotels well situated to visit the city’s landmarks (from about 150 euros a night). For more moderately priced stays consider, Mercure Hotel Leipzig am Johannisplatz, Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten and Garni Hotel Markgraf (from about 50 euros a night).
To get a taste of local gastronomy head to Auerbachs Keller Leipzig, one of the oldest restaurants in the city where Goethe is said to have written parts of his famous work Faust. The Bayerischer Bahnhof, an old train station that offers culinary delights and home brewed specialities. Other places frequented by locals are Thüringer Hof, Gasthaus Barthels Hof, Zill’s Tunnel, Rennbahngastronomie Leipzig give a good taste of local cuisine and seasonal highlights.
Leipzig is only a few hours away by road from the German cities Dresden and Berlin. The capital city of the Czech Republic, Prague is only about three hours away. Combing these cities on a visit to Leipzig would make for an excellent overview of eastern Germany and Czech Republic. In the month of December these cities offer christmas markets that could add a touch of magic to your travel.
Travel tip shared by Umma