Cool things to do in Leipzig
Cool things to do in Leipzig
Admire the architecture
Leipzig is blessed with some really cool architecture and not just from the DDR. Some of the recent buildings dotted around the centre of town are really stand out. Such as the University building on Augustuspltz that uses a salvaged rose window and entrance arch (all that is left of the pre-war church) to create something truly appropriate and innovative. Next door the Gewandhaus is a DDR enthusiasts must: a well preserved piece of the regime’s finest.
Just outside of the centre, there is a wealth of beautiful 19th century housing stock. Like a mini-Berlin, Leipzig has rich suburbs full of elegance and industrial charm. Canals, mills, brick chimneys and pleasant squares.
So many fresh faces in Leipzig during term time. The place feels edgy and optimistic with plenty of people looking energetic and alternative. Lots of semi-punk hair styles, but nothing threatening about their owners, they all just looked beautiful on the sunny Autumn day I was there. A young couple rode passed on a tandem, suited and dressed up, a bouquet of flowers in her hand and the wedding entourage following in bicycle convoy.
Check out the rich arts scene
Leipzig punches above its weight artistically with a lively arts and music scene. The buzzing Spinnerei is well worth a visit. Housed in a vast old factory complex it showcases local talent and is surrounded by workshops and galleries.
Thanks in part to the cities rich musical heritage, the city has its own world class opera, concert hall, orchestra and even string quartet. We saw the latter in the Gewandhaus. The Leipzig quartet were dialling it in a bit that night with some early works programme, and maybe still suffering from the loss of their charismatic leader to assault charges while on tour in New York last year (chamber music’s most rock n roll story?), but there’s no mistaking class when you hear it. Confirmation if needed was to be found in Mendelssohn’s house (also worth a visit) the next morning listening to one of their earlier recordings.
The Grassi Museum
The Grassi Museum is absolutely world class and well worth at least one visit. I’ve never seen a more comprehensive design museum, or one better presented. Such quality items, so well preserved. Amazing glassware, finely crafted drinking tankards, porcelain figures of flirting couples from the 18th century and an elegant jugendstil plate, stand out as highlights. I passed a happy two hours going round the collection, but it was only a third of what is on offer in this beautiful art nouveau building. There is also an amazing musical instrument collection. My companions for the weekend spent their two hours in there and were convinced it must be the biggest such collection in the world. There is also an ethnography museum.
If you go, talk to the lady in the gift shop. She was very helpful and cool. She gave us lots of tips for further cool things to do in Leipzig.
Enjoy the bountiful parkland
Leipzig is not large and nature intrudes everywhere. Not least the broad river flood plain that runs West of the city. A bustling green corridor of leisure on a sunny day. The busy cycle path will quickly take you out North or South down to the city’s very own cluster of bathing lakes. Reclaimed quarries, they’re not quite alpine, but clean and very swimmable.
6. Check out the DDR heritage
There are two museums about the former DDR that are worth a visit – and both free in: The Zeitgeschichtlichen Forum and the Runde Ecke. The first is a big display of scenes of German life before the fall. It looks kinda cozy. The second is a lot more atmospheric and a lot less cozy. Housed in a deliberately unrenovated former Stasi HQ, it is a monument of drab bureaucracy – more sad than scary. The archive is upstairs and you can pick up free reports on interesting historical incidents, where Stasi documents about such matters as handling the -PR- fallout from Chernobyl and trying to prevent a rumoured Rolling Stones gig are published in full.
So despite being small. And despite not being stand out as a tourist destination, Leipzig feels at once cool as well as pleasant and cozy. With its canals and industrial heritage + its flood plains and green corridors it maybe feels like the perfect cross between Munich and Berlin. Gemütlich, but cool?