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For Part 1 of my Leipzig adventure: click here.
Part 2: Life – a beautiful canvas
Just as the Eastern part of its near-neighbour Berlin twenty years ago was filled with leading-edge artists, that city’s real estate price rises now see many artists moving to more affordable Leipzig.
To discover how big an impact Leipzig’s artists community is making, take a short train ride from the centre to visit the Spinnerei.
This immense series of warehouses and studios is populated with many who could be among Germany’s next great artists, all of whom can buy their artist supplies right there, exhibit in the Spinnerei’s immense industrial-scale spaces – and even find a place to live if they choose to, inside the walls of this extraordinary artist’s playground.
To visit the Spinnerei is easy – and free. You will almost certainly never have seen anything quite like it anywhere else in the world.
In much of Germany’s rich cultural backstory, you will find Leipzig playing a leading role.
The famous story by Goethe of Dr Faust includes Leipzig as a backdrop. Auerbachs Keller is a restaurant in Mädlerpassage which features in Goethe’s play and which has been serving hearty German fare to hungry and thirsty punters since at least 1525. It is still open for business today – and you are well advised to pop in during the day to make a reservation to dine under its incredible historic arches. Do be sure to check out their historic Fasskeller devoted to Goethe’s famous story.
If you love music, you will love Leipzig.
Consider just a few renowned Leipzigers – and their extraordinary legacies.
Johann Sebastian Bach: In an illustrious career of composing, performing and teaching music – Bach took up residence at St Thomas’s Church and it is indeed his final resting place. If you can, be lucky – and catch a performance of one of the Bach motets regularly performed there. It is something you will never forget – especially with Maestro himself resting there in the church with you as you reflect upon his sumptuous musical artistry.
Richard Wagner: was born in – and established his career – in Leipzig.
Felix Mendelssohn: was the conductor at Leipzig’s famous GewandhausOrchestra (and founded the first Conservatory of Music here).
Clara and Robert Schumann: got married and made their home in Leipzig.
You will find numerous museums and real-life locations honouring the astonishing musical legacy these and other giants of music have given to the city. Take the Leipzig Music Trail which connects 23 music history sites in an easy 5km walk around town – including special music listening stations as you go.
Eating as a passion
You will likely discover – like I did – that Leipzig is a city like a delicately wrapped gift. One that keeps revealing new layers to unwarp and to savour.
One great place to start on the culinary front is taking it right to the top – the restaurant atop the city in its tallest building is called Panorama Tower – Plate of Art. It not only serves up delicious ambience and dishes washed down with wonderful beers, wines and waters – it has the best view of the city and surrounding districts from a lofty perch 142 metres above the street.
To get a flavour for the history that runs through the city’s bones – just turn a corner to spot the next gorgeous cafe or bar – and pop in to discover how that place fits into the city’s historical fabric.
I found the Coffee Museum that lurks in a beautiful place in a building with one of Europe’s oldest coffee shops still in its original form.
The Zum Arabischen Coffe Baum cafe is upstairs serving some of the most delicious pastries and coffees you could wish for – and has been doing so since the early 18th century – so you know they really know what they are doing. Downstairs, pop into the restaurant bar at street level – where you can see the actual seats and hat-racks labelled to show right where many of Leipzig’s most famous musicians – like Robert Schumann or JS Bach – sat to break bread, imbibe and discuss their day with friends.
Locals have a friendly LGBT welcome ready
Leipzig is one of the most charming places I’ve yet been. It is ‘big enough’ yet small enough to enjoy as a tourist by foot or by transport.
There is also an appealing local gay and lesbian scene that offers a range of options to suit most tastes.
It is not big-city clubbing that attracts here, but more intimate venues on a human-scale where you can feel welcomed and comfortable from the minute you arrive.
Take a look at Stargayte and check out one of the Kiss Kiss Bang Bang parties if you can.
Catch your breath at Richy which enjoys a nice mixed crowd.
Bears and their admirers should definitely take a look at Baerenstolz and try to catch one of their regular parties. It’s a man’s thing and it draws a friendly crowd as well as being another great way to meet the locals.
Also, you can also check out Cafe Apart where you will find cool drinks, cool company and cool music.
Havanna Club Leipzig is another great place you can meet and chat with locals – and sample some of the region’s delicious beers.
Hipster Heaven + Goths Galore
Make your way in the early evening to Saxony Bridge, in Clara Zetkin Park – where Leipzigers have found a place to chill, relax, listen to music and be grateful they find themselves lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.
Along with the city’s growing community of artists, the appeal of reasonable rents and abundant cool places to be has caused Leipzig to become a German haven for hipsters.
Just west of the Centre – and easily walked to – you should definitely check out the area around Karl-Heine-Strasse in the Plagwitz district.
Be amazed by some of the very best vinyl music stores I have seen anywhere in the world.
Pop in for a drink in astonishing funky glo-coloured bars and ice blue eateries that really are too cool for school. Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse in the Südvorstadt district just south of town is another easy walk with lots of street life to make it well worth your while.
Goths have in recent years ‘adopted’ Leipzig as ‘the’ place to be for an annual get together at Whitsun so if this is your thing, feel at home and keep an eye out to bring yourself and commune with the huge gothic crowds that now travel from all over the world for the “Wave-Gotik-Treffen”.
It is often said that you need to see certain places during your life and Leipzig is a place I am so pleased to have found.
My only challenge is how soon can I get back? It is crammed with even more I still want to discover. Can’t wait.