Living It Up in Leipzig, Germany
Leipzig is located in the heart of Central Germany, about an hour South by train from Berlin. Before WWII it was known as a cultural hub, but this died off once the influence of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) took over. But like most cultural hubs, many remained independent minded, even if secretly so, and lived as courageous thinkers who ignited the revolution against communism in East Germany. It was in Leipzig where this movement really took hold, with protests and meetings being organized from a small church called Saint Nicholas.
Today Leipzig is once again a vibrant city nourishing the artistic expression of its people, even becoming a preferred home to those seeking opportunities away from the often over-saturated space in Berlin. During my time there, I was able to explore the city’s food, night, and cultural scene. I also walked away realizing that my first impression it being a small town were completely wrong. Compared to the larger cities in Germany, this may seem to be the case. But because of Leipzig’s significant role in changing the political landscape of the country, I couldn’t help but be left to feel in awe of the people who live there, not to mention the diversity in its architecture, worthy of daily exploration and photography.
Plane: Air Berlin was the airline of choice into the country. I was fortunate to experience both coach and first class with them. I thought the seats in coach were a bit small, and maybe in need of more cushioning. I found them too stiff, even more so after the length of the flight. I’ve had more comfortable experiences on other airlines in this category. First class was a different story with a lot more space and comfort. I do hope that consideration is being made to upgrade the planes as it is not at all the norm for me, or many others, to fly in First Class status.
Comfort aside, the service was efficient and I even got a sweet chocolate treat upon exiting the plane. Air Berlin also often offers the most affordable flights to and from Germany.
Train: Deutsche Bahn train tickets were booked through the Rail Europe. I rode First Class, with a round trip seat to and from Leipzig, which were spacious, clean, and very comfortable. The train station in Berlin is massive, seemingly more so for a first time traveler. But there are plenty of signs and boards indicating train destinations, times, and tracks. Find your car, or wagon, and seat and if you need help you can either ask one of the many information areas or the train staff, who speak English.
The Leipzig train station is smaller and easy to navigate, but I had problems finding an English speaker at the information desk. However, I was quickly assisted once on the train with all my questions. The ride is short with some beautiful views of the German countryside. There is no doubt that when traveling through Europe, Rail Europe is the way to go.
Where I Stayed
The Pentahotel in Leipzig is an easy 10-minute walk from the train station. This trendy hotel is centrally located, making it really easy for me to walk to pretty much all the spots I visited or take the tram nearby. They offer a free wi-fi option, though depending on your needs you might get better service with the paid option. They offer breakfast in the morning and bar food and sandwiches throughout the day. I really liked this hotel’s quirkiness and fun ambiance.
I love spaces that offer all the guest could want (cleanliness, great service, nice, airy rooms) without taking themselves too seriously in the process.
What I Saw
Some of the highlights for me where in the museums that I visited. The Stasi Bunker are underground bunkers in the outskirts of Leipzig which were built in the late 1960s by the GDR to protect Stasi leaders in the event of a NATO chemical, nuclear, or biological warfare. This particular bunker was used primarily for communications purposes and is smaller than a few others built, all serving different purposes and thus having different security levels.
I found the history of this space both sad and fascinating, a clear view of the history of the region, the people and their own hardships under the control of the Stasi. The display case showing different techniques used by the GDR spies against the German people, how much detail they had on every single resident of the area, and the fear in which people must have lived in, where they couldn’t trust their neighbor or even family member – it’s really worth a first stop when in Leipzig to truly get a grasp of what happened here. This is the one time I needed a car to get there.
Two churches to visit are Saint Nicholas Church for its history as mentioned above, as well as Saint Thomas Church, where the remains of Johan Sebastian Bach are layer to rest. It is where the University of Leipzig was founded in 1409, and where the St. Thomas Boys Choir has performed for the past 800 years.
“Leipzig 1813: The Monuments to The Battle of The Nations by artist 1813” by artist Yadegar Asisi is the largest panorama in the world. Asisi is celebrated for his beautiful photographic exhibitions and these change often and displayed at the Asisi Panometer.
Other Fun Activities
I took a food and sighting seeing tour with and tried out some treats from local vendors and artisans. I have always said that taking a tour is one of the best ways to familiarize oneself with the destination they are visiting, and a foodie tour with Eat The World through Leipzig was no exception.
Our tour guide was knowledgeable friendly, and showed us a lot in a short two hours. But the absolute most fun I had in Leipzig was at Moritzbastei a concert/dance hall, bar and restaurant.
You have to kind of know what the theme is for any given night, as the music and performances change regularly. On the night that I visited with my friends and Leipzig Tourism hosts, it happened to be Swing Night. I don’t recall ever going to swing dance club and I would have never expected to have this much fun at one.
A great part of it is the company you go with, but also the people there were really welcoming and friendly. I found great joy in watching the dancers, many of them professionals, swing and jig to the 20s tunes played by a live DJ. I am not a swing dancer, but I tried and I laughed and it marked one of the highlights of my Leipzig visit because it showcased how fun the people there can be.
I really, really enjoyed my time in Berlin. But my trip to Leipzig convinced me that heading to the outskirts of the larger German towns is necessary to really help complete your German experience. Granted, each city is different and I can’t really say that I know all about Germany just be the two places I visited while there.
However, I believe my time in Leipzig really help to round my experience and I can’t help but smile every time I think about it.
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Disclosure: I was the guest of Berlin Tourism.