Where commerce and culture meet
Ron Stern | Global Gumshoe
Located in the East German state of Saxony at the confluence of three rivers, Leipzig has always been a historically important city. Many notable historical figures lived here, and today, while honoring its past, Leipzig is steering a clear course for the future with a vibrancy for and love of arts, architecture and tourism.
During the days of the Roman Empire, Leipzig was considered a primary trade city owing to its strategic location along major routes such as the Royal Highway, which stretched from the Rhine to Frankfurt. Also known for its culture and music, Leipzig was home to Bach, Wagner, Schumann and Mendelssohn.
Bach was, forgive the pun, instrumental in the early development of the St. Thomas Church Choir, and served as its conductor from 1723 to 1750. Today, the St. Thomas Boy’s Choir of Leipzig honors Bach in its repertoire and delights audiences from all over the world.
In recent years, Leipzig is emerging as a tourist mecca with museums, restaurants and historical sites to explore. One area being reclaimed is known as the Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei, or Leipzig Cotton Mill. Situated in an industrial zone and constructed with red bricks, this was once the largest cotton mill in Europe. Today, it houses art galleries, artists’ studios and exhibition spaces.
The Leipzig Opera House is the third oldest bourgeois musical stage in Europe and is as beautiful inside as out. It is located on what used to be known as Karl Marx Square, one site of the Quiet Revolutions of 1989.
Looking something like a large hued-green cube, the Museum der Bildenden Künste, or fine art museum, houses more than 3,500 paintings. During my visit, I saw works by Degas, Monet and Max Klinger. Other museums include the Bach Museum, STASI Museum and the GRASSI Museum of Applied Arts. The latter includes more than 1,500 works inspired by Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles.
Beautiful buildings are everywhere and the Old City Hall is a glorious example of Renaissance architecture. On weekends, the adjacent market square comes alive with vendors turning the area into a farmers market, offering everything from eggs and cheese to flowers. Each hour, the clock tower chimes, as if to punctuate the unfailing spirit of the city.
The Zum Arabischen Coffe Baum is one of the oldest surviving coffee houses in Europe. Among its famous guests were Bach, Goethe and, some say, Napoleon.
I never went hungry during my visit, as there are numerous restaurants and sidewalk cafes. I could always find grilled bratwurst with German mustard, which was culinary nirvana when served on a crispy roll.
The most famous restaurant in Leipzig is Auerbachs Keller, once mentioned in Goethe’s “Faust.” Located downstairs in a shopping arcade, this establishment was started as a wine bar for students. Its origins can be traced all the way back to 1438. Nowadays, they serve local cuisine and I can honestly say my roulatin, red cabbage and dumplings were the best I have ever had – anywhere. I think I would come back to this city just to savor it again.
There are many other things to see and do here, of course, as I have really just scratched the surface. There are tour buses that will show you the sites, and you can take a boat ride along more than 125 miles of waterways and canals that intertwine around the city.
Once you come for a visit, you will find that Leipzig has turned itself around in a big way, with tourist visits that rival other major cities. Whether it is art, music, food or history, Leipzig is one destination that will not disappoint.
—Ron Stern can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting ronsterntravel.com and globalgumshoe.com.