While in Berlin, I wanted to visit a couple of other cities in Germany. To take the opportunity to visit places that I hadn’t been before. One city that immediately drew my attention was Leipzig due to its proximity and affiliation with the composer Johannes Sebastian Bach.
Leipzig is a cute little city located about two hours southwest of Berlin. The city was once the centres of learning and culture in music and publishing. It was the former that drew me here. Beyond just Bach, Leipzig came up over and over again when studying music history and I wanted to see the city that inspired them all.
Following World War II, Leipzig was a major urban centre in East Germany, and later playing an important role in the fall of communism. Today, the city is considered one of the most livable cities in Germany.
I found the city to be charming, with an easy to wander Altstadt (Old Town). I recognize that I didn’t see much beyond just the centre of the city and because I was visiting on a very cold Sunday, everything was rather quiet and many shops were closed, so I didn’t get a true feeling of what the city is like. Despite that, I had an enjoyable time wandering around. Here are my recommendations on things to do and eat when spending a day in Leipzig.
Things to Do
At the city’s centre is the marktplatz, with its tall old city hall. Built in 1556, today it is home to a museum of the city’s history. I visited as they were setting up for the Christmas markets so I wasn’t able to fully appreciate its size. However, in many ways, it reminds me of the squares of Brussels and Antwerp, but to a smaller extent.
St. Thomas Church
The St. Thomas’ Church is where Bach worked as music director from 1723 until his death in 1750. His remains are also located here. The church is also home to the world-famous boys choir, the Thomanerchor. Outside there is also a statue of Felix Mendelssohn, another composer, who lived in Leipzig from 1835 until his death in 1847.
Once inside, the church is like another other church. We weren’t able to visit Bach’s grave, but if you look up closely at the stain glass windows, you’ll find images depicting the likeness of Bach and Mendelssohn.
St. Nicholas Church
As music director, Bach was also responsible for other churches including the St. Nicholas Church. Several of Bach’s works were premiered in this church. You can find a bust of Bach towards the back of the church.
The church is also famous for being the location of the peaceful demonstrations against the East Germany regime and ultimately lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the German Democratic Republic. Everyone Monday evening starting in September 1989, protesters would gather peacefully to demand rights and over time, the number of protesters continued growing until the pressure was too much. Today, the church is still used to protest against other world events.
Bach Museum Leipzig
This museum was overall a bit disappointing. I was expecting more. Having been to the Mozart museum in Salzburg and thoroughly enjoying it, I was expecting something similar here. Instead, I found a relatively small museum with few displays and a ton of reading. The only room I found interesting was the treasure room where they had a couple of original manuscripts available. There was only one interactive exhibit where you can press buttons to hear clearly the role each of the instruments played in a piece by Bach. Otherwise, I want my €8, the price of admission, back.
The Madler Passage is a five storey covered shopping passage stretching 140 metres. It reminded me of the grand shopping passages of Paris and Brussels. Originally built in 1525, it has undergone many renovations and upgrades over the year to preserve and restore its grandeur.
Inside the passage is the well known Auerbachs Keller, Leipzig’s second oldest restaurant. It is said that a young Goethe ate and drank in this restaurant while studying in Leipzig and is where his famous play Faust is set. You can’t miss the entrance into the cellar as it is marked by two sculptures: Mephisto and Faust and Bewitched Students.
Where to Eat
Berlin is not known for its German food, so I knew if I wanted something more traditional of German food, I would have to seek it out in Leipzig. I didn’t really plan where to eat and by cross comparing reviews on Foursquare and Yelp on the go, we decided to try out Thüringer Hof. It was conveniently located near the St. Thomas Church and the Bach Museum Leipzig as well.
The restaurant makes you feel like you’re in German cellar with high arching ceilings and dark wood panelling. Our waiter was charming and was thrilled that my friend was using her German whenever interacting with him. The restaurant has a long history with mention of a restaurant in this location hailing back to 1466. It was given its name in 1838, so talk about dining in history!
The restaurant is famous for its “Luther”-style pork knuckle with sauerkraut and dumplings which one of my friend’s ordered (on the left). Another friend ordered the Schäufele which is the pork shoulder with sauerkraut and dumplings (on the right).
After looking at both of their portion sizes, I’m glad I went with my pork medallion in a mushroom sauce with fried potatoes.
Burgstraße 19, 04109 Leipzig, Germany
We hopped into Cafe Kandler to get out of the cold and to enjoy a cake or two. The shop itself is really cute and charming. The selection of desserts all looked so tempting. In the end we decided on getting a hazelnut cake to share. The first slice was so good, we had to go back for more (plus that meant we could stay inside in the warmth for longer).
We opted to go with the Bach torte which incorporated flavours from a chocolate coin with Bach’s face on it. The coin is made with a ganache cream, mocha nougat, coffee and a hazelnut shortcrust. While not as famous as the Mozart balls of Austria, it looks like this cafe is trying to capitalize on its own famous composer.
Cafe Kandler is also a good place to try out the Leipziger Lerche. Considered one of the best things I ate in 2016, Leipziger Lerche (Leipzig Larks) is a popular dessert found in Leipzig made with shortcrust and filled with almonds and nuts. Other versions can fill it with marzipan. I found it to have a really unique texture. It was easy to bite but had a slight chew. It wasn’t overly sweet, but just enough that you knew it was a dessert. While I shared one with friends, I could have easily eaten a whole one myself.
Thomaskirchhof 11, 04109 Leipzig, Germany
We took a Flixbus from Berlin to Leipzig. Our pick up point was at the Berlin Central Bus Station which I found to be a bit annoying to get to. They also offer pick-ups at Alexanderplatz. When purchasing your ticket, you can select where you leave from. Overall my journey on Flixbus was quite comfortable. There is free wifi on the bus to keep you entertained and even plugs to charge your various electronics. The bus was on schedule as well. A return trip ran 27 euros making it an economical way to get around.
Have you been to Leipzig? What were your thoughts? Have you visited a museum and been so utterly disappointed?
Pin It For Later:
This post is linked up to Monday Escapes.