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Leipzig city of heroes and city of music.

Leipzig city of heroes and city of music.

Leipzig's key role in setting the rhythm for the peaceful revolution of 1989 is testament to the city's musical endowment. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Leipzig was labelled 'City of Heroes' – a title which could also be in reference to the many great musicians, kapellmeister and composers who are arguably more popular and more prominent here than anywhere else in the world.

Leipzig clearly has a special relationship with music. In fact, it's a distinctive feature of the city's heritage. Since 1254, when the St. Thomas choir, one of the world's oldest boys' choirs, was first documented, music has struck a chord with the people of Leipzig and inspired some its finest historical buildings. The Gewandhaus concert hall, for instance, is home to the Gewandhaus Orchestra (founded in 1743) and was led for many years by eminent conductor Kurt Masur, a key player in the peaceful revolution. The concert hall also houses an impressive organ, whose 6,638 pipes provide an unforgettable aural experience. Then there's the magnificent opera house, one of the oldest music theatres in Europe, famed for its repertoire from baroque to contemporary. The impact of certain former Leipzig residents is still felt today. For example, Johann Sebastian Bach, the most famous cantor of St. Thomas Church, as well as Leipzig-born composer Richard Wagner and Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, who established the first German music conservatory here in 1843. Add to that list Robert Schumann and Clara Wieck, who enchanted the city both as musicians and as lovers. The people of Leipzig themselves have a long-standing love affair with one of the oldest coffee houses in Europe: Zum Arabischen Coffe Baum has been a favourite haunt of great minds and great talents since 1711. Bach, Schumann, Liszt, Grieg and Wagner have all graced it with their presence over the centuries, as have Goethe and Lessing and even Napoleon and Augustus the Strong. A sure sign that Leipzig was, and still is, an appealing city for people from all walks of life – and not just the reserve of musicians and composers.

If you pay a visit to Zum Arabischen Coffe Baum, be sure to look in on the magnificent coffee museum on the third floor. Across 15 rooms, more than 500 exhibits spanning 300 years present the history of the drink in Saxony. For those who wish to continue on the path of Leipzig's great musical heritage, the Museum of Musical Instruments is sure to hit all the right notes. It features one of the best collections of its kind anywhere in the world, offering a fascinating insight into the city's musical history.

The marching rhythms and choirs of 1989 were anything but music to the ears of the then government, as the people of Leipzig rang out the end of the GDR. What began with church services and demonstrations in and around St. Nicholas' Church in the city centre grew into a movement that brought the regime to its knees within a matter of months. One reason these events unfolded in Leipzig is surely because one of the most infamous headquarters of the much-hated Stasi was located here at the 'Haus zur runden Ecke'. The building now houses an exhibition documenting the work of Stasi operatives – not a proud chapter in the city's history, but a significant part of Germany's recent past and well worth seeing. Leipzig Zoo delves back even further in time – several hundred million years further to be precise. Its Gondwanaland attraction takes you on a tropical journey of discovery back to the age when supercontinent Gondwana dominated the southern hemisphere. Back in the present day, you can have plenty of fun exploring the city's shops and bars. A stroll around the market square and through the narrow lanes of the old town reveals a wide assortment of second-hand bookshops and book stores, as well as chic boutiques and charming little shops. But don't be surprised if you have a tune stuck in your head as you browse – you're in Leipzig after all!

City Highlights

The fascinating history of this renowned art museum is a story of civic engagement. Back in 1848, when the Leipzig art association opened the municipal museum at the Moritzbastei, the hundred or so works on display were donations from the citizens of Leipzig. And the present-day collection of 3,500 paintings, 1,000 sculptures and 60,000 drawings and prints is largely comprised of gifts from private initiatives and generous patrons.

Maximilian Speck von Sternburg, Alfred Thieme, Adolf Heinrich Schletter, Fritz von Harck, Hans-Peter Bühler, Marion Bühler-Brockhaus: these are the names of people who have shaped the character of the museum for 150 years. The works of the current collection span the period from the late Middle Ages to the present day. These can now be displayed in full in the new 7,000m² museum building, which opened in 2004. There is a particular focus on Old German and Dutch paintings from the 15th to the 17th century, Italian paintings from the 15th to the 18th century, French paintings from the 19th century – including works by Eugène Delacroix, Edgar Degas and Claude Monet – and German paintings from 18th to the 20th century. A whole floor is devoted to comprehensive displays of works by Max Klinger and Max Beckmann. In the Contemporary Painting section, the museum features mainly exhibitions of painters belonging to the Leipziger Schule, such as Bernhard Heisig, Werner Tübke and Wolfgang Mattheuer, as well as extensive collections by the movement's younger generation led by Neo Rauch and Daniel Richter.

The Baumwollspinnerei, a former cotton mill, is home to 100 artist's studios, eleven galleries, workshops, architects, designers, jewellery and clothes makers, an international dance and choreography centre and much more.

Members of the famous New Leipzig School led by Neo Rauch have also become established here. This former factory complex, continental Europe's biggest cotton mill in the early 20th century, was converted 100 years later into one of the most exciting production and exhibition sites for contemporary art and culture in Europe.

Leipzig Exhibition Centre is one of the oldest trade fair venues in the world. Trade and change have always been the hallmarks of this city. In the days of East Germany, for example, Leipzig Exhibition Centre served as an important window into the east from the west – and vice versa. The city's new exhibition centre is also an outstanding forum for the arts: entire rooms, wallpaper, walls, staircases, sculptures and other works of art have been designed by more than 20 celebrated artists especially for the trade fair venue and permanently integrated into the building.

In 1525 the physician and professor Heinrich Stromer von Auerbach opened a wine bar in the cellar of his house for university students. As he aptly put it: "Wine is an excellent prophylactic against many ailments, if administered correctly". Today Auerbachs Keller is the most famous restaurant in Leipzig and is also known around the world. One of the most popular wine bars in the city in the 16th century, Auerbachs Keller primarily owes its fame to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who spent time here while studying in Leipzig. Since it opened Auerbachs Keller has served an estimated 91,980,000 guests.

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