Leipzig ©Marco Borggreve
Budget traveller’s German Wanderlust

48 Hours in Leipzig & Colditz

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!


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