Leipzig wears its patchwork history with pride — it is modern Germany at its best. Renaissance architecture sits alongside trendy bars, while museums celebrating Bach and Mendelssohn mingle with contemporary art galleries.
Meander around its market square before cooling off with a glass of Riesling or a beer nearby.
Get a taste of the city’s storied past, from its musical Age of Enlightenment to its brave protests against Communist rule.
Fascinating: The above map pinpoints Leipzig’s tourist hotspots
Where to stay
Adina Apartment Hotel
A former textile business under the GDR, this building is now a trendy, quiet hotel around the corner from the bustling market square.
The comfortable rooms are all fitted with air conditioning and mod cons — including a heated bathroom mirror. You’ll miss the warm welcome from staff once you leave, as well as the beautiful views over the city. Doubles from £76, adinahotels.com.
Rooms here are bright and quiet, despite its close proximity to the central train station. It offers bikes for hire, but if you don’t fancy exploring on two wheels, the nearby tram stop will take you anywhere in the city. Don’t leave without enjoying a Viennese coffee on the Japanese-inspired terraced courtyard. Doubles from £78, viennahouse.com.
Innside by Melia
Opposite the historic St Thomas Church, this neoclassical hotel features immaculate rooms with hardwood floors and modernist fittings. Upgrade to a premium room for views over the city. The rooftop bar is the perfect place to watch the sun set over Saxony. But be careful — the drinks at the bar aren’t cheap, even by British standards. Doubles from £70, melia.com.
NH Leipzig Zentrum
If you’re a fan of wine and prefer to stay in the heart of town, this brand new hotel is just the ticket.
The ultra-modern rooms afford a view of some of the city’s oldest buildings. The exterior mimics the grand 19th-century Saxon buildings, such as the city hall next door. The bar serves excellent wine, too. Doubles from £60, nh-hotels.com.
Where to eat
The blue mosaic counter and print curtains are a nod to the generously portioned Moroccan cuisine this restaurant serves.
Sit outside on a balmy day and try the grilled meats (from £6), succulent lamb tagine (from £6) and flatbread with homemade hummus (£2) with pomegranate iced tea (£2.50).
It doesn’t serve alcohol, but the nearby Felsenkeller, with its pretty patio, serves beer and wine (from £2.80 each). casablanca-markt.de.
An unassuming restaurant, with effortlessly cool bare-brick walls, Zest is sandwiched between a rough-and-ready bar and an old bookbinder’s shop.
True to its name, Zest offers fresh dishes with a twist on traditional German fare, including spaetzle on spinach cashew cream (£7.90), steak in an apple calvados and green pepper sauce (£12.80) and rhubarb sorbet with pistachio matcha brittle (£6.50). zest-leipzig.de.
Traditional: Auerbachs Keller, above, is the second oldest restaurant in the city
This traditional German bierkeller is known for two things: being the second oldest restaurant in the city — it was thriving in the 16th century — and for featuring in German author Goethe’s Faust. As such, paintings from the 19th-century play adorn almost every inch of the walls and ceilings.
The food is traditionally German: schnitzel cooked in beer (£18) and hearty roast boar with dumplings (£20). Its fame means prices are inflated, but if you’re after culture and good food, it’s well worth a visit. auerbachs-keller-leipzig.de.
The convivial murmur of satisfied diners echoes along the street from this Greek restaurant. Just around the corner from St Thomas Church, the delicious and well-priced two-course lunch menu (£20) includes soup and succulent gyros (Greek kebabs). Drinks are cheap, too, with beers under £3. alfa-bistro.de.
What to see and do
Retro: Chug past the opera house, above, in an old Trabant car
What better way to see the sights of a former East German city than in the car that symbolises the GDR?
This 90-minute chauffeur-driven tour in a pristinely maintained Trabi passes the opera house, the zoo, the residential district and the churches. Much better than an old tour bus. £40 for two people, trabi-erleben.de.
Runde Ecke museum
The former Stasi headquarters is now a monument to an era that is yet another chapter in the city’s varied past.
The museum tells how 1,500 spies kept tabs on people with espionage tools such as hidden cameras in suitcases and jackets, forged passports and devices for opening letters, all of which are on display.
It’s hard to believe that Leipzigers were subjected to this only 30 years ago. Entry free, runde-ecke-leipzig.de.
Take a dip: Cospudener See, above, is a breezy lake with sandy beaches all around it
A breezy lake with sandy beaches all around it, Cospudener See (or ‘Cossi’) offers something akin to a beach holiday in the middle of a city break.
Bring your towel and take a dip in the refreshing water, or give yourself a couple of hours to walk around it.
The harbour offers a variety of restaurants, or you could bring a picnic to enjoy by the water. It’s a much-needed change of pace from city life.
Take a trip out west, only ten minutes by tram, and you can see how Leipzig’s artists have taken over crumbling old East German buildings.
Baumwollspinnerei, a disused cotton mill (once the largest in continental Europe), is a gallery complex with artists’ studios and their exhibitions.
Coffee shops and restaurants sit along the old cobbled path just outside, where a truck or car is now rarely seen. £8 entry, spinnerei.de.
Perhaps more impressive, though, is the Kunstkraftwerk. Once a power station, it was revamped to become a huge installation place for some of the world’s leading artists.
Go for the fantastic gift shop, as well as the incredible array of artwork. Entry is free, kunstkraftwerk-leipzig.com.
The Market Square
The heartbeat of the city since the 12th century, the restored paved market square has stalls offering fresh fruit and homemade jams and chutneys.
The bars which line the square are reasonably priced, with great live music from Thursday nights. Spizz jazz bar sells beers from £2.60, wine from £2.80, and Aperol spritz from £3.50.
Ryanair London Stansted to Leipzig from £150 return (ryanair.com). Or take advantage of their cheap flights to Berlin from £80 return, then it’s an 80-minute train to Leipzig station, £35 return (omio.com).