A few hours southwest of Berlin, Leipzig is a great alternative to the capital and a change to experience a quieter side of Germany, albeit with plenty to see and do. As well as Bach, the city was once home to Schumann and Mendelssohn, among many other composers, and is packed with history and culture. With chic galleries, cafes and restaurants bursting out of its former industrialised zones, it’s a great mix of old and new. Here's why you should visit Leipzig this summer.
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The square itself, heavily bombed in WWII, is now a tram hub and underground car park, but the Opera House and Mendebrunnen fountain outside the Gewandhaus concert hall are striking.
Most visitors then head straight for Thomaskirche, marked by a statue of JS Bach outside – and you should do the same. The composer worked here as choirmaster until his death in 1750, and is buried in the gothic interior, which is dominated by lovey stained-glass windows. Nearby is the Bach Museum, where you can see some of his original sheet music.
Many shops shut on Sunday, so Promenaden at the rather lovely Hauptbahnhof is a notable exception. This modern shopping centre has many food outlets, so it’s also a good place to grab a bite.
Even more contemporary are the pop-up galleries and artists’ studios scattered around Plagwitz. Walk around to see what you stumble on but do visit D21 Kunstraum Leipzig, centre of an art association where you might find exhibitions such as "Anger is a Solution, if Anger Means Kittens".
For live music, Plagwitz is also the place: check out the pubs and clubs around Karl-Heine-Straße. Electronic music remains a firm favourite in spaces such as Damenhandschuhfabrik, a former ladies glove factory turned music venue.
The 2019 Bachfest Leipzig runs until 23rd June this year – but is an annual event – and normally includes performances of major works at the Thomaskirche such as the Magnificat, the first large-scale composition Bach wrote in the city.
Pension SchlafGut. Simple one- to three-bed rooms in a central location, with standards somewhere between hostel and budget hotel. The cheapest accommodation shares amenities; you can save more by forsaking extras such as cleaning, a TV or breakfast. It also offers a budget apartment-hotel nearby.
Motel One. This German affordable design chain is hard to beat, both for its modest hipster style at an impressive price and – most of all – for an unrivalled location in the heart of Altstadt.
Furstenhof. A hotel built in a beautiful mansion with a 200-year history of seamless service. Decor is an impeccable blend of traditional elegance and modern comfort. There's a stylish pool area and fine-dining restaurant to keep you occupied.
Waves of immigrants have transformed the restaurant scene in the city. A walk around Plagwitz will offer up everything from Vietnamese to Moroccan, plus a very strong vegan and vegetarian scene. For the traditional food of Saxony, Kaiserbad serves such local delights as pork schnitzel or potato soup. They also have yummy calorie-rich cakes.
In summer, Leipzig moves outside onto terraces and beer gardens. Local beer needs a guide to itself but start your education with the signature pale ale at Goldhopfen at Kolonnadenstraße 11, outlet for the Weisse Elster Brewer.
The beer garden at the former train station of Bayerische Bahnhof is the place to try Gose, another local speciality beer, with a taste of coriander and salt.
Top image: Johann Sebastian Bach Statue in front of the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, Germany © foto-select/Shutterstock