14 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Leipzig
The city of Leipzig, long famed for its old fairs and markets, lies in the Saxon Lowlands at the junction of the Weisse Elster and the Pleisse rivers. Located on important trade routes, Leipzig became a considerable commercial power after being granted the privilege of holding fairs, eventually becoming the leading city in Saxony after Dresden. It also became a center of art, culture, and learning, as well as an important center for the book trade. This legacy lives on, as seen by its old-established publishing houses, major libraries (including the German Library), and its International Book Fair. Today, Leipzig is one of the most popular tourist destinations in eastern Germany, and thanks to its rich cultural and musical heritage, is regularly cited as one of the best cities in Europe in which to live.
See also: Where to Stay in Leipzig
1 Editor's Pick Battle of the Nations Monument
One of Leipzig's most important monuments - and a leading example of the Wilhelmine school of architecture - is the magnificent Battle of the Nations Monument. Completed in 1913, this imposing structure was constructed in the monumental style favored at the turn of the 20th century and was commissioned to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of the Nations in Leipzig in 1813. There's a viewing platform at a height of 91 meters, and although it's a 500-step climb to the top, it's worth it for the spectacular views. Informative English language guided and audio tours are available.
Address: Straße des 18 Oktober 100, 04299 Leipzig
2 Old City Hall
The Markt in Leipzig, for many centuries the hub of city life, is dominated by the Old City Hall (Rathaus), a Renaissance building erected in 1556, but much altered in later centuries. The tower, with its Baroque crown, is placed asymmetrically over the main entrance, above which is a roofed balcony used for public announcements and proclamations involving trumpeters in traditional costumes. The colonnades along the front were built in 1907, replacing the wooden shops and booths that once stood here, and inside is a museum dedicated to the history of Leipzig.
Address: Markt 1, D-04109 Leipzig
3 St. Thomas Church
Southwest of the Leipzig's Markt stands St. Thomas Church (Thomaskirche), home of the world-famous St. Thomas Choir. Built in 1212 as the church of an Augustinian house, it was much altered in later centuries, and in the 15th century was given the form of a Late Gothic hall-church in the style of Upper Saxony. The west front dates from renovation work carried out between 1872 and 1889. Martin Luther preached here in 1539, and Johann Sebastian Bach was the church's choirmaster from 1723 to 1750 (his remains are interred here). Opposite the church is the Bosehaus, home of the Bach Research Institute and Memorial and the Bach Archives.
Address: Thomaskirchhof 18, 04103 Leipzig
4 Grassi Museum
The Grassi Museum was established in 1895 and moved to its current home in 1929. The building is in fact three excellent museums in one, housing the city's ethnography, applied and decorative arts, and musical instrument collections. The Museum of Musical Instruments is a particular favorite for visitors and includes instruments from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, as well as hands-on sound laboratories and extensive archives. Be sure to take a stroll through the city's impressive train station. Built in 1915, it is the largest railroad terminal in Europe.
Address: Johannisplatz 5-11, 04103 Leipzig
5 Museum of Fine Arts
Although housed in one of Leipzig's newest architectural wonders, the Museum of Fine Arts (Museum der bildenden Künste) was in fact founded in 1837 and only settled into its new large-cubed home in 2004. One of Germany's most important national cultural institutions, the museum boasts more than 3,500 paintings from the Middle Ages to the present, including works by Dutch, German, and Italian Masters. A must see for art lovers of all levels of interest, the museum also has a well-stocked library.
Address: Katharinenstrasse 10, 04109 Leipzig
6 The Naschmarkt and the Mädlerpassage
Behind the Old City Hall in Leipzig is the Naschmarkt, a quiet little square laid out in 1556. On the north side is the Old Commercial Exchange (Alte Handelsbörse), an Early Baroque building dating from 1678 now used for community events. Opposite the Naschmarkt is the Mädlerpassage, one of the many splendid old shopping arcades so characteristic of Leipzig, that links to Königshofpassage and Messehofpassage. It's here that you'll find Auerbach's Keller where Mephistopheles practiced his magic arts in Goethe's Faust, its entrance marked by a sculpture from 1913 depicting the characters from the infamous cellar scene. A newer nearby attraction is the Sachsenplatz, a public square with ornamental fountains and a ceramic column depicting scenes from the city's history.
7 St. Nicholas Church
Built in the 12th century and considerably altered in various styles in later centuries, St. Nicholas Church (Nikolaikirche) continues to impress visitors to Leipzig. Highlights include its striking 75-meter-high tower, as well as its rich Neoclassical interior with its lovely galleries and altarpieces. This church, too, was graced with performances by Bach, and its famous organ is widely considered one of the most impressive examples of its kind in Europe. The church also played an important role as a focal point of demonstrations against communist rule in East Germany in 1989.
Address: Nikolaikirchhof 3, 04109 Leipzig
8 Leipzig University
The dominant feature in Augustusplatz is the 34-story building occupied by Leipzig University, with its panoramic café at 110 meters. One of the world's oldest universities - and the second oldest in Germany - Leipzig University was founded in 1409, and more than 60 per cent of its buildings were destroyed in WWII. Today, the university is home to some of Leipzig's most important attractions: the Egyptian Museum, the Museum for Musical Instruments, the Museum of Antiquities, and the University Art Collection with its numerous paintings and sculptures dating back to the Middle Ages. Incorporated in the lecture theater block is the Schinkeltor from 1836 and the surviving entrance to the old university, the Augusteum. Of interest nearby is the old Moritzbastei, a bastion dating back to 1515 and the only relic of the town's old fortifications.
9 Leipzig Botanical Garden
The Botanical Garden at the University, known locally as the Leipziger Botanische Gärten, began in 1877 as a medicinal plant garden, but can in fact trace its roots back as far as 1542. Despite devastation during WWII, this nine-acre site features more than 7,000 species of plants with examples from Eastern Europe, North America, Asia, and South America. A highlight of any visit is exploring the large greenhouses with subtropical and tropical plants from around the world. Also of interest is the Leipzig Zoological Garden, a zoo that's been around since 1878. Covering 56 acres, this fun attraction boasts 850 different species and is renowned for its unique animal shelters and breeding programs.
Address: Linnéstrasse 1, 04103 Leipzig
10 Neues Gewandhaus
Immediately east of the University in Leipzig is the Gewandhaus, the magnificent home of the world-famous Gewandhaus Orchestra. Built in 1981, the three-story hall, with the amphitheater-like Grosser Saal (Schuke organ) and Kleiner Saal, is decorated with numerous paintings by modern artists and is well known for its excellent acoustics. In addition to its first-rate concert program, numerous educational and special events are hosted here.
Address: Augustusplatz 8, 04109 Leipzig
11 New Town Hall
Standing majestically at the southwest corner of Leipzig's Old Town is the New Town Hall - Neues Rathaus - a monumental building in the style of the German Late Renaissance. Completed in 1905, this massive building occupies the site of the 13th-century Pleissenburg, with parts of the old castle being incorporated in the 115-meter-high central tower.
Address: Martin-Luther-Ring 4-6, 04109 Leipzig
12 Mendelssohn House
The Mendelssohn House in Leipzig is the only authentically preserved residence of the great composer, Felix Mendelssohn. Originally built in 1844, the house has undergone much restoration based on the original plans and contains many artifacts and personal objects. Further information about the composer is revealed in written documents contained in the house, along with displays and exhibits relating to specific works. A series of regular Sunday concerts are well worth attending (additional admission fees required). A statue of Mendelssohn can be seen outside St. Thomas Church.
Address: Goldschmidtstrasse 12, D-04103 Leipzig
13 The German Library
The impressive German Library (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek), built between 1914-16, was established with the intention of gathering German language books and publications under one roof. It also houses the German Museum of Books and Writing dedicated to German literature and letters. The building is also the repository of the German Music Archive, a collection of Germanic recordings associated with the country. Guided tours are available in English.
Address: Deutscher Platz 1, D-04103 Leipzig
14 The Leipzig Cotton Mill
An area that's becoming increasingly interesting to explore is the Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei, the Leipzig Cotton Mill. This large former industrial site has long been an important commercial center focusing on the cotton trade, and in recent years has been transformed into a cultural destination thanks to the addition of numerous cafés and restaurants, art galleries, artisan workshops, and studios. At its peak before WWI, the site was home to 20 factories, homes, schools, and parks, along with more than 240,000 spindles. These days the area is populated by numerous galleries, as well as an arts center. Guided tours are available and should be booked in advance.
Address: Spinnereistraße 7, 04179 Leipzig
Where to Stay in Leipzig for Sightseeing
The Rathaus, the old city hall in Leipzig, lies between the historic squares of the Naschmarkt and the larger Markt. Around these attractions are St. Nicholas Church and several of the fine old shopping arcades that characterize the historic center of the city. The train station is conveniently nearby. Here are some highly-rated hotels in the old center of Leipzig:
- Luxury Hotels: In a historic building with modern amenities that include a spa with a sauna and steam room, Steigenberger Grandhotel Handelshof is right in Naschmarkt and next to St. Nicholas Church. With a pool, parking, and elegant rooms, Hotel Furstenhof, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Leipzig is equidistant between the Hauptbahnhof (rail station) and the Markt. Also with a fitness area and pool, Leipzig Marriott Hotel is a block from the Markt and two blocks from the Hauptbahnhof, close to the shopping streets.
- Mid-Range Hotels: Radisson Blu Hotel Leipzig is at the outer edge of the old town center, a 10-minute walk from the train station and two minutes from the pedestrian shopping streets. Close to the train station, shops, and restaurants and an easy walk to the historic center, pentahotel Leipzig has a Club Level, which includes breakfast and dinner. Opposite the Hauptbahnhof and two blocks from the Markt, Seaside Park Hotel Leipzig is surrounded by restaurants.
- Budget Hotels: A block from the train station and a 10-minute walk to the old town center, InterCityHotel Leipzig is only five minutes from the zoo. Three blocks from the Markt, BEST WESTERN Hotel Leipzig City Center faces a side entrance of the rail station. Mercure Hotel Art Leipzig has spacious, well-decorated rooms, about a five-minute walk from the train station and 10 minutes from the old center.