Leipzig intrigued me as a place to visit for a number of reasons. The Saxon city played a significant role in the fall of communism in Eastern Europe but before that time Leipzig was known as a city of culture and music. Add to that their love of coffee and cake and you have a city well worth visiting.
Leipzig’s Role in the Cold War
I’ve previously written about the Cold War in Germany but it was interesting to see the influence of the GDR outside of East Berlin. During the workers’ uprising in 1953, strikes spread from East Berlin to the rest of East Germany with Leipzig having one of the largest protests in the country. Soviet tanks rolled in and put a stop to that but the deaths and damage was never forgotten and is recognised in this subtle memorial in the centre of town.
Peaceful protests against the communist regime started in 1983 at the Nikolaikirche. These became known as the Monday Demonstrations which culminated in 1989 with more than 100,000 Leipzigers attending the protests each week. The Monday Demonstrations spread to other cities and the pressure contributed to the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9th November 1989.
The Forum of Contemporary History gives you a glimpse of daily life under communism as it takes you through the decades of the Cold War right up until the collapse of the regime. The propaganda and spy videos are particularly interesting as well as some of the famous images from that time.
Spying in the Stasi Museum
If you’re interested in the Cold War then I’d definitely suggest stopping by the Stasi Museum. It’s located in their former headquarters which upon entering has you immediately stepping back in time. You can’t help but be impressed by the scale and depth of their secret police work. Secret files, spying equipment and elaborate disguises are all on show.
Other Things to Do in Leipzig
While I find the Cold War history to be the most interesting thing about Leipzig, the city is also well known for its classical music history and for having some of the oldest coffee houses in Europe.
Leipzig is famous as a city of music which dates back to the time when Johann Sebastian Bach was a resident there. Oddly, Bach was not a famous composer during his lifetime but in the early 19th century his work was revived by popular composer Felix Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn also composed the world famous Wedding March for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Bach worked for many years at the Thomaskirche as choirmaster and he was buried there after his death in 1750. There’s also a statue of the great composer outside the church.
This is one of Bach’s most famous works and one of my favourite pieces of classical music:
There are plenty of places to see musical performances in Leipzig, just ask at the tourist office.
Leipzig’s Coffee Houses
Once you’re done visiting Bach at the Thomaskirche, cross the road for coffee and cake at Cafe Kandler.
Cafe Kandler is one of the top coffee houses in Leipzig (plus they have over 80 types of tea) but it’s not the oldest. That honour goes to Zum Arabischen Coffe Baum which is the oldest coffee house in Europe. They even have a coffee museum!
For €3 you can take the lift up to the viewing platform on the City Hochhaus building. From there you can see that Leipzig is a vey green city with a mixture of new and old architecture.
The City Hochhaus on Augustusplatz is the tallest building in Leipzig and right next door is the University of Leipzig. The design of the modern glass building was inspired by the Paulinerkirche which was destroyed by the communist regime in 1968.
Where to Stay in Leipzig
In Leipzig I stayed at the Best Western Hotel Leipzig. It’s located just opposite the train station and there are many hotels in that area. From there it’s a very short walk to the centre of Leipzig, the Forum of Contemporary History, the Stasi Museum and Leipzig’s famous coffee houses.2