Unlocking Leipzig: Discover the best of this incredible city

  • City Breaks
  • Germany
  • 7 min read
Unlocking Leipzig: Discover the best of this incredible city

Go Bach to the future in one of Germany’s most historic, cultured and exciting cities.

Throughout its history Leipzig has been the scene of seismic battles, debates and revolution. It has inspired poets, artists and musicians. One of Germany’s greatest literary figures, Goethe, wrote Faust in Leipzig; Johann Sebastian Bach composed some of his finest works in the city. Things happen here. Today it is known as ‘Hypezig’ – hipper and trendier than Berlin – and Germany’s ‘Boomtown’.

If you want to go a little further afield with LeShuttle, we would highly recommend Leipzig. It has wonderful museums and stunning architecture, and wander outside the charming Altstadt (old town) and you will find a vibrant, dynamic city ready to party.    

Where is Leipzig?

Leipzig is in eastern Germany, around 100 miles south-west of Berlin and 75 miles from Dresden. It is the largest city in the state of Saxony, and the second biggest in the former East Germany after Berlin.

Driving to Leipzig from Calais

It takes around nine and a half hours to drive to Leipzig (toll free) from the LeShuttle Calais terminal. Take the A16 towards Dunkirk and into Belgium, and then the E40 via Ghent and Brussels. Follow the E42 European route into Germany and then the Bundesautobahn 4 towards Cologne and autobahn 1 for Dortmund.  The last leg to Leipzig uses autobahn 44, 7 and 38. 

The old town hall in the Marktplatz, LeipzigThe old town hall in the Marktplatz, Leipzig

A brief history of the city

The city was first documented in the 11th century, and quickly became a trading centre. Its trade fair started in the Middle Ages and continues to this day. The University of Leipzig, one of the oldest universities in Europe, was founded in 1409, and law, publishing and printing thrived. During the Reformation the university held an important debate between Martin Luther and his opponents, and the city disseminated Lutheran teachings. 

Leipzig has played its part in wars and revolutions, from the Battles of the Thirty Years War in the 17th century to the Monday demonstrations in the 1980s against the German Democratic Republic. It was also badly bombed during World War II, but did not see the huge devastation that befell its neighbour Dresden. After the fall of Communism Leipzig has been rejuvenated, and is seen by many Germans as the ‘better Berlin’, attracting young people in their droves, helping to once again make Leipzig a cutting edge city for music and art. 

What is Leipzig best known for?

Leipzig is most famous for being the birthplace and home to several of history’s greatest composers. It abounds in music and opera heritage. Johann Sebastian Bach, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy and Robert Schumann all lived in Leipzig, and Richard Wagner was born here. The Bach and Mendelssohn museums are leading attractions in the city. 

As one of the major cities in Germany, Leipzig is steeped in history. Martin Luther risked his life arguing passionately for Church reform here in 1519, and Napoleon was defeated at the Battle of Leipzig in 1813. Once dominated by heavy industry, Leipzig is now a booming centre for digital and tech businesses, and has a reputation as one of Germany’s most creative cities. 

The best free things to do in Leipzig

St Thomas Church, LeipzigSt Thomas Church, Leipzig

Visit St. Thomas's Church

Thomaskirche is one of the most celebrated music churches in Germany. The Thomanerchor, a boys choir, was founded here in 1212, one of the oldest of its kind in the country. Among the most notable of the choir leaders and musical directors of the church was Bach himself, from 1723-50. Bach is buried at the church, but St Thomas’s does not only attract devotees of Bach’s music. It is also the church where Luther preached, Mozart played the organ and Wagner was baptised. 

The church itself is Gothic in style, and is open from 10am to 6pm every day, but may be closed from time to time for music rehearsals. 

Europe’s largest war memorial at Völkerschlachtdenkmal

The Völkerschlachtdenkmal, or Monument to the Battle of the Nations, commemorates the 110,000 men who died at the Battle of Leipzig. This was one of the most decisive battles in the Napoleonic Wars, and the victory for the coalition of Russian, Austrian, Prussian and Swedish armies forced Napoleon into exile and ended his imperial ambitions in Europe. 

The memorial was opened in 1913 on the centenary of the battle. At 91 metres high, it is one of the largest monuments in Europe. Visitors can climb the 500 steps inside the memorial and take in the stunning views from the viewing platform. The memorial precinct is free to enter but there is an entrance fee to reach the viewing area.

The Völkerschlachtdenkmal war memorialThe Völkerschlachtdenkmal war memorial

Visit the magnificent Hauptbahnhof Leipzig 

Which city can claim the biggest railway station in Europe? Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Rome? No, it is actually Leipzig! 

It is the continent’s largest with a floor area of 83,460m2, 19 overground platforms and a multi-level shopping centre. The station, opened in 1915, is a major interchange for services throughout Germany. With a façade that extends for 300 metres, the Hauptbahnhof is located in the Mitte district of the city and boasts two identical domed entrance halls, capturing sunlight in a way that evokes Grand Central Station in New York. In 2021 the station was ranked the best in Europe according to the European Railway Station Index. 

Explore Leipzig’s museums

Stadtgeschichtliches Museum (City History Museum)

Housed in the baroque Altes Rathaus (old town hall) in the Marktplatz, the Stadtgeschichtliches Museum offers a fascinating insight into the history of Leipzig. Drawing on its collection of over 600,000 items, the museum has permanent exhibitions tracing the city from medieval times, through Reformation, the Napoleonic Wars, World War, Cold War, Reunification and beyond. Amongst the objects on display include paintings, clothing, furniture, maps, documents, photographs, tools and children’s toys. 

Admission is free on the first Wednesday of the month, but there is normally an admission charge to the museum at all other times. 

Statue of Bach in Leipzig, where he lived for 27 yearsStatue of Bach in Leipzig, where he lived for 27 years

Museum der Bildenden Künste (Museum Of Fine Arts)

The Picture Museum, (known now as MdbK), moved around the city until it found its present home in a specially designed cuboid building in Katherinenstrasse in 2004. The museum’s collection includes 3,500 paintings, 1,000 sculptures and 60,000 drawings, sketches and graphics. Visitors can admire works by Frans Hals, Lucas Cranach the Elder and Caspar David Friedrich, alongside contemporary artists. It is a real treat for fans of the visual arts, and the museum’s curators do an amazing job of bringing the art alive in a space that is almost worth the admission price alone. The Museum Of Fine Arts is open every day of the week except Mondays, and ticket prices are available on the MdbK website.


The building in which Bach and his family lived no longer exists, but the museum to his life and work is about as close as you can get. The Bose House sits opposite St Thomas church and is one of the finest surviving Renaissance buildings in Leipzig. This fully interactive museum immerses you in Bach’s world and music. You can get close to the very instruments Bach and his orchestras used, challenge yourself to date a Bach manuscript, and listen to any piece of Bach music in the listening studio. 

A Bachfest is held annually in Leipzig in the summer, but if you visit in late 2023 and early 2024 you can still catch events celebrating the 300th anniversary of Bach’s appointment as kapellmeister at St Thomas’s. 

Things to do in Leipzig at night

The famous Auerbachs Keller, the tavern which featured in Goethe’s play FaustThe famous Auerbachs Keller, the tavern which featured in Goethe’s play Faust 

Soak up the atmosphere of  Marktplatz Leipzig

The central square in the Altstadt is the place to go for drinks, dinner and late night entertainment. Here you will find buzzing cocktail and wine bars, cafés, restaurants and pubs, with plenty of opportunities to dance the night away, chat to friends over a glass of wine or stein of beer. Why not follow in the footsteps of Faust and dine in the famous Auerbachs Keller, just off the Marktplatz? Sip a ‘Mephisto’s Fire’ cocktail at the bar and drink in the legends of one of Leipzig’s oldest and most celebrated restaurants. 

The buzzing street scene of Karl-Liebknecht-Straße

One of the main thoroughfares in the Zentrum-Süd district, Karl-Liebknecht-Straße, or ‘Karli’ as it is known to locals, is very much the hub of Leipzig nightlife. This is where the city’s students and bright young things come out to play. Restaurants cater for every budget and taste, watering holes range from hip and edgy bars to cosy taverns. Café Puschkin is great for comfort food and the Beyerhaus is an atmospheric pub with high ceilings and wood panelling. Anywhere on ‘Karli’ is easy to get to using the city’s trams which go right down the street. 

Take in a show at Varieté-Theater Krystallpalast

For more traditional entertainment, take your seats in the Varieté-Theater Krystallpalast. This venerable venue in the old town hosts variety shows, comedy, circus acts and live music. Before the show you can choose from a two or three course menu at the main theatre restaurant, or tickle your tastebuds with tapas at the theatre’s Salon Fridel Hönisch.

 Explore Leipzig with LeShuttle

Augustusplatz, LeipzigAugustusplatz, Leipzig 

Leipzig has the lot – culture, history, sport, nightlife, music. Whether you go in summer or winter, for the Christmas markets or Bachfest, a few days here and you will be saying: “Ich liebe Leipzig!”

Start your LeShuttle Leipzig journey with a 35 minute crossing from Calais to Folkestone.

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