Leipzig: Germany's New Creative Capital
Thanks to its playful and youthful atmosphere Leipzig has recently gained the moniker Hypezig. What is it about the largest city of Saxony, named after the linden tree, that entices creative spirits from all corners of the world? Lured by whispers about Germany’s paradise for lovers of history, architecture, nature and literature, but especially the fabulous food, art and industrial design, we decided to see it for ourselves.
Leipzig is the largest city of the federal state of Saxony and with its growing population also one of the ten largest cities in Germany. Situated at the intersection of trade routes that go back to the Roman Empire, its great trade potential is to this day evident in the Leipzig Trade Fair, which traces its origins to the 12th century. Leipzig also has deep roots in book publishing and music, although these creative industries were interrupted after the Second World War with the establishment of the Eastern Bloc. Over the past decade the city of heros has been experiencing a great cultural boom and the so-called ‘small Berlin’, with its relatively affordable living, has become a Mecca for creative spirits from all over the world.
Although the old city centre is very inviting, with the stunning architecture of the university grounds, the Leipzig Opera, the enchanting Saint Nicholas Church and the City-Hochhaus, Leipzig’s tallest building, we recommend that you first head to the west of the city – the industrial and culturally most interesting area known as Plagwitz. Rows of former factories that have been reborn as galleries and artist studios mingle with shops selling antiques as well as contemporary design. We recommend you start with breakfast in one of the local cafes on Karl-Heine-Straße [street], and then follow it up with a visit to Kunstkraftwerk, a unique centre of experimental art that emerged from the grounds of a former power station. For lunch enjoy the best falafel or halloumi kebab on Zschochersche Straße [street] and once refreshed, continue to Leipzig’s centre of cultural transformation – the former cotton factory Spinnerei transformed into a gallery and exhibition space. Young people say that in Leipzig everything is possible, and for Plagwitz this is doubly true. Recycling, upcycling and industrial architecture are all the rage, so if you want to surprise with something innovative, you have to have great ideas and courage to match. And these are not in short supply among local creatives and entrepreneurs, nor among the new arrivals who have come to favour Leipzig over saturated Berlin.
After more than 125 years as the largest cotton factory in the whole of continental Europe, the Spinnerei has been transformed into Leipzig’s culture and arts centre. Today the former factory complex houses dozens of galleries, printing workshops, creative studios and various other artistic souls.
The Neuschönefeld part of Leipzig is a former - or perhaps still current - punk area with some of the trendiest spots in the city. But you won’t find them listed on any tourist map. The only way there, just as to the local jazz club hidden in a greengrocer’s courtyard, is by word of mouth.
Once you have had enough of formerly abandoned brick buildings, take a boat ride to a woodland found right in the middle of the city. Enthusiasts of sport and outdoor activities will be impressed by Leipzig’s cycling paths, parks and the nearby system of lakes created when disused coal mines were flooded. These sanctuaries of serenity are lined by sandy beaches and offer opportunities for swimming, diving and many other water sports.
Whether you travel in search of history, culture, art, music, festivals or sport, you will find it all in Leipzig. But beware. A long weekend stay may not be enough, because the refreshing beer enjoyed under the shade of a linden tree, or the excellent double espresso and delicious vegan cake you ordered with your late breakfast before departure, are sure to make you want to stay longer. So add a few extra days to your trip.
You can find the whole Leipzig travel & city guide in Soffa issue 16.
text: Patrik Florián | photo: Adéla Havelková