From Manchester to Cádiz, Warsaw to Dubrovnik, each week Midnight Weekly takes you on a tour of a major European city. And today we’re heading to Leipzig. The second-most populous city in East Germany is now home to many artists, creatives, musicians, writers and startup workers who were fed up with life in nearby Berlin. And most relevant of all, for us at least, it’s also one of the country’s true railway pioneers. Here’s where you should go next time you’re in town.
If you arrive in Leipzig by train (which is a great idea, by the way), the first thing you’ll see is the Grand Hotel Astoria, a symbol of the city’s luxurious past which it’s fair to say has faded quite a bit in the years since. Then you should take a walk through the city’s old town, with its pretty alleyways, arcades and shops that hark back to a bygone era. This corner of town may resemble loads of other town centres across Germany, but here it plays a very particular function: it contrasts with basically every other bit of the city.
As we mentioned, Leipzig is one of Europe’s youngest and most creative cities. So much so that it’s been nicknamed Hypezig and several media outlets have even referred to it as the ‘new Berlin’. The best place to take the pulse of the city is in the La Spinnerei neighbourhood. This former industrial area was the epicentre of the European cotton industry, and today it has transformed into a hangout for artists of all stripes. Former factory buildings have been reclaimed and turned into exhibition spaces, concert halls, workshops and dinky coffee shops. There are too many worth mentioning here – we suggest wandering around the area and discovering them for yourselves.
Leipzig is so cosmopolitan you can see it on the menus around town. At lunch, try something Asian. If you’re into your street food, we’d recommend stopping off at Viet Village Leipzig where everything, from the curries to Vietnamese specialities, is sumptuously fresh. In a whole other vein, you should definitely hit up Chinabrenner, a Chinese restaurant which dishes up gastronomy of a rare finesse in a very grand setting. It’s not very German, but it’s so Leipzig.
Once you’ve filled up, head over to the Connewitz neighbourhood: the city’s vibrant underground heart. As well as being one of the city’s greenest areas, here you’ll find exhibition spaces turned into vegan cafés and ultra-stylish boutiques. Two places in particular have helped this part of town gain its edgy reputation: Conne Island and KulturFabrik Werk II. These are the best places to stumble upon a far-fetched exhibition, a spontaneous DJ set or a breathtaking art installation. In Leipzig, you have to go off the beaten path to find the very best art.
The final area you simply must visit is Plagwitz. Like those mentioned above, this part of town brims with alternative culture. Most striking of all, though, is the street art. It’s everywhere: on walls, in exhibitions and in shops. If you don’t go away with hundreds of photos and a few souvenirs, you’re doing something wrong. But don’t worry, we know you’ll love the place.
To round off your trip, go for dinner at Falco. You won’t find any industrial architecture or street art here, but rather the city’s most beautiful view. More than 100 metres up, on the 27th floor of the Westin Hotel, this restaurant is a real Leipzig institution. Peter Maria Schnurr, its longtime chef, serves up food which he describes as ‘cuisine passion légère’ (literally, ‘lightly passionate cuisine’). This culinary genius consistently tears up the rulebook and always comes up with incredibly original ideas. Give the place a go, why don’t you?