Leipzig is emerging as Germany’s new capital of culture, but don’t call it the next Berlin. The former factories and industrial sites that were left vacant after the days of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) are being rejuvenated and reimagined into public areas, creative enclaves, and multi-use spaces. After a mass exodus following reunification, the city’s population is finally approaching pre-GDR thresholds and evolving in the process. As the city and its residents continue to embrace the transformation of their city, the balance between revitalization and full blown gentrification is on the forefront of everyone’s mind.

The cost of living in Leipzig is relatively inexpensive, where rent, food, and basic necessities are lower than in other areas of Germany. Add to that a core group of young, creative and energized residents and Leipzig is bound to increasingly become a hip destination, inevitably inviting comparison to Berlin a decade or so ago. Many locals are keenly aware of the negative impacts borne from the hype that surrounded Berlin and are dead-set on avoiding the same fate closer to home. While the gentrification paradox is not unique to Leipzig, it’s a balancing act with many Leipzigers focused on maintaining the equilibrium.

Leipzig has always attracted a steady stream of visitors, most interested in exploring its rich history, such as its role in the fall of the Berlin Wall, or its musical heritage, after all composers Bach, Wagner, Mendelssohn and hundreds of others lived and worked in the city. While these will continue to be vital pillars of tourism, Leipzig’s emergence as a hub for arts and culture will increasingly bring visitors out of the picturesque city centre and into the real neighbourhoods. It’s impossible to deny that the city is having a moment.

Leipzig Travel: What to See & Do

Rent a bike

With a sizeable student population and a relatively flat terrain, Leipzig is a true bike city. You’ll likely encounter more people zipping by on two wheels than driving and walking combined. Bikes are chained to every conceivable post, fence, or railing often stacked several deep. Leipzig is quite a breeze to get around even as a visitor as dedicated bike lanes transect the city making it an efficient and convenient way to see a lot of it. The easiest way to rent a bike while in town is to use nextbike, which is a bike sharing program. You can download their app to sign up and find bikes in your vicinity. There’s also plenty of day trips you can take by bike from Leipzig if you want to see more of the surrounding area.

Leipzig Travel - bike city

Explore Leipzig’s green spaces

Leipzig has an abundance of green spaces scattered throughout the city so wherever you are you can expect to come across a bit of nature. Clara Zetkin is the city’s flagship park, an expanse of green that’s a local favourite particularly in the summer. For a sprawling view over Leipzig, head into the forest and climb the slightly wobbling watchtower that sits high above Rosental Park. Another green gem in the northwest area of the city is Schlosspark Lützschena, about a thirty minute bike ride from the city centre.

Leipzig Travel - Johannapark

Check out the vibrant arts scene

The Spinnerei is a former cotton mill, at one point the largest in Europe, which fell out of use in the 90s after reunification. A revitalization project saw the abandoned buildings of the baumswollpinnerei converted into spaces for art and culture. The complex houses several galleries, design shops, and exhibits as well as restaurants and boutiques – ideal to explore over a few hours. The Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst (Gallery of Contemporary Art) showcases art from post 1945, highlighting German artists in particular as well as international creators in well curated exhibits. In addition to the gallery, there’s also a restaurant, cafe, and hotel on premise. Gallery Hier + Jetzt (Here + Now) is the spot to check out emerging contemporary urban art in the Tapetenwerk, a former wallpaper factory. At the moment, the gallery offers an urban art tour of Leipzig one Saturday per month.

Leipzig Travel - Spinnerei

Get to know Plagwitz

The west end of Leipzig is one of the more recent areas in the city to embark on the gentrification process as it’s increasingly been a hub for students and the city’s creative crowd. Stroll the Karl-Heinz Straße – the main drag in Plagwitz – where you’ll come across a profusion of eateries, indie shops and cafes. At the end of the stretch you’ll come across Westwerk, another converted industrial space that’s become a gathering spot for the creatively minded set, hosting exhibits and events. Get swept up in the buzzing and edgy atmosphere of the neighbourhood.

Leipzig Travel - Plagwitz

Stroll the Karli

Karl-Liebknecht Straße, nicknamed Karli by locals, is a main drag of the city, originating just past the Altstadt and running south through Südvorstadt and into the increasingly alternative Connewitz. Karli feels central but is still outside of downtown, so it’s an ideal street to get to know the non-touristy Leipzig. Peruse the many restaurants, boutiques, bars and coffee shops that dot the Karli as your bound to come across some interesting spots like local favourites vegan eatery Symbiose, fashion and lifestyle brand Tranquillo, and dozens of sidewalk patios to have a drink. Day or night, there are always signs of life on the Karli.

Leipzig Travel - KarLi

Sample the local beer

Gose beer originated in Goslar, a town 200 kilometres west of Leipzig, but the city adopted the style as its own after a Duke brought it to the city. Production of gose, a highly carbonated top fermented sour beer with herbaceous flavours of coriander and lemon, was major business in Leipzig with dozens of breweries making the popular brew throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. The style fell out of fashion in the mid 20th century with the last brewery closing up shop in the ’60s, essentially making gose beer extinct. Twenty years later, gose was resurrected and is now produced by four breweries in Germany and many more abroad. Try a glass of gose at Bayerischer Bahnhofan impressive former train station that has been converted into a brewery, restaurant and beer garden.

Leipzig Travel - Bayerischer Bahnhof

Take in the street art

Leipzig is a hotspot for street art the city has a solid history in this alternative medium. Blek le Rat, one of the first stencil graffiti artists and Banksy precursor, drew ‘Madonna and Child‘ in 1991 on the side of a house on the Karli. The piece was covered up with posters and lost to the world for years before being rediscovered and protected behind glass in 2012. Nowadays, the buildings and alleyways in and around Karli and Karl-Heinz are heavy on the street art, with something new and novel to discover at every turn. The movement is so popular that Leipzig hosts a street art festival in October.

Leipzig Travel - street art

Climb high

Kletterfelsen K4 is a unique rock climbing experience right in the city limits. Built using remnants of former GDR buildings that were demolished after reunification, adventurous visitors can scale one of several tracks and have a view of the city that few others can obtain. While the manmade cliff can be found in the western suburb of Grünau, tickets to climb must be purchased at the shop Guter Griff, which is in the opposite end of town.

Escape to the lake

When the weather is nice Leipzigers head to the shores of the Cospudener See south of the city. While only a twenty minute drive, or better yet a scenic thirty minutes by bike, Cospudener feels a world away from Leipzig. The clear blue waters and sandy beaches offer a serene setting for a day trip, where visitors can revel in the sun and swim in the cool waters to their heart’s content. A number of restaurants and cafes are situated around the lake to round out the experience. If your Leipzig travel coincides with sunny weather, don’t miss out on this experience.

Leipzig Travel - Cospudener See

Experience the nightlife

As expected of any legitimate student city, Leipzig has a thriving nightlife with plenty of variety. Popular bars include Karli staple Barfly where a youthful crowd sips on bargain cocktails, while nearby Flowerpower indulges in the music of generations past for those who are feeling nostalgic, and you can’t miss nightlife haunt La Boum with its colourful mural. If you’re in a bind head to Drallewatsch, a strip of more than thirty bars in the city centre that are more on the touristy side but will do the trick. If you’re looking for something with more intensity, checkout stronghold Distillery, Leipzig’s techno club of choice for decades or more alternative culture hub Conne Island in Connewitz.

Leipzig Travel - Drallewatsch

Leipzig Travel: Where to stay

Hip budget hotel chain Motel One has two locations in the centre of the city making it a convenient base from which to explore Leipzig. With decors that are clean and artsy, and super comfy beds, Motel One Nikolaikirch and Motel One Augustplatz are two of the highest rated hotels in the city. Rooms start at 69€.

Leipzig Travel Tips:

For more insider tips on what to do while in Leipzig, download the Hidden Leipzig app or visit the website. This collection of interesting spots across the city is one of the best guides created by a local tourism office that I’ve encountered. It’s full of quirky and off-the-beaten-path suggestions to help you make the most of your time in this exhilarating city.

For your Leipzig travel consider purchasing the Leipzig Card, which offers free or reduced admission to several museums and exhibitions, discounts on tours and restaurants, and free transportation within the city. The Leipzig Cards are 11.50€ for one day and 22.50€ for three days per person.

Visited Leipzig before? Have any of your own Leipzig travel tips?

Leipzig Travel images courtesy of Andreas Schmidt (2, 4, 9, slider), Michael Bader (8), Spinnerei (3), Lauren Barth (6), and Flickr: hybrid-moment (1), deux expats (5, 7)

Departful was a guest of the Leipzig Tourism Board. All thoughts and opinions are completely independent.