Thanks to a newly-launched direct flight path from London Stansted, spending a festive weekend in Leipzig, Germany has never been easier. Full of fascinating heritage and brimming with intellectual talent, Sophie Ritchie shares how to spend a weekend in this Saxon city
The arrival of December might mean chilly nights, a distinct lack of daylight and an annual hunt to find one’s Big Coat, but it also marks the arrival of Europe’s Christmas markets – and when it comes to a treasure trove of festive happenings, Leipzig, the biggest city in eastern Germany located about 160km southwest of Berlin, is tough to beat.
Considering Leipzig’s fairly small city centre radius, the fact it can squeeze 300 stalls into the surroundings for its annual Christmas market is quite impressive. First established in 1458, this jam-packed affair has become known across Germany and beyond for its beautiful wares and high quality goods – much like Leipzig itself, which has strong trading roots since its very inception.
Nowadays, tourists and locals alike flock here for the wide variety of food, gifts, wares and of course, drinks. From creamy hot chocolates served in engraved glasses to steaming themed mugs of white mulled wine, this heaving Christmas market is a must-visit for anyone seeking the essence of Christmas spirit. And let’s be honest, England has felt a little Scrooge-like as of late.
Of course, there’s so much more to this city than its Santa-inspired fun. Famous for its culture, particularly when it comes to classical music, a weekend here will undoubtedly be spent exploring on your feet (so pack comfortable shoes). For those keen to learn more about Leipzig’s nooks and crannies, book a walking tour before you even think about stepping foot inside a museum. You can find plenty for free taking place throughout the week, as well as ticketed guided exertions with local experts.
Learn more about the stories surrounding the buildings around you, as well as hilarious facts behind the statues and monuments that bring the charm of Leipzig to life. From a ‘prostitute fountain’ to engraved snails designed to mock an architecture’s annoyance at getting paid slowly as a freelancer (some things never change) there’s so much more than meets the eye when it comes to these archaic streets.
Where To Stay: NH Leipzig Zentrum
Flanked by a team of well-heeled and hard-working staff, four-star NH Leipzig Zentrum has a location only moments from the action – located opposite the new town hall and within walking distance of many famous buildings, as well as Petersstrasse’s shopping. This 197-room property feels like its been designed for the modern explorer – there’s enough space to relax, but there’s certainly an emphasis on getting outside and seeing the world – even the bathrooms feature huge images of famous Leipzig landmarks.
Bedrooms are spacious and contemporary, decked out with sultry lighting and simple furnishings that create light, open spaces. You’ll notice the distinct lack of clutter – it’s minimal and modern throughout, decked out with simple working desks and beds sporting crisp, white bedding. Dump your bags and get outside instead – and should you need a pick-me-up along the way, the reception offers a handy station where complimentary coffees, juices and even Rittersport chocolates await.
Breakfast is served on the first floor, with a wide buffet-style array of pastries, bread, juice machines, meats, fruits and other continental delights. I take delight at finding not one but five types of muesli, as well as multiple coffee machines for a morning cappuccino fix. Although there’s plenty of seating, the restaurant undeniably becomes a battle ground at peak dining times – so set the alarm for a little earlier to beat the rush and inevitable queues. Talk about a bun fight. nh-hotels.com/hotel/nh-leipzig-zentrum
Things To Try
Watch this: Whether you’re an avid fan of classical music or not, a concert courtesy of the world-class Gewandhausorchester is bound to impress. Wowing audiences with their melodic synchronicity since 1782, head to the incredible Gewandhaus (a name derived from the word fabric, thanks to the building’s former textile trade purpose) and take a seat for a performance that’ll leave you clapping for more. Save time in the interval to head to the main foyer for a Utopian-inspired mural that’s as notable as the notes themselves. gewandhausorchester.de/en
Go here: One of Leipzig’s most famous musicians, travellers can visit the former house of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy himself. The enormous apartment will not only inspire you to put more hours in at work, but also provide endless fascination through its beautiful preservation of Bartholdy’s life and family history. Don’t miss a go on the “Effektorium” – a high-tech conductor’s podium that allows visitors to conduct their very own virtual orchestra by waving a baton around in time to the music. mendelssohn-haus.de
Listen to this: Taking place on Fridays at 6pm sharp, head to St Thomas Church for a Motet choir performance in the very same church Bach himself once worked and composed. Shut your eyes and listen to the reverberating sounds around you – you might nod off in the process, but it’s all part of the enchanting experience.
Run here: NH Leipzig Zentrum might have a gym, but nothing beats pulling on your trainers and taking on the great outdoors. Run through the nearby Clara-Zetkin Park (found just five minutes from the hotel) and enjoy the sights around you. Keep following the muddy trails and you’ll eventually get to the river, which makes a beautiful amble for starting the day. Plus, if you get up early enough, you can even make use of the city’s clever traffic lights, which automatically turn green for pedestrians when they sense someone approaching.
Where to Eat
Best for tradition: The second oldest restaurant in Leipzig, Auerbachs Keller boasts a story or too – in fact, it’s within these decorated walls that the famous German poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, once frequented – it even provided inspiration for his play, Faust. The wordsmith might be long gone, but the enchanting tavern decor remains – pull up a pew and enjoy platefuls of traditional Saxon cuisine, served in the company of lavish murals, quirky statues and other antique furnishings. auerbachs-keller-leipzig.de
Best for groups: Traveling in a pack? The Weinstock restaurant is perfect for larger groups of friends, filled with a buzzing atmosphere that is almost infectious. You’re bound to enjoy the range of fresh and seasonal dishes, especially if you’re a fan of festive-themed menus. restaurant-weinstock-leipzig.de
Best for wow-factor: For something rather special, book dinner at Panorama Tower, the highest restaurant in middle Germany. The modern menu’s dishes are sublime and presented beautifully, but it’s the sprawling views across Leipzig and beyond that’ll really leave a lasting impression. panorama-leipzig.de/en
The Wordrobe Verdict
Full of fascinating heritage and brimming with intellectual talent, Leipzig makes an excellent alternative to the typical Christmas market getaway. Ideal for the musical-minded and curious adventurers alike, take advantage of Ryanair’s newly-launched flight path this festive season and plan a weekend to this German city for a life-size grotto experience. One thing’s for sure – I’ll be Bach.
Make it happen
Find out more and start the adventure via leipzig.travel
Words by Sophie Ritchie, editor