Leipzig, Germany: Balancing Tradition with the Contemporary

You’ll never go hungry while visiting this former member of the German Democratic Republic
Staff Writer

Ron Stern

Leipzig’s oldest restaurant, Auerbachs Keller, now serves a modern menu.

Located in the East German state of Saxony, at the confluence of three rivers, Leipzig has always been a historically important city. Many notable figures of history have lived here and its citizens were instrumental in bringing about the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.

In recent years, Leipzig has emerged as a tourist mecca with museums, restaurants, and historical sites to explore. One such area that is being reclaimed is known as the Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei (Leipzig Cotton Mill). Situated in an industrial zone and constructed with tons of red bricks, this was once the largest cotton mill in Europe. Today, it houses art galleries, artists’ studios, and exhibition spaces.

The Leipzig Opera House is the third oldest bourgeois musical stage in Europe and is as beautiful inside as out. It is located on what used to be known as Karl Marx Square, the site of the Quiet or Peaceful Revolution of 1989.

Looking something like a large hued-green cube, the Museum der bildenden Künste or fine art museum houses more than 3,500 paintings. Other museums are the Bach Museum, STASI Museum, and the GRASSI Museum of Applied Arts.

Beautiful buildings are everywhere and the Old City Hall is a glorious example of Renaissance period architecture. On weekends, the adjacent market square comes alive with vendors turning the area into a farmers’ market and offering everything from eggs to cheese to flowers.

I never went hungry during my visit as there are numerous restaurants and sidewalk cafes. Grilled bratwurst with German mustard was something I could always find from local vendors and was culinary nirvana when served on a crispy roll.

The Zum Arabischen Coffe Baum is one of the oldest surviving coffee houses in Europe. Among its famous guests were Bach, Goethe, and even Napoleon.

On another day, I stopped at a local café whose specialty was soft serve ice cream with all manner of combinations that included orange syrup, Grand Marnier, chocolates, and whipping cream. In the interest of research, I went back twice just to make sure I didn’t miss anything the first time.

The most famous restaurant in Leipzig is Auerbachs Keller, once mentioned in Goethe’s Faust. Located downstairs in a shopping arcade, this establishment was started as a wine bar for, among other things, students. Its origins can be traced all the way back to 1438. Nowadays, they serve local cuisine and I can honestly say that my rouladen, red cabbage, and dumplings were the best I have ever had anywhere. I think I would visit this city again just to try this dish again.

Once you come for a visit, you will find that this former member of the German Democratic Republic has turned itself around in a big way with tourism activities that rival other major cities such as Dresden. Whether it is art, music, food, or history, Leipzig is one destination that will not disappoint.

A version of this story was originally published by San Diego Uptown News.

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