Leipzig Introduction Walking Tour, Leipzig

Leipzig Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Leipzig

The name "Leipzig" may be derived from the Slavic word "Lipsk", meaning "linden trees place." The Nazi government renamed the city "Reichsmessestadt Leipzig" ("Reich Fair Trade City Leipzig"). In 1989, with the fall of communism, the city was "Hero City" - in recognition of the role that the Monday demonstrations there played in the fall of the East German regime. The nickname today is "Boomtown of eastern Germany."

The city was granted market status in 1165 by Otto II, Margrave of Meissen. The Leipzig Trade Fair dates back to 1190 AD and is the oldest international trade fair in the world. Leipzig was also a center of publishing and the arts. Internationally famed composers Johann Sebastian Bach, Richard Wagner, Robert Schumann, Felix Mendelssohn, Gustav Mahler, and others established the city's great musical traditions.

During World War II bombings, the wartime pogroms, and the ravages of the succeeding communist regime, Leipzig became depleted, impoverished, and polluted. After reunification, especially since 2000, the decline has been reversed, and the "Boomtown" has arrived.

The old center of the city is marked by Renaissance-style buildings, mainly from the 16th century. There are also Baroque trading houses and residences. The New City Hall, built in 1905, is Historicist. A notable exception is the 624-foot skyscraper, Hochhaus Leipzig.

Young Johann Goethe liked to drink at the Auerbach's Cellar, a locale he used in his play. Faust. St Thomas Church was where Bach served as cantor. It is home to the Boys Choir of Leipzig. Bach also worked at St Nicholas Church, later the home of the Monday night marchers of 1989.

Banners appeared among the ruins after wartime bombings. Some read, "Our walls are broken, but our hearts are strong." Leipzig, the city of strong hearts and spirits, is back. Come to the city where Schiller wrote "Ode to Joy" and feel the rebirth of Germany.
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Leipzig Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Leipzig Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Germany » Leipzig (See other walking tours in Leipzig)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 Km or 1.5 Miles
Author: karenl
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Augustusplatz (Augustus Square)
  • Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas Church)
  • Mädler-Passage Shopping Complex
  • Market Square and Old Town Hall
  • Petersstraße (Peter Street )
  • Thomaskirche (St. Thomas Church)
  • Neues Rathaus (New City Hall)
  • Peterskirche (St. Peter Church)
Augustusplatz (Augustus Square)

1) Augustusplatz (Augustus Square)

Frederick Augustus III, King of Saxony and Duke of Warsaw in the early 19th century, struggled to establish Poland as an independent country. He failed. But in 1839, the main square of Grimma in Leipzig was renamed Augustus Square (Augustusplatz) in his memory.

The square, within the city walls in 1785, was designed by city architect Johann Carl Friedrich Dauthe. In 1928 a Socialist government named the site Karl Marx Square. Nazis renamed it Augustus Square. In 1953 it was Karl Marx Square again. In the 1990 reunification of Germany, it was restored to the memory of Frederick as Augustus Square.

Augustus Square is the largest square in Leipzig. Before World War II, it was one of the most beautiful squares on the continent. On December 4, 1943, the allied Air Force reduced the square to ruins. Restorations took place, but the site lost its stylistic unity. Buildings around the square show eclecticism rather than a unity of style.

The Opera House of Leipzig, with its fountain, dominates the northern part of the square. The Mendebrunnen, representing an obelisk and a fountain, stands in front of the New Concert Hall. University of Leipzig buildings, including the 36-story City-Skyscraper (City-Hochhaus), are on the west side.

An underground car park with eight illuminated glass stairwells looks like "milk bottles," locals say.
Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas Church)

2) Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas Church) (must see)

One of the most important churches of Leipzig is named for St Nicholas, the patron saint of travelers and merchants. The church started in 1185 as a Romanesque-style edifice with two look-alike towers. It was enlarged and redone in the 16th century in the Gothic "hall church" style, which features a nave and aisles of approximately equal height, united under a single immense roof. The Baroque-style central tower was added in 1730.

The interior was remodeled in 1797, in a Neoclassical style, by architect Johann Carl Friedrich Dauthe. Inside, the apse is semicircular with a barrel vault roof. The narrow nave is supported by graceful Egyptian-style columns, with palm-shaped capitals. The interior colors are in two pastel shades of pale green and dusty rose.

The church hosted four of the five premier performances of Johann Sebastian Bach's Passion of St. John in 1724, 1728, 1732, and 1749. Several of his cantatas and oratorios were performed by the St. Thomas Choir of Leipzig (Thomanerchor), a boy's choir with a tradition of more than 800 years in music and city history.

From 1989 to 1991, people would gather at St. Nicholas every Monday evening. The meetings were not formal. They led to ad hoc protests against the Communist East German Government. Cabaret artist Bernd-Lutz Lange declared of the revolution: "The head was the St. Nicholas Church and the body the center of the city."

The authorities were thrown off balance, as they were expecting violence. But that never occurred, violance were not in the playbook. A monumental column stands outside the church today. Close to the Neoclassical column, colored panels in the pavement light up after dark, telling the story of the Monday night marchers.
Mädler-Passage Shopping Complex

3) Mädler-Passage Shopping Complex

The Madler Passage is an L-shaped shopping arcade. The arcade opens at Grimaische Street at one end and onto Neumarkt at the other. There is another entrance at Peter Street since the Industrial Fair House Market was built in 1965. This entrance also connects to Kings House Passage.

In 1525, Stromer von Auerbach, rector of Leipzig University, opened a wine bar, Auerbach's Cellar (Auerbachs Keller). The wine cellar operation prospered, and the professor decided to build an exhibition hall in the same place named Auberbach's Courtyard (Auerbachs Hof). That was a 6,000-square-meter space for porcelain, ceramics, and earthenware.

Anton Madler acquired Auerbach's Courtyard in 1912. He intended to redevelop and modernize with the installation of his building. There was a public outcry to preserve Auerbach's Cellar. Madler then incorporated the traditional cellar into his reconstruction. The main arcade entrance on Grimmaische Street is guarded by two female figures; one holding grapes and the other a ceramic vase.

The Madler Passage is one of Europe’s most famous shopping arcades, with a vast collection of exclusive stores with select products. Lining the arcade are boutiques, specialist stores, restaurants, cafes, and bars. There are offices on the upper floors and a cabaret theatre. Auerbach's Cellar and restaurant are still serving downstairs. The Mephisto Bar is a favorite waterhole.
Market Square and Old Town Hall

4) Market Square and Old Town Hall (must see)

The Market Square of Leipzig is the central place of Leigzip's city center. There are arcades and courtyards well worth a visit, and the Old Town Hall housing the City History Museum is the central attraction. St Nicholas and St Thomas Churches are easily reached from here.

Throughout the year, the square is the venue of a diversity of Markets and events. There is the Easter Market, the Wine Festival, Leipzig Market Music, and the fabulous Christmas Market. Since the 13th century, Leipzig and its Markets have been the most vital centers of trade in Germany.

In 1341, Frederick II, Son of Frederick the Peaceful and Margrave of Meissen, offered the cloth merchants of Leipzig a Romanesque building of their own at the south end of the Leipzig Market Square. This building, called the Cloth Hall (Tuchhaus), shared extensions and spaces with the City Council.

The building complex grew. Two structures were added in the 15th century. A council chamber was completed in 1467. A stair tower emerged in 1476. In 1498, after all the growth and extensions, it was decided to rebuild the Town Hall.

The Old Town Hall was rebuilt in its current Saxon Renaissance style in 1557. It housed the Upper Court and the Court of Aldermen, the city magistrate, council archives, and prison cells. In 1905, it was decided to use the Old Town Hall as the Leipzig City History Museum.

The two-story building is over 300 feet long. It has a steep roof with 13 connecting row dormers and staggered gables. A stone arcade faces the square. An octagonal stair tower is next to the main entrance. The entrance is flanked by two ionic columns topped with the gaff heads of the master builders. Stone box oriels are on the gable ends.

In the large ceremonial hall is a portrait of Johann Sebastian Bach by German painter Elias Gottlob Haussmann. Haussmann also signed Bach's employment certificate as a cantor at St. Thomas' Church. There is also a scale model of the city in 1832 made by Leipzig upholsterer and furniture maker Johann Christoph Merzdorf.
Petersstraße (Peter Street )

5) Petersstraße (Peter Street )

Peter Street is a pedestrianized commercial street that connects the Market Square of Leipzig with Wilhelm-Leuschner-Square. It is part of the medieval Imperial Road (Via Imperii), possibly the oldest street in the city. One of the city's main shopping streets, it got its name from the St. Peter's Chapel (Petrerskapelle), the site of the former St Peter's Church (1507-1885).

Important buildings on the street include the Three Kings House, the Concentrahaus, and the Greenlander House, the oldest house on the street, built in 1749-1751 by architect George Werner for the Haugk family. Above the door is a gold relief of a Greenlander in a boat. This goes back to a Haugk family story - a member of the family was saved on a voyage off Greenland. The narrow building with an owl on the roof a little further to the right was built for Otto Hoffmann’s bank by his brother Julius Hoffmann. The façade design picks up on the symbolism of a bank house.

A building complex, the Petershof, on the left of the old bank was once a toy fair building and a cinema called the Capitol. It was built from 1927 to 1929 according to plans by the Leipzig architect Alfred Liebig. In 2004 the Petershof was demolished, to be rebuilt in 2006 as an office building with underground parking. The original facade and most of the atrium were retained.

The new Peter Arcade (Petersbogen) holds a supermarket, the University of Law (Juridicum), a multiplex cinema with eight screens, and a library. The building complex includes businesses and some buildings destroyed in the allied air raid of December 4, 1943.
Thomaskirche (St. Thomas Church)

6) Thomaskirche (St. Thomas Church) (must see)

Since the 1100s, at least, there has been a church at the St. Thomas Church site in Leipzig. Under the crossing and choir of the current Gothic hall church, there are the Romanesque foundations of a yet earlier church. In the 13th century, the earlier building became the Augustinian monastery and core of the University of Leipzig, founded in 1409.

Troubadour Heinrich von Morungen gifted a relic of St Thomas to the church in 1217. Martin Luther preached here in 1538. The current tower was built in 1537. Johann Sebastian Bach directed the choir at St Thomas and taught at st Thomas School until he died in 1750. Carl Seffner's statue of Bach next to the church was dedicated in 1906.

While on tour, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart played the organ at the church in 1789. Richard Wagner was baptized here in 1813. He later studied piano with the cantor Christian Weinlig. A bronze statue of Felix Mendelssohn designed by sculptor Werner Stein was erected opposite the church in 1909.

St. Thomas Church is 250 feet long with a nave of 164 feet. The roof is extraordinarily steep. The crown is 148 feet high, and the tower is 223 feet. At the end of the 19th century, the interior of the church was transformed from Baroque to Neo-Gothic.

The church is home to a variety of works of art. The baptismal font was made in 1615 by sculptor Franz Doteber. A Baroque crucifix by artist Caspar Freidrich Löbel remains from the times of Bach. The colored windows date from 1889. They show King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, Johann Sebastian Bach, Martin Luther, Elector Friedrich der Weise and Emperor Wilhelm I.

St. Thomas Church has two pipe organs. The older, Romantic organ by Wilhelm Sauer was built in 1889. This organ was considered inadequate for Bach's music. The newest organ to replace the original was built in 2000. It was designed to look identical to the organ Bach played in the St.Paul Church, where he was music director for holiday services in 1723−1725.
Neues Rathaus (New City Hall)

7) Neues Rathaus (New City Hall)

In the 1870s, Leipzig was outgrowing its Town Hall. It was fast becoming a big city. Several expansion plans for a new Town Hall had been discarded when the city acquired the gargantuan Pleissenburg Castle from the Kingdom of Saxony. A competition was held for architectural designs with a specification that the tower of Pleissenburg Castle is retained. Architect Hugo Licht and sculptor Georg Wrba worked on the design and construction.

The New City Hall is located on the southwest edge of the inner city ring road, not far from the Palace of Justice (Reichsgericht). The central tower of the new City Hall is 377 feet high. It is the tallest city hall tower in Germany and one of Leipzig's most important landmarks.

The cornerstone was laid in October 1899. The Hall opened officially in October 1905. An annex to the new City Hall designed by Hugo Licht opened in 1912. It sits across the Lotter Street (Lotterstrasse), named after Mayor Hieronymus Lotter. The two buildings are connected by a two-story bridge called the "civil service path."

The entire complex of buildings was made using Franconian shell limestone. On the southwest facade stands the statues Crafts, Justice, Book Art, Science, and Music. The town hall clock bears the inscription in Latin, "Death is certain, the hour is uncertain."

In the basement is located the Ratskeller Leipzig, a restaurant, and a public canteen. The paternoster lifts, non-stop elevators are used throughout. Guided tours of the tower are available.
Peterskirche (St. Peter Church)

8) Peterskirche (St. Peter Church)

The Old St. Peter's Church, built in 1507, was used as a Lutheran church until 1539. It was erected close to one of the four city gates. The quarter around it was called St. Peter's quarter. The church fell into disuse but was revived in the 18th century. In 1876 it was decided to build a new church.

There was an all-German design competition in 1877. The designs by architects August Hartel and Constantin Lipsius were chosen. Construction began in 1882. Laying the foundation stone was celebrated on 17 September of the same year. It was dedicated on 27 December 1885. The St. Peter's Church, built in a Gothic Revival style, has the highest tower of any church in Leipzig, at 285 feet. Its exterior is richly decorated, with stained-glass windows and a large portal on the western side.

Currently, the interior is bare of pews, using folding chairs. The apse is in the shape of a semicircle within a pointed arch. The nave is wide, comparatively speaking. Heavy tubular columns line the sides.

St. Peter's Church is open every day. Services are broadcast online as well.

Walking Tours in Leipzig, Germany

Create Your Own Walk in Leipzig

Create Your Own Walk in Leipzig

Creating your own self-guided walk in Leipzig is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Leipzig Architectural Jewels

Leipzig Architectural Jewels

Anyone who has ever wanted to delve into Leipzig's history could hardly imagine doing so without exploring the local array of architectural jewels. Indeed, Leipzig boasts one of Germany's most beautiful collections of Renaissance buildings.

Our first point of interest lies in downtown Leipzig at the intersection of Katherine and Bruhl Streets. Here, the stunning Baroque-style Romanus...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.9 Km or 0.6 Miles
A Walk on the Leipzig Music Trail

A Walk on the Leipzig Music Trail

The spatial density of historic locations associated with music in Leipzig is truly mind-boggling. But then again, this is hardly surprising, given the eclectic score of musicians who had left their mark on the city in various years.

Indeed, it was in Leipzig that Johann Sebastian Bach served as an organist and choirmaster at Thomaskirche as well as a cantor at Nikolaikirche; composer Robert...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.2 Km or 2 Miles