– By Natalie Harms, It’s Not Hou It’s Me
Whether you’re walking past St. Thomaskirche where it’s stood since the 12th century or through the city center listening to a group of street performers harmonizing pop music, you can feel how Leipzig relishes in creativity in its past, its present and, inevitably, its future. Here are some ways to enjoy the city’s decades of creativity — from music to art and more.
Visit the historic neo-classical home of Robert and Clara Schumann, composers and performers who moved into the Schumann House in 1840. Join a public guided tour (Sundays at 3 pm) or attend a concert (most Saturdays at 6 pm) to experience the house as they might have. We attended a concert that featured works from both Robert and Clara Schumann. Performed by a pianist and mezzo-soprano, the music came to life as we listened to classical pieces interspersed with commentary about the history and meaning behind the works—including the history of the building, the ups and downs of the couple’s relationship, and the famous guests they entertained. The soprano even read us excerpts from their joint-marriage diary to bring to life their passion for music and each other.
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy is another famous musician that graced Leipzig with his talents. We visited his home—mansion really—and attend a Sunday concert in the upstairs salon. The Sunday concert tradition dates to the mid-1830s when his sister Fanny hosted all sorts of orchestras and choirs to perform for intellectuals, musicians and even royalty. Revived in 1997, the Sunday concerts at Mendelssohn House are intimate affairs and cost 12€.
Bach-Museum & St. Thomaskirche
It’s hard to not say Leipzig and Bach in the same sentence. This German city is where famous musician Johann Sebastian Bach composed 40 cantatas in 40 weeks. Stop by the Bach-Museum to see original manuscripts and listen to organ and piano recordings literally echo through the hallways of the creak wood floor museum. You can be in the room with an organ that Bach himself worked on and learn about Bach’s family tree — he had TWENTY kids (only half lived to adulthood). Plus, if Baroque instruments have any interest to you, you can learn their history, hear from over a dozen and even play a clavichord.
Then walk across the street and visit St. Thomas Church, where Bach is buried, and catch a performance from the boys choir (Bach was music director for 27 years) on Friday night or Saturday afternoon. Richard Wagner and Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy also frequented this church. Be sure to check out the rainbow stained-glass window on the second floor that represents peace and was donated by Houston!
GRASSI Museum of Musical Instruments
Engage in the search for the perfect sound at the extensive Museum of Musical Instruments, which houses over 5000+ instruments. The collection primarily focuses on European music and the impact on social life. We had a blast listening to the music boxes (playing Bach of course), seeing decadent af piano decorations, and even sneaking a peek at instruments made of human skulls.
A total local hangout spot, this bridge in the middle of Clara Zetkin Park attracts performers of all levels and fame. Stop by in the evening to see anyone from a street performer to a well-known band playing music on Saxony Bridge in the outdoor space of the Schleussig neighborhood.
Founded in 1693, the Leipzig Opera is the third-oldest civic musical theatre in Europe. We got a super cool behind the scenes look and saw the dressing rooms, went backstage, through the loading docs and even into the costume closet! At any given time, the opera house has pieces for 6,000 costumes for the shows that year. Having been to a German opera house before (in Hamburg, which is slightly older), Tickets for operas and ballets range between 10-80€ depending on premiere night or student pricing. When you go, pay attention to the chandeliers. In the basement they’re small buds, and as you go up the floors the expand into blooming dandelions!
The Schauspiel is a nifty little theatre just outside the city center of Leipzig. We saw TOOT! – a performance by the Leipzig Ballet, and fell in love. Usually the ballet performs at the opera house, but the excuse to visit another theatre was such a treat.
Spinnerei, formerly the largest cotton mill of continental Europe, is now home to galleries, exhibition halls and about 100 artist studios. We wandered from gallery to gallery and shopped the art store — definitely not a tourist attraction, but where real artists by real supplies.
The old power plant in Plagwitz has recently been converted into an experimental factory for art, illusion, culture, design, communication, and happenings. You can find some of the weirdest digital and physical art at Kunstkraftwerk that stimulates all the senses. We loved just chilling here and watching the projected art or playing with the other exhibits in the factory.
Street art in the Südplatz neighborhood
German street art never disappoints! Give yourself a tour — rent a bike and hop on and off to snap pictures. You can use Instagram to find your favorites.
Krystallpalast Varieté Leipzig
Leipzig isn’t all classical music and formal performances! This hip-hop inspired variety show had us on the edge of our seats (and crying with laughter) as performers did crazy stunts with bikes, poles, basketballs, and yo-yos. This may be the one opportunity in your life to see a German man with cornrows breakdance — so make also sure to visit the Krystallpalast Variéte.
What’s next for Leipzig creatives?
I was so impressed visiting Leipzig because I felt like I was walking through a city entering its prime, which is not a common feeling I have in European towns. The city felt young and vibrant — maybe because it is in part made up of students from the University of Leipzig — an impressive institution that’s seen the likes of everyone from Nietzsche to Angela Merkel. There was so much to do and experience, yet so much more Leipzig has to offer. I’m willing to bet that the town that has coal mines turned into lakes and cotton mills turned into art galleries has a lot in store for its boom of arts and creativity.
Natalie Harms and Anastasia Hansen are American blogger from Houston at It’s Not Hou It’s Me. They blog about experiences they have made in their hometown and introduce Houston to every reader and possible future visitor. If you are looking for awesome adventures around the largest city in Texas, you should definitely take a look on their blog.