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Courtyards and arcades

Leipzig's unique arcade system

Interior view of the rotunda in the "Mädler-Passage" shopping arcade with the "Kümmel-Apotheke" visible, architecture in Leipzig, shopping, Gründerzeit
The "Kümmel-Apotheke" in the "Mädler-Passage" shopping arcade. © Punctum

A stroll through the unique arcade system and the trade fair halls is a reminder of Leipzig's centuries-old tradition as a trade fair city. They have been defining the appearance of Leipzig's city centre for 500 years. Their history is closely linked to Leipzig's development into an up-and-coming commercial and trade fair city.

Although other European cities can also boast many commercial arcades, Leipzig is the only city with this kind of self-contained system within its centre. The size of the Leipzig arcade system is unique in Europe. The City of Leipzig is committed to this urban uniqueness, meaning that the historic arcades and courtyard passages are not only preserved but new ones are also being added.

One of the best-known passages is the elegant Mädler-Passage with the traditional Auerbach cellar, where Goethe spent some time. But there is much more to discover, and the best way is to take a long stroll through the city: Wander through arcades, courtyards and trade fair halls and let yourself be captivated by their charm and architectural diversity!

Arcade shopping

View into Oelßners Hof's interior courtyard, an example of courtyard and arcade architecture in Leipzig, which, today, mainly serves for shopping, additionally luring passers-by in with its restaurants, culture, gastronomy
© Daniel Koehler

Many of the historical passages and courtyards suffered from increasing structural decay during the GDR era. After German reunification, they gradually began to take on a new glow. They were extensively renovated in line with the requirements for historic monument preservation, and new shops were opened.

Today they are attractions for tourists and locals alike. In addition to upscale shopping facilities and designer shops, you will find bookshops, small specialty shops, restaurants, cafés, cabaret and theatre stages and cinemas.

History of the Leipzig arcades

Trade fair and arcades

Heinrich Stromer von Auerbach built the first Leipzig "Handelshof", or commercial courtyard, between 1530 and 1538. At the time of the original trade fairs, especially from the 16th to 18th century, the famous Auerbach's courtyard was of outstanding importance for the city. Merchants primarily sold luxury items in up to 70 vaulted shops. This kind of courtyard passage had the advantage that it offered protection from wind, heat and wetness, and it was also possible to drive wagons and cart through them without having to turn around. Since Auerbach's courtyard united several very different buildings, it had varied facades at that time.

In the 18th century, the Baroque corridor house was dominant, and, in contrast to its Renaissance predecessor, it had a uniform style and closed form. Stone facades increasingly replaced the more modest half-timbered structures. The only surviving example of this Baroque architectural style is Barthels Hof directly on the market square.

New shapes in the Trade Fair City

At the end of the 19th century, Leipzig was the first city in the world to introduce the model trade fair. Impressive trade fair houses, such as the Städtisches Kaufhaus or Steibs Hof, were thus created and tailored to the new model trade fairs of the industrial age. Between 1893 and 1938, a total of 30 of these mostly monumental buildings were erected in the Leipzig city centre alone, covering an area of half a square kilometre. In 1927, during Leipzig's "trade fair heyday", 50 trade fair halls were in operation.

The classical arcades also became fashionable at the end of the 19th century. As a pedestrian zone with small shops on both sides, it connects different streets and a glass roof protects visitors from wind and weather. The Mädler Passage, built on the former Auerbach courtyard, is now Germany's largest and most important arcade from the apex of the arcade construction era.

Videos of the Leipzig arcades

In part 1 of the video series, "Leipzig Arcades", "Mädler-Passage" shopping arcade and "Barthels Hof" restaurant are presented, architecture in Leipzig, Gründerzeit, shopping, trade fair city
Part 1 - Mädler-Passage and Barthels Hof
In part 2 of the video series, "Leipzig arcades", „Steibs Hof“, „Dussmann Passage“ and „Blauer Hecht“ are presented, architecture in Leipzig, Gründerzeit, shopping, trade fair city
Part 2 - Steibs Hof, Dussmanns Hof, Blauer Hecht
In part 3 of the video series, "Leipzig Arcades", the „Städtische Kaufhaus“ and "Stentzlers Hof" are presented, architecture in Leipzig, Gründerzeit, shopping, trade fair city
Part 3 - Städtisches Kaufhaus - Stentzlers Hof
In part 4 of the video series, "Leipzig Arcades", „Specks Hof“ and "Hansa Haus" are presented, architecture in Leipzig, Wilhelminian period, shopping, trade fair city
Part 4 - Specks Hof and Hansa Haus

The Leipzig Arcade Festival

Art – Culture – Shopping

"Mädler-Passage" shopping arcade during the shopping arcade festival, with a flow of visitors down Grimmaische Straße, architecture in Leipzig, courtyards, Gründerzeit, trade fair city, shopping, culture
Leipzig's Shopping Arcade Festival © LTM / Punctum

As unique as the buildings themselves: the arcades and courtyards celebrate the Leipzig "Passagenfest" every year on the first Friday of September. Visitors can experience the special charm and impressive architecture of the arcades during extended opening hours until midnight.

In addition to shopping until midnight, there is a unique program consisting of street art, concerts, theatre, exhibitions, culinary experiences, installations and much more. Each arcade is dedicated to an individual theme, and participating retailers showcase their stores in this exciting setting.

Video

Part 5 of the video series, "Leipzig Arcades" focuses on the "Passagenfest" (Leipzig Shopping Arcade Festival), architecture in Leipzig, Wilhelminian style, trade fair city, shopping

Leipzig Shopping Arcade Festival

Leipzig's courtyards and arcades