164km (102 miles) SW of Berlin, 111km (69 miles) NW of Dresden, 126km (78 miles) NE of Erfurt

If you have limited time and have to choose between Dresden and Leipzig, make it Dresden. But if you can work Leipzig into your itinerary, you'll be richly rewarded. More than any other city in former East Germany (except Berlin, of course), Leipzig brings you into the Germany of today. This once-dreary city has taken on a new life and vitality; a visit here can be absolutely invigorating. Glassy skyscrapers and glitzy nightlife add a cosmopolitan flavor you don't encounter in much of the rest of the region. The approximately 20,000 students who study in the area (as Nietzsche, Goethe, and Leibniz once did) help add a spark. One resident put it this way: "Our grunge and metal bands are just as good as those of Berlin, and our cafes just as supercool."

Leipzig is also famous for more traditional music. Johann Sebastian Bach is closely associated with Leipzig, Mozart and Mendelssohn performed here, and Wagner was born here in 1813.

Because of its strategic value as a rail center, both the RAF and the U.S. Air Force bombed the city heavily in World War II, but it's been rebuilt, more or less successfully. It still has some narrow streets and houses from the 16th and 17th centuries, as well as some Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) flair. And Leipzig is again a major rail terminus. From its Hauptbahnhof -- the largest in Europe, with 26 platforms -- lines radiate to the chief German cities and the rest of the Continent.