For the latest information on what's happening in Leipzig, you can check out the website www.rundgang-kunst.de, which publishes a list of special exhibitions on view at the time of your visit. The magazine Kreuzer (www.kreuzer-leipzig.de) has detailed listings of cultural events, galleries, and restaurant data.
Goethe, who was a student in Leipzig, called the city klein Paris (miniature Paris). We wouldn't go quite that far, but Leipzig definitely has its charms. One of the best things to do is explore the handsomely restored Art Nouveau Arkaden (arcades) that thread through the historic city center core. Mädler Mall is Leipzig's finest arcade. This is the site of the famous Auerbachs Keller, the setting for one of the scenes of Goethe's Faust. A bronze group of characters from Faust, sculpted in 1913, beckons you down a stone staircase into the cellar restaurant.
A gateway leads to Nasch Markt, which occupies the space behind the Altes Rathaus. Walk around the front of the Altes Rathaus to find yourself within Am Markt, the city's best-known square, at the edge of which stands the Königshaus. Originally built in the late 1700s on the site of an even older building, the Königshaus at one time functioned as the city's official guesthouse for VIPs; it housed both Napoleon and Richard Wagner during their sojourns here.
Neues Rathaus on Burgplatz was erected on the site of the old Pleissenburg, the citadel where Martin Luther held a momentous disputation in 1519. The best place in Leipzig for people-watching is on Petersstrasse, below Markt.
The German Museum of Books and Scripts, the Deutsche Bücherei, Deutscher Platz 1 (tel. 0341/22710; www.d-nb.de; tram: 21), is the central archive of German literature. You can visit it free from Monday to Friday 8am to 10pm, and Saturday 9am to 6pm, but only with an advance phone call. The archive was established in 1912 to showcase the fine art of German printing and bookbinding. It's said to possess every item of German literature ever published. It also has a copy of Iskra, the Bolshevik newspaper that Lenin came here to print secretly in 1900.
Contrary to popular belief, Thomaskirche isn't the oldest church in Leipzig. That distinction belongs to Nikolaikirche, on Nikolaistrasse, erected in 1165. Many works by Bach, including the St. John Passion, were first performed here.
If the weather is fair, head for the Universität Leipzig Turm, near Nikolaikirche. This metal-and-glass tower overlooks street performers who take over on summer weekends. It's the greatest free show in Leipzig. (Well, not exactly free -- the performers will pass the hat at the end of their acts.) Just beware of the skateboard warriors, who make walking about a bit perilous. Universität Leipzig, founded in 1409, has contributed greatly to the cultural growth of the city. The East German government rechristened it Karl Marx University, but the old name was restored in 1990. Augustusplatz is the ideal center to rub elbows with the thousands of students who study here.
To escape the fumes and noise of the city, head for such "green lungs" as Johannapark, on Karl-Tauchnitz-Strasse, or one of the wildly overgrown cemeteries by the Völkerschlachdenkmal. On hot days, the fountains in Sachsenplatz are popular for splashing about.
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