A local’s guide to Leipzig: dumplings, diversity and delightful G&Ts

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Food

You can find really good Saxon food in Leipzig, which means very hearty dishes often incorporating dumplings (called Klöße or Knödel) served alongside meat and fish, especially carp and trout. At the Ratskeller, near the new town hall, you can get almost anything from traditional spiced meat to Saxon roulade (usually beef filled with bacon, onions, pickles and mustard), and it’s really good quality and reasonably priced. There is also a pleasant terrace. Max Enk is more high-end, and serves pretty much everything the region has to offer, including its version of Leipziger Allerlei, which is made with crayfish and morels (rather than the traditional mixture of vegetables served as a main or side dish). Food doesn’t get more typically Saxon than this.

Inspiration

I really like the Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei, a former 19th-century cotton mill (once one of the largest cotton mills in continental Europe) that now has restaurants, shops, a cinema, several galleries, plus more than 100 studios for architects, jewellers, ceramicists and artists. It revitalised the city’s artistic scene when it opened in the early 1990s. German artist Neo Rauch has a studio here, which is open for occasional exhibitions as well as guided tours. There’s a full programme of exhibitions, concerts, films and other events all year round, but it’s particularly worth a visit when all the galleries are open to visitors, which happens three times a year. Another must-see is Leipzig’s main landmark – the City-Hochhaus, which locals call der steile Zahn (“craggy tooth”) with 36 storeys and a tower designed by Hermann Henselmann in the shape of an open book. The 120-metre-high viewing platform puts the whole of Leipzig at your feet.

Neighbourhood

Eisenbahnstraße, in the eastern district of Volkmarsdorf, has a particular vibe and is really culturally diverse. From being the “most dangerous street in Germany”, it has become a popular place for young people and is very lively to wander around. Families have settled here too, and you can find Vietnamese kiosks, Turkish kebab shops and Polish delis, as well as cocktail bars such as Kune and cafes such as Brothers, which is a great spot to have breakfast, especially on Sundays. There are even small underground parties on the street.

Green space

My absolute favourite place is the Palmengarten, a beautiful botanical garden with plenty of water where you’ll want to linger. It dates back to the 19th century, and although the original greenhouse with palm trees and other tropical flora is gone, there are pretty bridges, ponds and a cast-iron pavilion to admire, plus a theatre constructed from an old petrol station. For a long time I also underestimated how beautiful Leipzig is from the water. A boat trip along the canals reveals that Leipzig is not only “Little Paris” but also “Little Venice”.

Nightlife

Leipzig Flower Power bar

I like to go to the Kakadu, a fun karaoke bar that somehow always ends up being the last stop – or the beginning – of a long night. Also try R10, named after its address at Ratsfreischulstraße 10, which has the biggest gin selection I know of. I once went there with a big group of girls and they made us each a gin and tonic to match our outfits. Finally, for a last stop, head to Flowerpower: it’s a fun place and attracts such a varied clientele: alternative types and pensioners, hipsters and businessmen. It’s a real colourful, human smörgåsbord of people who love to party … and play darts.

Stay

The intimate Fregehaus hotel (doubles from €90 room-only) is hidden away in an 18th-century courtyard. With chic decor and antique furniture, it’s central and has comfortable and quiet bedrooms.

Nancy Naumann-Hirt is managing director of Macis, an organic restaurant in an art deco building on Markgrafenstraße in the city centre