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Exploring Leipzig’s Bach Museum, Rathaus and musical trail

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Leipzig city center
Leipzig's city center offers several note-worthy music-related museums. Photo © hidden europe

In previous posts this month, Susanne Kries and Nicky Gardner looked at Leipzig’s Festival of Lights (October 9), the memorial in Leipzig to the 1813 Battle of the Nations (in their 16 October article) and last week at Leipzig’s rich classical music tradition. Here they conclude their Leipzig series with a review of some of their favorite museums in the city.

For a city that makes so much of its association with Johann Sebastian Bach, it’s no surprise that the Bach Museum tops our list of Leipzig museums. Located just by St Thomas’ Church, you can’t miss the Bach Museum. Just follow the crowds who gather by the magnificent statue of Bach just south of the church.

The Bach Story

The Bach Museum (on Thomaskirchhof, open Tue-Sun 10–6) ingeniously maps the lives of Bach and his family. No easy task this, for following his death in 1750, Bach slipped below the musical horizon and was virtually forgotten. So there are perilously few surviving artifacts from Bach’s lifetime, but the curators of the Bach Museum rise magnificently to that challenge. The Bach story is told in a very engaging manner, each room in the museum having a very different demeanor.

Leipzig's impressive old town hall often hosts exhibits. Photo © hidden europe

Leipzig’s impressive old town hall often hosts exhibits. Photo © hidden europe

Take time for the Bach Museum. Don’t miss the garden at the rear of the building. It also has one of Leipzig’s most appealing small cafés. The Café Gloria (open daily from 10 — including Mondays when the Bach Museum itself is closed) is good for snacks and ices. Above all, it is a great place to relax.

The Musical Trail

Leipzig boasts a number of other museums with a musical theme. The one-time residences of Felix Mendelssohn (Goldschmidtstrasse 12, open daily 10–6) and Clara and Robert Schumann (Inselstrasse 18, open Tue–Fri 2–6 and Sat-Sun 10–6) are both worth a look.

The Museum of Musical Instruments, part of the GRASSI museum complex (at Johannisplatz, open Tue–Sun 10–6) tracks the history of music through the centuries and is a must-do if you cannot quite remember what an Oliphant looks like.

City History

The old town hall (Rathaus) is a standard stop on any Leipzig itinerary. It is a colorful confection — a handsome piece of Renaissance architecture with baroque additions. But too few visitors take time to look at the exhibitions inside.

We heartily recommend the top floor which has a newish (opened late 2011) exhibition called ‘Modern Times’, tracking down the history of Leipzig from the Industrial Revolution to the present day. Like the Bach Museum, this is a very good example of modern curatorial techniques, very effectively breathing life into a difficult history. Map your way through the textile boom, the development of railways, German unification, Jewish life and culture, the rise of nationalist socialism to the German Democratic Republic and Leipzig’s quiet revolution in 1989. This exhibition is open 10–6 Tues–Sun.

Stroll through Leipzig's city center. Photo © hidden europe

Stroll through Leipzig’s city center. Photo © hidden europe

Getting Around with the Leipzig Card

The Leipzig Card secures reduced-rate admission to all the museums mentioned in this article. It also allows completely free use of public transport (S-Bahn, regional trains, buses and trams) in Leipzig. Throw in discounts at restaurants, and the card can be very worthwhile. But you do have to be something of a museum hound to reap real benefits.

A one-day card costs 9.90 EUR and a three-day card is 19.90 EUR.

The New City Tunnel

Integrated public transport in Leipzig takes a big leap forward on December 15, 2013, with the opening of the new City Tunnel, which will allow regular local trains to serve new sub-surface stations in the city center. It links together a number of existing rail routes, allowing new metro-style rail services across the city.

Leipzig has always been an easy city to get around. The new City Tunnel will make it even easier.

About the author

hiddeneurope

About the authors: Nicky and Susanne manage a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine.

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4 Responses to “Exploring Leipzig’s Bach Museum, Rathaus and musical trail”

Kiki says:

I’d like to add a tour of the GEWANDHAUS to the ‘must do’ things …. Extraordinary wall paintings too and quite a few surprises along the tour.
http://www.gewandhaus.de/help-service/

Furthermore I was treated to wonderful music every evening at one of the churches; just check it out when you arrive – mostly you put some Euros in the ‘hat’ and sometimes you’ll walk into a ‘practice session’ at the orgue of some church – I loved all of them.

And if you have a chance to see somewhere the wonderful film: ‘Die Thomaner’
If not, you can get DVD at Amazon:
/Die-Thomaner-Thomas-Choir-Leipzig/dp/B008P76UP4
I saw it when I just was out and if THIS doesn’t open your eyes to this lovely city’s music and culture, nothing probably does.

Enjoy – I’d be back in this surprising, beautiful and music-friendly place in a flash for more :)

Thanks for your comment, Kiki. Good tip about sitting in on a practice session for a free concert, too!

Sorin says:

The problem with the small cities is that usually when you plan a trip, you choose a big city to visit and then if the small touristic city (like Leipzig) in this case, you can decide to visit it. Usually the small towns are more interesting :).

frankfurter says:

Went to Leipzig in September and was really taken with the city. Great review here. The afternoon concerts at the Thomaskirche are worth taking in.

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