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Leipzig - 'Little Paris' in the East of Germany

By Maike Mintelowsky

The city of Leipzig in the German federal state of Saxony offers around 500,000 inhabitants a unique cultural vibrancy. Leipzig has been a respected centre of learning throughout Europe since the 18th century. Various research institutions and Germany's second oldest university are based here, making the city an interesting research location for arts and science faculties and more.

© Deutsche WelleAll the major research bodies have a presence in Leipzig

Leipzig as a research location

Leipzig is home to Germany's second oldest university after Heidelberg, as teaching and research have been carried out here without interruption. The University of Leipzig has been successful in the first two rounds of the nationwide Excellence Initiative to promote research.

All the major research bodies have a presence in Leipzig. For example, the Max Planck Institutes for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, for Evolutionary Anthropology and for Mathematics in the Sciences are based here. Other institutions include the Fraunhofer Center for Central and Eastern Europe, the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research.

Established in 2008, the Leipzig Research Forum brings together the University of Leipzig and non-university research institutions to promote joint research projects and set up jointly operating scholarly service institutions.


Leipzig was first documented as 'urbs Libzi' (city of lime trees) in 1015 in the chronicles of Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg and endowed with city and market privileges in 1165 by Margrave Otto the Rich. Merchants and craftsmen are first documented to have settled in Leipzig from 1218 and by the mid-18th century Leipzig was highly respected throughout Europe as a place of learning and commerce.

In 1813, the Leipzig region was the arena for the Battle of the Nations in which an allied coalition of Austria, Prussia, Russia and Sweden defeated Napoleon's armies as part of the so-called Wars of Liberation. Leipzig's Monument to the Battle of the Nations ('Völkerschlachtdenkmal') is Europe's tallest monument. By the 19th century, Leipzig was a centre of the publishing industry and continues to grow today. German reunification and the subsequent currency union resulted in heavy financial losses for Leipzig, which impacted trade and industry in particular. Since that time, Leipzig has had to deal with mass unemployment despite successfully attracting some industrial development.

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Living in Leipzig

More people live below the poverty line in Leipzig than in any other German city, making it 'Germany's poorest city'. After reunification, many industrial companies in Leipzig were unable to compete with long-established industrial locations in the west of Germany and even the presence of groups such as BMW and Porsche has not encouraged enough other companies to relocate here. Despite the poverty, the city centre contains smart boutiques, jewellers and delis. Anyone earning good money in Leipzig will find that it goes a long way here.

Many houses in Leipzig are empty which means that rents are well below the national average. Leipzig is full of beautiful old buildings and baroque townhouses that can be rented or bought very cheaply. In addition to attractive architecture, Leipzig has many bridges - more than Venice even!

Leipzig has a special musical tradition. The world-renowned St. Thomas Choir of Leipzig was founded 800 years ago and Johann Sebastian Bach was its most famous director. The Gewandhaus concert hall, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Leipzig Opera House, the third oldest opera venue in Europe, are also great cultural assets. The famous composer Felix Mendelssohn lived in Leipzig for many years and founded the Conservatory of Music, now the Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy University of Music and Theatre.

Typical aspects of Leipzig

Leipzig is Germany's second biggest banking location after Frankfurt am Main and also hosts Germany's second largest book fair, again after Frankfurt. A total of 25 trade shows are held in Leipzig every year.

Goethe was fascinated by the city where he studied law for three years. He called Leipzig 'Little Paris' because he was excited by its stylishness and the way its people were educated. Leipzig even forms the backdrop to a scene in Goethe's Faust in which Mephistopheles bewitches four students. The scene takes place in Auerbachs Keller, Leipzig's most well-known cellar wine bar and restaurant. There is a statue of Faust and Mephistopheles outside the establishment and it is said that touching Mephistopheles' shoe brings luck - and that anyone who doesn't believe this will have seven years' bad luck.

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academics :: April 2011