When I was 13 I was working on an obsessive little project that had nothing to do with food. The only food I was interested in then was eclairs, lemon meringue pie, my home made toffee and taytos (Irish cheese and onion crisps, as many as I could get, however possible). This project was unrelated to all of that but I was fascinated. It was a school project about Bach, for music class. All my research was piled into a bright red binder all about the baroque period. I have loved Bach since, music keeps me sane and as with food, I am not a music snob. Some of it grabs me by the gills and I love it, from Bach to Kate Bush to The Shins.
Which brings me neatly to Leipzig, and home of the church where Bach was the Kapellmeister (music director) from 1723 until 1750, it is also where he is buried. Leipzig is the largest city in Saxony, a couple of hours on the train South West of Berlin. Leipzig is Germany’s tenth largest city with 570,000 inhabitants, but its influence and wealth historically extended far beyond this due to its position at the cross of two important medieval trading routes (the the Via Regia and Via Imperii). This is reflected in some of the architecture, one building adorned with gold and others with sculptured detail. There are baroque and many art nouveaux style buildings too.
Leipzig has many statues of former famous residents, most familiar to me was Bach but also Goethe, who passed a lot of time in an old bar and restaurant there, Auerbach’s Keller. Now a tourist hot spot where you rub the foot of a statue outside for look (and it shines gold from the effort), Auerbach’s Keller was famously mentioned in Goethe’s book Faust. Leipzig is a good city to wander around, and even better when you cycle it. Look out for Michael Fischer’s street art as you do, gorgeous and vibrant, he has also painted some of the hotel I stayed in, the Innside.
Cycling Tour of Leipzig
Exploring by bicycle allowed us to travel further. Leipzig is an easy city to cycle around with well marked cycle routes. We cycled first to the Bayrischer Bahnhof, an old train station that now houses the Gasthaus & Gosebrauerei. Many beers are brewed here seasonally, with 90% of those produced being consumed on the premises. These include Gose, a Leipzig beer brought to Saxony-Anhalt in the year 1738 from Goslar, a small town in Lower Saxony. I didn’t have time to stop and try, but I mention it because you should, as it is particular to the region and isn’t brewed according to the German beer laws which state that only water, malted barley, hops and yeast can be used in beer making. Gose is made with these and additionally lactic acid, coriander and salt, which lend it a refreshing slightly sour taste.
Street Food Festival in Leipzig
There was a Street Food Festival in Leipzig on the weekend that I visited. It was busy and bright, the selection of stalls and food on offer was large and varied, featuring lots of street food favourites from all over the world, I focussed on those that were a bit more local. Fackel Meister, a German street food trader, were grilling enormous juicy seasoned pork kebabs over fire by the entrance to pumping music. Potato Ink were selling cones of potatoes with various toppings which a potato fiend like myself just can’t resist. I had potatoes which had been sliced into one long wafer thin crisp and fried, then served with salsa on top. The cheese sauce looked pretty fabulous too.
Deep fried sauerkraut pierogi from Pankowalski with fermented beetroot were gorgeous. Flammlachs were being cooked on site, flame cooked salmon, or what we would think of as hot smoked. An idea originally from Finland, but very popular in German markets. Next to that some Rahmfladen, flat breads topped with cream cheese and bacon. Finishing with poffertjes is never a bad thing, tiny puffy sweet Dutch pancakes but there was an impressive looking streudel stall, and many international stalls, including Brazilian and Tibetan ones. The live music – very surprisingly for me! – was Irish.
When in Germany I love the wine and beer (and there was lots of craft beer on offer), but I adore the rhubarb soda. It is so good and is unmissable when you visit. There is a local Leipzig one (Lipz Rhabarber), and also the popular Fritz Spritz Organic Sparkling Rhubarb (which was happily on sale at several stalls at the festival).
Beer Tasting at the Leipzig Ratskeller
The Leipzig Ratskeller originated in the Leipzig City Hall in 1563 where it operated until 1826 before opening again in 1904. It is quite touristy here, with a gift shop as you enter, however their beer which is made on the premises is serious and the building is historic. It is well worth a visit and be sure to explore the beer cocktails and tasting flights when you do. I had a very moreish beer cocktail made using the Ratskeller pilsner, vodka, cranberry and lemon. We had some flatbreads with our drinks (see picture), there was a seasonal asparagus menu on offer as well as the traditional menu. White asparagus is an obsession in Germany when it is in season, and makes it a good time to visit for food lovers.
Ratskeller, Lotterstraße 1, 04109 Leipzig, Germany
Brunch at Fela
Brunch in Leipzig is often a simple affair with bread and cheese and jam. Not so at Fela, a lively spot with a varied brunch served buffet style. The food has many influences and is quite light and fresh with many salads and vegetable dishes, some Asian, some German, lots from everywhere else. There is also a German take on the English breakfast. Food is seasonal, there was a lovely wild garlic dip on the day that I visited. Brunch includes desserts, one of which was a lovely raspberry jelly with cream. It is a bargain at €15.90 (certainly for a Londoner!), and it is recommended that you book as it tends to be busy. It was cheerful with tables full of extended families on that Sunday morning that I went.
Fela, Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse 92, 04275 Leipzig, Germany
Organic Ice Cream in Leipzig
Ice cream fans and people who don’t or can’t eat dairy should head to Toni’s Handmade Organic Ice Cream. The ice cream is very good, and there are some vegan cakes available too (which I did not try and so I can’t comment on). There is a nice terrace outside also.
Toni’s Organic Ice Cream, Thomaskirchhof 17, 04109 Leipzig, Germany
Where to Stay in Leipzig
I stayed at the Innside Leipzig, a Melia hotel, situated right downtown with views over Leipzig and opposite that lovely church where Bach played. Rooms are contemporary and bright in style, and very comfortable. Brunch is good here too, with a Beats & Bacon Breakfast at the weekend. The bar has a good selection of drinks and gin in particular. There is a local Leipzig gin and a terrific cherry blossom tonic which both need to be tried. A roof terrace is in development, I had a sneak peak. It is sure to be lovely. I would stay there again.
The Leipzig Ratskeller kindly gave me the recipe for that lovely and very refreshing beer cocktail. I highly recommend that you make it.
- 6 ice cubes
- 20ml vodka
- 20ml liqueur 43
- 10ml lemon juice
- 80ml cranberry juice
- 1 bottle of pilsner beer
My trip to Leipzig and this post were sponsored by the Simply Saxony campaign. I travelled in excellent company with Arne from Vegetarian Diaries, Liv from Thank you for eating, Kerstin of my cooking love affair, Anja of life beautiful + and Astrid of cooking Arthur’s daughter.
All writing, photos and thoughts my own, as always.