24 Hours In Leipzig

Coffee, cakes and kellers
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The Independent Travel

1 Discover the art of a good hotel

09.00: There are grander hotels in Leipzig, but art lovers should ensure they wake up in the Galerie Hotel Leipziger Hof at Hedwigstrasse 1-3 (00 49 341 697 40, leipziger-hof.de). It houses more than 200 works of art produced by local and regional painters and sculptors. The 72 rooms are good value from €57 (£39) for a double room. There's a pleasant restaurant and beer garden too. It's just a 15-minute walk east of the centre of the city, and trams run past the front door of the hotel.

2 Bowled over by Bach

10.00: The centre of Leipzig is a wonderful place for a stroll. Head for the Market Square and the beautifully restored town hall, Altes Rathaus (00 49 341 965 1320; stadtgeschicht liches-museum-leipzig. de). Built in just nine months in 1556, it is the centrepiece of the city's architecture and one of the country's finest renaissance buildings. It claims to have the longest inscription on any building in the world - it's in Latin and just possibly a little pompous. Inside, the 50m-long Festsaal, with its set of overwrought chimney pieces, is the only painting of J S Bach completed during his lifetime.

3 A reminder from history

11.00: The Iron Curtain fell 16 years ago, but East Germans, and Leipzigers in particular, are not in any hurry to forget their ordeal. One of the city's most fascinating points of interest is the Stasi museum at Dittrichring 24 (00 49 341 961 2443; runde-ecke-leipzig.de) where you can meander through the old corridors of the German secret police's Leipzig HQ. At the time of writing there was no English text, though there are plans to rectify this.

4 Go for coffee Arabian style

12.00: One of Leipzig's bizarre did-you-know connections is that it was once a powerhouse in the medieval coffee trade between Arabia and Europe. A flavour of this distant past can be found at Zum Arabischen Coffe Baum, a coffee house and restaurant at Kleine Fleischergasse 4 (00 49 341 96 100 60; coffe-baum.de). The building is designed like a Yemeni coffee house, with a series of Escher-style steps clambering upwards around a central courtyard, with rooms off to the right and the left where discreet business can be conducted. Main dishes start at around €10 (£6).

5 Take tea or try the chocolate

15.00: A distinctive feature of Leipzig is miniature shopping arcades, based on the courtyards where trade-fair deals once took place. Wander through Mädler-Passage, where at number 11 you will find Arko, a chocolate specialist offering boxes of pralines for €15 (£10). Opposite is Bremen, a specialist tea shop with a range of beautifully presented teas.

6 Join the lounge lizards

17.00: You have a cultural evening ahead, so warm up at one of the bars in Barfussgasschen, a seriously fashionable strip patronised by the city's well-to-do and students alike. Bar Fusz at 3-11 has a suitably low-lit setting for cocktails.

7 Tune in to a top orchestra

19:00: Leipzig has such an extraordinarily rich cultural legacy that it would be a crime to pass up the opportunity to listen to the world's most venerable orchestra. Contact the tourist office for tickets for the Gewandhaus Orchestra (00 49 341 127 0309; gewandhaus.de), which is housed in a dramatic, modernist building on Augustusplatz.

8 Havana comes to Germany

22.00: Visitors with a passing interest in Soviet-era history may by now be feeling a twinge of nostalgia. If so, head for Varadero, 8 Barfussgasschen (00 49 341 960 0926), a Cuban restaurant that has reassuringly survived from the days when travel was permitted between the fraternally compatible, if far-flung, reaches of the Soviet sphere of influence. For a more traditional German experience, head for Auerbachs Keller, in Mädler-Passage (00 49 341 216 100; auerbachs-keller-leipzig.de), where part of Faust was set. Endless variations of pig and cow are served for about €15 (£10).

9 Let's call it a night, cheers!

23.00: Return to Barfussgasschen for more cocktails and drinks. If you're inclined towards a more traditional keller experience, head for Zill's Tunnel, on the corner of Barfussgasschen and Klostergasse (00 49 341 960 2078; zillstunnel. de). The Leipzig Gose, a top-fermented beer, is a speciality of the city.