I arrived into Leipzig on the fast (70 min) ICE train from Berlin. The fare was not cheap (costs between €29-40) and I could have taken the more leisurely 2 hour, €8 bus, but I was impatient to get here. My first view of the city was the fun yellow and blue trams zipping in and out of the zone in front of the station.
Leipzig is another town hailed as the ‘new Berlin’, I heard that about Budapest (I visited recently) as well, but seriously, no where can be the new Berlin. Berlin is Berlin, Budapest is cool and very inexpensive and Leipzig has a charm all of it’s own. My curiosity, and my obsession with getting to grips with places that have a large vegan following (though that is becoming less and less unique..I am happy to say), were the driving forces behind my visit. I’ll give you a bit of background first and then we will delve a bit deeper and show you want you want to know…what I did I eat?.
The city of Leipzig borders a lush riparian forest, a forest which lies adjacent to a river, with towering trees. The Elster Saale canal runs alongside too. It is beautiful and surprisingly you can feel like some of the paths are leading you to the depths of nowhere, but the city is never that far away. Leipzigers really enjoy this area, and a canoe or two are always gliding through the shaded waters. I did not do that, but I did have lovely bike lent to me and I took the bone shaking cobbled street from my apartment, through the beautifully landscaped Clara Zetkin Park for a bit of red squirrel and nordic walkers spotting, to the forest everyday for some ‘green time’. I also biked to the Cospudener See, a large picturesque lake south of the city with white sandy beaches, where clothing is optional, or just biked along the canals that weave through the city. I could not help but note whilst exploring Leipzig, just how clean it is. No litter droppers here!
Whilst the zentrum (centre) is glitzy, several high class shopping malls with designer shops and expensive restaurants I enjoyed the more alternative, artsy areas of Connewitz, Plagwitz and Sudvorstadt.
My advice upon arrival is to get a map of the city. I carry my iPad or iPhone around with me so I download Maps With Me for a detailed, offline city map. I’ve since discovered GPS My City which also includes walking tours of the city with points of interest. When I am out, I always pop into the tourist information or a hostel and pick up a paper map of the city to carry around too.
Plagwitz was the destination of my first venture out.
The converted industrial building housing WestWerk II a cultural music and arts venue on Karl Heine Strasse.
My first vegan stop on Karl Heine Strasse but, oh no, Vleischerei was closed when I cycled up to it but I’d eaten at their Berlin cafe so I dined on the memory instead!
A fellow Australian blogger and a Leipzig local accompanied me to S Kultur. Located on a quiet street just north of Plagwitz. It was a first time for all of us.
Vegan ‘meat’ was the show stopper here. A bit more upscale than some of the vegan junk food eateries I’d been visiting. We though we would see what this newcomer to the scene had up its sleeve. We were surprised to discover the owners are actually Dutch. The wife of the husband and wife team served us. She was very friendly (English speaking…always helps) the service outstanding and food as fresh as it comes. I ordered the gluten free sweet potato curry with vegan ‘chicken’. I admit I poked at the ‘meat’ suspiciously like a child. I had to ask three times to just check it wasn’t actual chicken. I do not know what they do to make the plant based protein ‘meat’ look and taste like it does but the owners import this stuff from Holland and I’m telling you it is just like chicken. Actually, though I ate it I was not at ease with it. I loved the curry though. Very flavoursome.
Miss Leipzig had the tagiettle with ‘chicken’. She was gushing about it and she doesn’t usually like fake meats.
T’other friend, Mrs Australia ordered the satay. Again, a hit.
value for money ★★★★☆
District – North of Plagwitz
I enquired about their ‘meat’ supplier and was shown press cuttings about the vegan butcher in Holland.
The Vegetarian Butcher is the idea of Jaap Korteweg. Jaap Korteweg is an 8th generation farmer, who is dedicated to redefine the food industry with the Vegetarian Revolution together with concept creator and senator Niko Koffeman, chef de cuisine Paul Bom and a dedicated team. They found each other in the thought that vegetable meat substitutes should be of a spectacular structure, bite and taste. Their ideal is to show real meat lovers that they don’t miss a thing when they reduce their meat consumption. Their ambition is to become the biggest butcher in the world, on short notice.
I guess it won’t be long then before everyone will have a vegan butcher in their high street. Now that is a concept!
Too many to list. Leipzigs restaurants, bars and cafes are embracing the vegan scene wholeheartedly and many have vegan options. The Connewitz neighbourhood and the arterial road that runs through it Wolfgang Heinz Strasse is awash with vegan eateries. Deli, is a cute little vegan hipster bistro burger joint. Sadly, I did not get chance to eat here. Their burgers are not gluten free but they have delicious looking fries with lots of sides and sauces and dips you could make a meal out of. Word is that they serve very tasty food.
La Cygne is a convenience store come coffee shop in Connewitz. Open late and always buzzing with a crowd.
Cakes, cookies and bakes by Vegan Lonestar. No gluten free yet. For sale at La Cygne
Symbiose has only been open for a couple of months.
The menu is in German (well, I am in Germany) so I used a new app I had heard of called World Lens. You hold up your device to the thing you want to understand and the words get translated to your desired language. I had varying degrees of success with it, not perfect but fun. Crazy what can be done these days!
The ethos of Symbiose is to use local produce whenever possible. They source their vegetables from an urban farm on the outskirts of Leipzig. Of course vegetables grow seasonally so the menu is determined by what is growing. I thought the dishes on offer were quite inventive. I could not resist the roasted squash with a spicy chocolate sauce. Not quite mole but the sweetness of the squash was perfectly offset by the accompanying vinaigrette, dressed salad. I’m a sucker for roasted aubergine, I love it’s silkiness so I ordered a side of that too. The dish was absolutely delicious. The photo here does not do it justice, and you cannot see how the squash cubes were charmingly stacked in a wall. It is said we eat with our eyes, well we do and our tastebuds too. I loved it.
Dessert was a chocolate mousse with berry coulis. There were other choices but this was the only gluten free offering. It was a perfectly good mousse.
value for money ★★★★★
District – Connewitz
Curry Sud is a fast food joint where you can get a quick, vegan junk food fix.
Connewitz is also home to a 100% vegan store.
Vegan Leben is owned by Thammi, a sweet and welcomingLeipzig native who travelled the world and came back to settle and open up a shop. It is a relatively small space but you can get almost anything you need here. They have a gluten free section, foods in the chiller, grains, drinks, pet food, toiletries and house hold products. They also have organic vegetables supplied by an urban farm on the edge of Leipzig, who deliver once a week. You can order products online. Their website has great list of all cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants in Leipzig that serve vegan dishes. Not all of the places are vegan but I was surprised just how many places have a vegan option.
Vegan ‘meats’ are very popular in Leipzig.
The store was also selling a local guide book that has a genius scheme. Now in its third year, Vegan Genieszen set a target to get a vegan option available all over the city. You buy a book containing vouchers and listings of the participants. Both vegan and non vegan restaurants offer a free vegan dish with one of the vouchers contained in the €10 book. Great idea. A win on so many levels.
Now for some record breakers. Leipzig has the worlds largest panoramic work of art. The Asisi Panometer. The panoramic scene inside this huge building changes periodically. It is slightly out of the hub of Connewitz, I was looking forward to gaping at it in wonder.
HOWEVER, it is closed on Monday. Do your research people, and don’t be like me. I only got to see it from the outside. But as you can see from the photograph I was not the only one to show up when it was closed (comfort in numbers)!
This is one of Europe’s tallest monuments. The Battle of the Nations. Völkerschlachtdenkmal
It is a huge monument to the three day war in 1813 by allied Austrian, Prussian, Russian and Swedish forces against Napoleon to bring down the last remaining French power in Germany. It reminded me so much of a Mayan temple from Mexico. HUGE and also rising out of a forest. Also just a mile or so from Connewitz.
Back to talk of food, all that history is making me hungry.
Black Label is one of several places to eat vegan in Connewitz district. It is also one of two pubs that serve Atacoclypse Mexican Food. Black Label has a food truck in their beer garden.
On my last evening a few new friends met me to eat at a bar in Connewitz. Bill Hard and Black Label are two dive bars that showcase vegan food from Atacoclypse. Black Label has their food truck inside its pub garden but Bill’s had tamales and I wanted tamales!
The dark interior dims the photo’s somewhat but if you can make the photo’s out, despite it being ‘pub’ food, it was thoughtfully plated. Two friends opted for the seitan (a type of vegan wheat meat) satay, another had quesadillas (I forgot to snap that) and I had the tamales filled with jalapeños and vegan cheese. We also demolished the largest basket of freshly made crisp and oily nachos I’ve ever come across. The seitan satay and quesadillas where a definite hit with my dining companions. The tamales..honestly, they were nice but I have made better myself. Tamale recipe here. An app, if you want to make your own vegan ‘meat’ How To Make Seitan here.
I will rate it on our combined overall experience.
value for money ★★★★★
District – Connewitz
Zest is a high class, destination vegan bistro also in Connewitz. It was rather spendy and with so much to see I decided it was for another time.
One of the Leipzig’s famous Michael Fischer murals.
St Nicholas church has quite a history. Wagner was baptised here, Mozart played the organ here, Mendelssohn passed under its roof and Bach was Director Of Music, back in the 18th century. And now I was here!
I also took the opportunity whilst in this part of Germany to tick off an item on my Bucket List. I look a train to Dessau, just 40 mins out of Leipzig. Bauhaus. One of the worlds first design schools and a powerhouse of creative ideas, built in 1926. Wow, it was strange to be there. I’ve been to many exhibitions around the world and seen little paper architect models, photos and postcards showing the building where Modernism all began. And there I was standing in front of it. It was both awe inspiring and underwhelming at the same time. Like, ‘wow it’s the Bauhaus building’ and ‘yeah, it’s just a building’. Ah, the dualistic human mind.
It was fascinating though. The light flooding inside the building and the intricate and well thought out detailing of the opening windows, right down to the simple, stylish chrome door handles. Though I may not agree with founder Walter Gropius and his contemporaries, Corbusier and Van der Rohe utopian notions of the apartment block living, (brought home even more to me when cycling to the lakes around Leipzig and cycling though mountains of concrete), I do absolutely love their designs of single dwelling homes and their light filled simplicity. It is still strange to me how a building style dreamed up in the 1930’s can look so futuristic when executed today. It guess it goes to show just how long it takes for us to adopt new ideas. Ikea thrives because of the birth of Modernism.
Other Must Dos in Leipzig and a little compilation of facts, if you are interested to know more.
History records 7th Century Slavs as the first settlers. There has been a University here since 1409. Here was printed the worlds first ever newspaper in 1650.
The arts – Bach, Goethe, Mendelssohn and Wagner. Much of the city was reduced to rubble in 1943 during World War II. The Monday (peaceful) demonstrations that took place here in 1989 led to the downfall of the communist government in East Germany. The World Cup was here in 2006. Leipzig is host to the worlds largest annual Goth’s festival?!
Schiller House – Friederick Schiller wrote Ode To Joy in Leipzig. His house is open to the public but I’m darned if I could find it!
Michael Fischer’s richly coloured, cartoon like murals.
NaTo – Kino and theatre
Opera – if you want to enjoy some opera, Leipzig has that too. It is the third oldest opera house in Europe.
Baumwolls Spinnerei – Art community in a converted cotton factory
And finally, if you are visiting at Christmas then Sudvorstadt has the Feinkost Termine – vegan weihnacht markt (vegan christmas market).