A budget travel guide to Leipzig, Germany

A statue of J.S. Bach in Leipzig. Photo: jgieseking

Although most of the hype these days is focused on Germany’s vibrant capital Berlin, the country boasts another less visited city with a thriving arts and culture scene: Leipzig, a city in the former East German state Saxony.

Whereas Berliners are (in)famous for their brusque treatment of strangers, locals in Leipzig tend to be much friendlier, and the city itself is smaller and far more accessible than the capital. The city’s atmosphere attracts young creatives seeking a more laid back atmosphere, as well as tourists who enjoy the easy accessibility to Leipzig’s many cultural and historical offerings.

Related: 4 budget tips for Cheapos in Leipzig

Leipzig budget travel guide

To help you plan your visit to this Saxonian jewel, we’ve put together a list of must-sees, cheap eats and other ways to save on your trip to Leipzig.

Getting there

Leipzig can be easily reached by virtually all major forms of transportation. The city boasts an international airport, Leipzig/Halle Airport, as well as Leipzig Hauptbahnhof, a major train station.

By train
Although there used to be a discount train operator offering cheap tickets between Berlin and Leipzig, the company has since gone under. Now travelers only have Deutsche Bahn, which costs between €19-40 (Berlin-Leipzig) each way depending on how far you book in advance.

By bus or ride-share
But never fear, there are still several cheap options to reach Leipzig. The cheapest option is with ride-sharing companies like Bla Bla car. A ride from Berlin should cost well under €10 each way, and you’ll have the added plus of getting to know some locals or fellow travelers as you speed together down the Autobahn.

Hitching a ride with a budget bus company, such as Flixbus, is another great Cheapo option. Tickets between Berlin and Leipzig go for as little as €7.90 each way if you book a week or two in advance and between €9-12 if you decide to hop on more spontaneously.

Biking is a great way to get around Leipzig. Photo: Jorg S

Biking is a great way to get around Leipzig. Photo: Jorg S

Getting around town

Once you’ve reached Leipzig, the next step is to figure out how to get around the city.

Luckily the easiest way to explore the city is absolutely free: by foot. Home to a little over a half a million people, Leipzig is also a compact, very walkable metropolis.

Public transit
However, if your feet do get weary, the city also has many bus lines and trams as well as an S-Bahn train system. Day tickets can be purchased either individually (€7.20) or for groups of up to five people (€22.40 for 5).

If you’d prefer to get a little sporty, you can also rent bikes at nextbike (Thomasiusstrasse 16) for €1 per 30 minutes or a flat fee of €9 per day.

Leipzig Card
If you plan to visit many museums, you may also want to opt for the Leipzig Card. This tourist card offers you free public transportation within Travel Zone 110 (Leipzig City) as well as an up to 50% discount on museum admission, concert tickets, and additional culture and tourism highlights. The card can be purchased as either a day card (€11.50),  3-day ticket (€22.50) or a 3-day family card (€41.50, for two adults and 3 children 14 and under).

Ride up to the top of the Panorama Tower for a view of Leipzig. Photo: Koss

Ride up to the top of the Panorama Tower for a view of Leipzig. Photo: Koss

Affordable attractions & culture in Leipzig

One of the greatest sights in Leipzig is the city itself. The city center and many of the outlying neighborhoods are chock-full of baroque beauties and an array of Wilhelminian-style architecture hailing from the turn of the 20th century.

Panorama Tower
For a great view over the city, whisk up to the 29th floor of the Panorama Tower and take advantage of their viewing deck. Tickets cost €3, which is a price worth paying for the view you’ll get. (Skip the overpriced restaurant.)

Leipzig is also a must for all classical music lovers. Johann Sebastian Bach worked as a cantor in Thomaskirche (Thomaskirschhof 18) for over 25 years and the church is also the final resting place of this world-famous composer. The church is still home to the Thomanerchor, a boy’s choir established in 1212 that was once led by Bach himself.

To save, skip the €2 trip up the tower. Instead, just wander around the church (admission free of charge) and see if you can hear one of Bach’s tunes which are often played on the church organ.

Bach-Museum Leipzig
Once you’ve followed in Bach’s musical footsteps in his former haunt, traipse over to the Bach-Museum Leipzig (admission €8), an interactive museum about the life, work and musical legacy of Bach and his family.

Another church offering free admission is the gorgeous Nikolaikirche. Although the church has a neoclassical interior, it has Romanesque and Gothic roots. Besides its beauty, the church also played a key role in the non-violent movement that helped bring down the GDR government.

Classical music
For more classical music highlights, check out Mendelssohn-Haus (Goldschmidtstrasse 12, adult admission, €7.50) and the cheaper Schumann-Haus (Inselstrasse 18, adult admission, €3), two former residences of classical music giants.

Visual arts
If you’re more in the mood for visual arts, two museums offering admission under €10 are the Museum for Bildenden Künste (Katharinenstrasse 10, adult admission €5) and the Galerie für Zeitgenössisches Kunst (Karl-Tauchnitz-Strasse 9-11, adult admission €5/8, free on Wednesdays).

The Museum for Bildenden Künste is home to an enormous, world-class collection of paintings dating from the 15th century to the present, including work of some of Leipzig’s famous native artists such as Neo Rauch and Max Beckmann. The Galerie für Zeitgenössisches Künste boasts two spaces, a late-19th-century villa and a minimalist modern container-like space for its temporary exhibits.

Stasi Museum
For a bit of spooky GDR history, check out the Stasi Museum (Dittrichring 24, admission free of charge), a historical exhibit located in the former headquarters of Leipzig’s East German secret police.

Zoo Leipzig
Leipzig is also home to one of Germany’s best zoos, Zoo Leipzig (Pfaffendorfer Straße 29). Admission is a bit on the pricey side (€18.50 for adults), but is worth it for highlights like Gondwanaland, an artificial jungle filled with rare plants and exotic animals which you can either explore by boat or along paths through the “jungle.”

For a bit of wild park nature for free, although you’ll only find squirrels and blackbirds rather than rhinos and hippos, take a stroll through Clara-Zetkin-Park (Klingerweg 2).

Renovated buildings in the Plagwitz neighborhood. Photo: Polybert49

Renovated buildings in the Plagwitz neighborhood. Photo: Polybert49

Plagwitz neighborhood
Last but not least, make sure you check out the arty neighborhood of Plagwitz. The once-crumbling factories in this old industrial neighborhood have been transformed into artist’s lofts, studios and exhibition spaces, such as the Baumwollspinnerei gallery complex and Kunstkraftwerk.

As German and international creatives are gradually being priced out of the ever-gentrifying Berlin, many have flocked to Plagwitz, sometimes to the chagrin of locals who have sarcastically dubbed the whole phenomenon and buzz “hypezig.” Others have bemoaned the area has lost its underground artistic edge. Either way, the area is definitely still worth checking out for the artistically inclined and curious.

Food & drink on a budget in Leipzig

As is often the case, try to avoid any of the restaurants in the city center, which tend to be overpriced chains in Leipzig. If you find yourself feeling peckish somewhere around Thomaskirche or Hauptbahnhof, pop into a bakery or a grocery store for an inexpensive snack and then have a meal elsewhere.

You’ll find tastier food for better value if you venture out to Plagwitz (see above), which is an easy bike ride from the city center. Here are a few top picks:

Karl-Heine-Strasse 39

Kaiserbad is a hip, relatively new beer garden that serves up traditional German food alongside standard pub fare like pasta, burgers, and salads. Get there for lunch to enjoy a great meal for under €10.

Zschochersche Str. 50a

Another Plagwitz hotspot is this Vietnamese restaurant with old-school Indochinese décor and tasty entrees less than €10.

Gaststätte Kollektiv
Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 72

For a bit of former GDR flavor and “ostalgie” flair, check out this restaurant, which serves up traditional Saxon and German dishes, many priced under €10.

Many restaurants in Leipzig also work with the app “Too Good To Go.” To use the app, check out which restaurants are selling meals near closing time at bargain basement prices. The downside is you have to eat late, but the upside is it will be ridiculously cheap. You can book meals from participating restaurants through the app on your smartphone for prices between €2-5.

Cheap hotels in Leipzig

Budget travelers will have an easy time finding an affordable hotel in Leipzig. There are dozens of well-located hotels with double rooms for under $100 per night. Check out this list of over 275 hotels in Leipzig.

Rooms are bright, airy, and affordable at Hotel Freghaus. Photo: Booking.com

Rooms are bright, airy, and affordable at Hotel Freghaus. Photo: Booking.com

Here are a few of our favorite budget stays in Leipzig:

Hotel Freghaus
Just a few feet from the Leipzig Museum of Fine Arts, this stylish hotel with a historic facade features chic rooms with private bathrooms, free Wi-Fi, and a library. Double start at around $80.

Pension ShlafGut
You’ll find modern and affordable accommodations within walking distance of the train station at this budget option. Doubles from $62 per night.

Pension Klingenstr. 23
Hop on a free rental bike or use the shared kitchen to save money on dinner at this popular pension in Plagwitz. Cheapos will love the rates that go for under $40 per night.

Search all hotels in Leipzig

Your Leipzig tips?

Have a tip for ways to save on your trip to Leipzig? Have a question about Leipzig to ask the Cheapos? Join the conversation in the comments section below.