G and I have been hanging out in Leipzig for quite a few months now. Coming back to Leipzig after having lived here 15 odd years ago has been an interesting experience. It is a very different experience to be back here with a young child, as opposed to being here as a single gal in my twenties. I have tried to make the most of our time and made sure that we have had something to do every day. Most of these things are things I didn’t do when I lived here, possibly because I was too busy working or spending time with my gang or more likely that I didn’t have a small person in tow.
Firstly, Germany makes being active with a young child very easy. If your child is 5 or under they travel free on the Deutsche Bahn (ICE trains even have a special compartment for kids and give them a bag of goodies, plus a toy train). Most cities offer the same thing for this age group for all public transport, as do many museums, exhibitions, and even zoos. We have taken a number of day trips and often the getting there and back part has been the most fun.
Besides going out of town, there are many wonderful things one can do in Leipzig. In case you ever find yourself with a wee one in Leipzig, here are ten things you could do:
- The Leipzig Zoo – If you are here for an extended period, I would get a Zoo membership. Children 5 and under go free, but adults normally pay around 21 Euros. Normally I am not a big zoo fan – I come from a country where the animals generally roam more or less freely and hate the thought of animals in captivity, but this zoo is doing so much for animal protection and rehabilitation that I have become a supporter. On a practical level, the zoo has amazing playgrounds (with decent coffee shops) and every time we go, we learn something new about an animal or see an animal we have never seen before.
- The Panometer – I never knew this existed, but it is a big round build that houses varying large scale exhibitions from Assisi. It is essentially one view, but stretched over at least four floors and at 360 degrees. We went to the Titanic exhibition and I feel like it was a moving experience for both of us. Although it is not really designed for young children, G was amazed and interested. There is a large platform that one can climb in the middle and a short movie that shows how the panorama was conceived.
- Unikatum – This is a children’s museum, but is more like an interactive voyage of discovery. G’s favorite part was the treasure hunt in the back garden where you have to find the missing pieces of the pirate’s treasure. The exhibit upstairs is designed for the younger ones and is supposed to help them discover their own world of fantasy. There is a kitchen, a marble run, a place to record your voice, a puppet theater, multiple crafting stations, loads of cushions and games, a yarn sculpture that one can add to, cake boxes to decorate and add to a big wall and dress-up clothes. It is quite possible that I enjoyed this exhibit more than G. Downstairs were exhibits that involve more reading and explanation – my favorite was the one on LOVE with things like poems, stories, interviews etc. to prompt discussion about what love is and what it means to you. There is a café next door where kids can make and fill their own pancakes, they also serve the usual beverages.
- Movies – At Cinestar the Happy Family deal offers half-price tickets for adults on Sundays before 18.00 if you are accompanied by a kid under 12. There are also numerous kids movies on around the city in various places. In summer there are a number of open-air cinemas that are often free (the only problem is it starts a little later/). The Kreuzer is the best place to see all the movies that are showing on a particular day.
- Sternthaler Puppet Theater – This small local puppet theater was delightful! The theater seats about 30 people and has a small stage. There is singing and the puppeteer involves the audience in places. Each show is aimed at a certain age group which is listed in their program. The productions are excellent and the puppets really capture the imagination.`
- Sound Laboratory in the Grassi Museum – The Grassi Museum is amazing and holds multiple exhibits. We went through the Folkart Museum and saw various artifacts from many of the world cultures. There were a few points where dwellings had been built to replicate those found in the culture – this was cool for G. The rest was a little over her head (much to my disappointment). The Klanglabor (Sound Lab) was more her speed and we had a blast here. There were nose flutes, drums, a transparent piano, a wind machine and even a place where you could pretend to be a conductor with a simulated orchestra.
- Wildpark and Russian Teahouse – In the south of Leipzig there is a place called the Wildpark that houses animals that are native to Germany. There are hogs, deer, goats, various birds, otters, raccoons plus a few more animals. The animals have spacious enclosures and look healthy. Entry is free and it is a favorite spot to take your children – especially if you go by bike (you can get here from the city center cycling almost exclusively through parks). Right at the end of Wildpark area is the Russian Tea House and playground. The Tea House is a little wooden cabin that has a few Russian touches (and also serves Soljanke) – the playground is adorable and keeps with the Russian theme – it is mostly geared towards toddlers. Apparently, there is a new playground a little closer to the entrance – this playground will rival Clara Zetkin once it opens. It looks amazing.
- Clara Zetkin Park Playground – this must be one of the nicest and most popular playgrounds in Leipzig. It has a big water feature where children can pump water and build dams, many climbing structures, a pulley basket where kids can pull each other across the sand by pulling a rope, a jumping sheet, an over-sized basket swing (never thought about what the proper names for these things in playgrounds are – a lot more than jungle gyms). The park is right next to the Racecourse enabling parents to park fairly closely. Many parents bring picnic blankets and camp out while their children play. The Glass House Restaurant and Beer Garden is only a few minutes walk from the playground and a great spot to stop for dinner or a beer (they also have a great ice-cream selection).
- Schreberbad (Schreber Swimming Pool) – This place is pumping in summer. It costs a bit to get in for everyone, but it is a safe and clean swimming pool, very close to the city center. There is a different pool for adults or for those who want to swim laps, but the main pool has one end for toddlers with a couple of water features and another end that is a little deeper – the big yellow waterslide separates the two sides. One can’t really sit around the pool i.e. on a towel as there is a hedge that surrounds it so if you are planning on sunbathing while your kids swim, be prepared to either not be able to see them or to sit on the edge of the pool with your feet in the water. Right next to the Schreberbad is the Stadthafen. This is quite a new place and once Leipzig’s canal system is finished I can imagine this area will be even busier. One can rent canoes at the Stadhafen for 2, 3 or 4 people and have a paddle around Leipzig (a fun activity if it is not too much of a hot day).
- Leipzig Oper and Gewandhaus – Both of these very famous Leipzig institutions have a varied and colorful selection of shows and concerts for little kids. In fact, they have a special program that lists the target age group for each production, starting at 2 years old and they are not very expensive. The productions we went to were in different venues across the city (Peterskirche, Oper Konzert Foyer, Musicalische’s Komodie, and the Oper) and some of them featured some of the children’s groups affiliated with the opera or orchestra. All very high-quality productions that captivate and entertain audiences of all ages. For a deposit of your choice, you can get a big cushion for the chair that will enable your child to sit higher.
There are so many other things one can do with kids in Leipzig. We loved going to the market on Tuesdays and Fridays in the Market Square (Altmarktplatz) right in the city center. G enjoyed picking out her fruit and a bunch of flowers. The bakery we went to always gave her an extra treat and our fruit guy often put a banana in her hand. The Marktplatz also regularly has other events that are free and open-air. On rainy days, going to watch the fountain in Karstadt was fun – especially at around 3pm when they have a special sequence where the fountain dances to music played on the loudspeakers.
There is never nothing to do here. One can always find some kind of festival on somewhere in the city. Of course, some festivals are better than others, but generally, there is always music, sausage, ice-cream, and other kids.
Altogether, Leipzig is a great place for kids (and adults). Most restaurants have a kid’s area or sandpit and people never seem to be too tired to smile at a child.