• Sweden edition
 
SPONSORED ARTICLE
Saunter through Saxony with InterRail: a gateway to central Europe
PHOTO: Nikater

Saunter through Saxony with InterRail: a gateway to central Europe

Published: 22 May 2012 18:53 GMT+02:00
Updated: 22 May 2012 18:53 GMT+02:00

Its two main tourist draws are the stunning cities of Leipzig and Dresden. Along with impressive architecture, vibrant cultural scenes and picturesque backdrops, they are also the perfect bases to explore further into central Europe by train.

Leipzig

The second city of Saxony will greet you with a big bang on arrival. The central station is the largest in Europe by floor area with its 24 platforms housed in six train sheds. Leipzig has long been known as an important trade city since 900 AD, thanks to its location at the intersection between two important trade routes. The city’s famous trade fair continues that tradition today.

But business mixes with musical pleasure. Leipzig became a centre for classical excellence in the 17th and 18th century as the place where two of Germany’s most famous composers, Johann Sebastian Bach and Felix Mendelssohn, lived and worked. Bach was choirmaster at the Lutheran St. Thomas Church (Thomaskirche) where he was laid to rest. Regular concerts of his cantata’s and services featuring the famous boy’s choir Thomaschor remain popular. Organists can even visit and play the very instrument where the maestro himself composed.

A statue of Felix Mendelssohn was erected outside the church in 2008, after the Nazis destroyed the original in 1936. Mendelssohn founded the Leipzig Conservatoire (now the University of Music and Theatre) in 1843 – the oldest university school of music in Germany.

The city's oldest church St. Nicholas Church (Nikolaikirche) was built in 1165 and, with its striking Gothic style, is also popular among visitors. The building is most famous as the scene of the Monday demonstrations in 1989, the start of a peaceful revolt against communist rule. For an intriguing insight into the past, visit Museum in der Runden Ecke (Museum in the Round Corner) – the original city headquarters of the Stasi has been kept exactly how it was found in the late 80s. Through documents and surveillance equipment it present a fascinating look into the inner workings of the secret police.

For a unique view of the city, climb the 500 steps to the viewing platform of the Battle of the Nations monument. Built in 1913 to commemorate Napoleon’s defeat in Leipzig a century before, it is the largest war memorial in Europe and stands 91 metres tall, allegedly on the spot where Napoleon ordering his troops to retreat.

In between sightseeing, stop off for a respite at Mädlerpassage, a quaint shopping arcade filled with an array of boutiques. Ensure to pay a visit to Auerbachs Keller – a restaurant that can cite Johann Wolfgang von Goethe as one of its former local patrons. He was a regular during his student days in the city and marked it with a mention in a scene from Faust I.

The biggest family attraction is Leipzig Zoo, with its sprawling grounds and botanical gardens close to the city centre. A modern take on the traditional zoo, it concentrates on conservation and animal protection. There are 850 species of animals from around the world and a newly-opened tropical rainforest the size of two football pitches to explore.

Why not combine your stay in Leipzig with a day trip to the German capital? Berlin is just 200 kilometres away and only 75 minutes on the express ICE train.

Alternatively, take a longer scenic route into Bavaria and a three-hour journey that allows you to enjoy the spectacular views along the River Saale towards Nuremberg – unspoilt nature and serene valleys lined with fairytale castles come guaranteed.

Dresden


The capital of Saxony and Germany’s fourth largest city is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, a waterway lined with meadows that snakes its way 23 kilometres through Dresden. The contrasting architectural styles in the heart of the old town are a throwback to realities of World War II and the controversial aerial attack in 1945. Previously, the city was referred to as the Jewel Box, because of its baroque and rococo buildings and many were rebuilt including the Semper Opera. Elaborate and ornate in Renaissance style, it houses a packed programme of opera, ballet and jazz performances as well as being open for guided tours.

Local residents began a campaign and raised private funds to complete the restoration of the famous Frauenkirche (The Church of Our Lady) cathedral in 2005, a year before the city celebrated its 800th anniversary. Since the re-opening, it has been one of the cities biggest tourist attractions with over seven million visitors in the first three years alone.

The Zwinger Palace hosts galleries and gardens in a museum complex comprising the Old Masters Picture Gallery with works by Rembrandt, Rubens and Raphael. For a glimpse of sheer opulence, visit the two Green Vaults in Dresden’s former Royal Palace. Founded by Augustus the Strong in 1723 there are over 1,000 artefacts and treasures from around the world including gold, amber, ivory and the Dresden Green Diamond, the only large naturally green diamond ever to be found.

Take time to soak in the natural surroundings on offer – Dresden is one of the greenest cities in Europe with over 60 percent of the city covered by forest and green space. Protected gardens and parks are scattered around the city along with four nature reserves in close proximity. An hour’s bike ride from the city centre along the Elbe Cycle Path takes in vineyards, riverside palaces, beer gardens and former villages by the river bank.

For the alternative side of Dresden, step into the Neustadt neighbourhood. Home to the city’s student population it comes complete with a pulsing nightlife and vibrant cultural scene. Admittedly, it may not have the sights of the historical inner city, but with its narrow streets, funky shops and bohemian feel, this is where the fun is to be had for younger visitors.

Make the most of your stay by conveniently taking in another country and another capital by train. Close to the Czech border, a day trip to Prague is just 150 kilometres and two hours and 20 minutes away.

On leaving the city, follow the Dresden skyline reflected in the River Elbe while the beauty of the Elbe Valley awaits. Further on, the colossal rocky cliffs of the Sächsische Schweiz National Park tower above a number of pretty, colourful villages. Once across the border, the train follows the Vitava River at Mělník, providing more waterside views before arriving in the popular Czech capital of Prague.

Article sponsored by Eurail Group.

For information on the InterRail Pass range and where to buy click here.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
National
Northern Swedes wake up to September snow

Northern Swedes wake up to September snow

Summer has come to a definite end in Kiruna as residents of the northern town were greeted with a blanket of snow on Sunday morning. READ  

Elections 2014
Ex-Prime Minister: Sweden is falling apart
Former Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson. Photo: Leo Sellén/TT

Ex-Prime Minister: Sweden is falling apart

Former Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson has said that the election success of the Sweden Democrats is a "slap" in the face for the Stockholm establishment. READ  

National
Trio prosecuted for hate attack against Somalis
Somali nationals taking part in a demonstration against deportations in Stockholm. File photo:Björn Larsson Ask/SvD/ TT

Trio prosecuted for hate attack against Somalis

Three young men in southern Sweden suspected of attacking Somali refugees with stones and screaming "sieg heil" have been indicted on charges of racial agitation. READ  

National
Swedish airfares to get cheaper in 2015

Swedish airfares to get cheaper in 2015

Sweden is set to buck the European trend of rising air prices with fares expected to drop next year according to a new report. READ  

National
Swede's homemade submarine nets fortune
Eric Westerberg's homemade submarine Isabelle. Photo: PS.nu

Swede's homemade submarine nets fortune

A Swedish submarine enthusiast who spent over 3,500 hours making his own vessel has sold his prized possession for 705,000 kronor ($98,500) in an online auction. READ  

National
Cops reported for making 'Roma' comment

Cops reported for making 'Roma' comment

Police in northern Sweden have been reported to the Equality Ombudsman for describing a wanted suspect as having a "Roma appearance." READ  

Donald Duck and Zlatan get Swedish votes
A political career for Zlatan? Some fans seem to want to see that. Photo: Peter Dejong/TT

Donald Duck and Zlatan get Swedish votes

The Bilderberg Group, the Satanic Initiative and Adolf Hitler all received votes in Sweden’s general election, according to a list released by the country’s electoral authority. READ  

Sport
Stockholm fails bid to host Euro 2020 games
The Swedish team in action. Photo: TT

Stockholm fails bid to host Euro 2020 games

Sweden's capital has missed out on a chance to host any Euro 2020 games, with Copenhagen the only Scandinavian city among the thirteen winning locations. READ  

Vicar: God rejects fans of women priests
Antje Jackelén, Archbishop of Uppsala, is the first woman to head the Swedish church. Photo: Stig-Åke Jönsson/TT

Vicar: God rejects fans of women priests

A Swedish priest has been fired after telling his congregation that people who support female priests would be rejected by God - despite the fact that his own church is led by a woman. READ  

Analysis
Women set to dominate top post-election jobs
Margot Wallström (right) could become Stefan Löfven's new Minister of Foreign Affairs. Photo: TT

Women set to dominate top post-election jobs

Sweden could soon get a female Foreign Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt's ousted Moderate Party is preparing for its first woman leader and the grandmother of actor Hugh Grant's son is being tipped as Parliament's next Speaker. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
The 'black gold' of Sweden's west coast.
National
West Sweden prepares for the 2014 lobster premiere
Society
What's on in Sweden
Politics
How Sweden Democrats went mainstream
Politics
Scandinavia and Scotland: closer links?
Gallery
Property of the week - Eskilstuna
Blog updates

20 September

How a Frog Can Save the Environment (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"What we do we imagine when we think of children enjoying nature? Perhaps it’s fishing, marveling at lightning bugs on a muggy July day or blowing on the wispy petals of a dandelion to make a special wish. But perhaps most iconic of the playful innocence in childhood is hopping after and trying to catch..." READ »

 

19 September

Editor’s blog (The Local Sweden) »

"Happy Friday readers! It sure has been a exciting week in Sweden, where we’re set to get a new Prime Minister after Fredrik Reinfeldt stepped down following Sunday’s elections. The Local blogged live from the key political gatherings across Stockholm. Why not re-visit the action by taking a look at our photos, tweets, videos and analysis? Since the..." READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
How to start a business in Stockholm
Society
How I became a surf blogger when I moved to Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: September 13th
Society
Why is Stockholm's Södermalm so cool?
Gallery
People-watching: September 11th
Gallery
People-watching: September 13th
Politics
Five possible election outcomes
Politics
Sweden elections: How do they work?
Politics
Sweden elections: Who's who?
Gallery
Property of the week - Hornstull, Stockholm
Analysis
Five differences between the UK and Sweden
Welshman Jonny Luck is now a chef in Sweden
Society
How I opened my own restaurant in Sweden's Malmö
Sponsored Article
Stockholm tech fest: relive the magic
Gallery
People-watching September 8th
Photo: TT
Politics
Feminists fight for first seats
Politics
Immigration cut push from Sweden Democrats
Sheryl Sandberg says women have "low expectations"
Tech
Facebook exec talks women's limits in Swedish business
Politics
Left Party calls for justice and equality
Politics
Green Party wants 'better world' for kids
Lifestyle
The five best Swedish songs of the month
Sponsored Article
Introducing… Insurance in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Graduates: Insure your income in Sweden with AEA
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

846
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN