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Architecture, art, historical places: Saxony is Germany's number one cultural travel destination, with hotspots including Little Venice and Elbflorenz, aka Leipzig and Dresden. These are not only the best-known major cities in the state, they are also picture-perfect and full of joie de vivre - and always good for new surprises.

Leipzig received many labels in its history. Trade fair city, because with 850 years of tradition it is one of the oldest trade fair centers in the world. Music city, because Johann Sebastian Bach, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Robert and Clara Schumann worked here. Book city, because it was the international logistics center of the commission book trade until the early 20th century. Hero city, because it was here that the Peaceful Revolution against the GDR regime began in 1989. 

For some years now, people have also been saying that Leipzig is Germany's boomtown par excellence. This is where the population figures are growing the fastest. This is perhaps due to this idiosyncratic melange of bustle, civic-mindedness, sophistication, tenacity and inventiveness, which drives the people of Leipzig to enormous creativity and makes them successful. 

If you want to get an impression of this, you can stroll through the shopping arcades in the city center. Or indulge in fine restaurants and cafés. Or visit the Museum of Fine Arts in the afternoon. Or enjoy classical music at the Gewandhaus in the evening. The list of Experience and cultural recommendations The list could be extended. Leipzig's city center is chicly developed, embodies success and prosperity, and also puts visitors from all over the world in a good mood.

This is how you get to Leipzig by train: Plan arrival.

See Leipzig from the water

But if you want to experience what makes the city tick, you should leave the center. Namely By boat, best from the city harbor in the direction of Plagwitz and beyond. Experienced canoeists can do this on their own, tours of varying length and duration are also available with expert guides. One of the many routes leads along the Elstermühlgraben, the Weiße Elster and the Karl-Heine-Kanal into the heart of the former industrial districts of Plagwitz and Lindenau.

Plagwitz has its origins in the industrialization of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Wilhelminian period and early modernity characterize the style of the neighborhood. The smokestacks are only a backdrop, the textile machines stand still, but life pulsates: Artists and gallery owners, creative minds have taken possession of the old industrial halls. A top address is the former Leipzig Cotton MillToday, artists live there in over 100 studios. Some of them can be visited, and guided tours of the spinning mill take place regularly. And more awaits along the Karl Heine Canal: skating tracks, water playground, pubs and art power plant.

Sports and fun in the Neuseenland

And the amazement continues, because if you have enough time and perseverance, you will discover the local sea at the end of the boat tour: Leipzig's Neuseenland. Where there was once open-cast lignite mining, turquoise blue water now glistens, surrounded by ever-increasing greenery. Sailing, wakeboarding, surfing, stand-up paddling, swimming, playing, cycling, diving - all that is possible here. 

The destination of the paddle tour is then Lake Cospuden with its colorful harbor on the south shore. Here you can watch the hustle and bustle, restaurants and cafes are busy from spring to fall. Next door, Lake Störmthal with its floating art object Vineta, a unique venue for events, and Lake Markleeberg also attract visitors. The main attraction there is the Canoe Park - its whitewater channel not only allows top canoeists to compete internationally, but also brave amateurs can plunge into the floods under guidance. 

Raphael's angels shine again in Dresden  

Whether on foot, by bike along the Elbe Cycle Path, by carriage or on a historic ship of the Saxon Steamship Company - there is no way around Dresden. Who in Saxony's state capital has not seen the Frauenkirche, the Zwinger, the Residenzschloss, the Hofkirche and the Semper Opera House, you are missing out on one of Germany's most beautiful historic Old Town ensembles. Dresden's architectural treasures around the Theaterplatz and the art treasures of the State Art Collections are magnets. 

The passion for collecting of the Saxon electors, above all Augustus the Strong, made Dresden world-famous as a city of art. The reopening of the Old Masters Picture Gallery in the Zwinger at the beginning of the year was therefore cause for great joy. For here the "Sistine Madonna" by Raphael not only attracted new attention, but also an environment worth marveling at. Just like the finally again splendidly sparkling parade rooms of August the Strong from 1719 in the west wing of the Dresden Residence Palace.

How to get to Dresden by train: Plan arrival.

Culture in old industrial buildings

Fine art and industrial culture also go hand in hand in Dresden. Thus connects Semper Opera and Radeberger Pilsner enjoyed a decades-long friendship - to this day, the opera house is a recognizable image of the brewery. The support of Radeberger, where the first Pilsner-style beer was brewed in Germany, enables the opera house to bind promising young artists to its own house and to leave a lasting mark on their artistic careers. Both institutions are united not only by their Saxon homeland, but above all by their own high standards of quality and value. Both are trademarks that stand for Saxony, both are historic sites.

As well as the Power station Dresden center. Modern zeitgeist has moved into the old housing. Where electricity was once generated, there is now dancing and singing. Among others, the Dresden State Operetta and the tjg - theater der jungen generation have moved in here. In recent years, Wettiner Platz has become a very special city within the city, a place for culture that is unparalleled - and breathes history at the same time. It is proof of how much people in Dresden not only love the impressive baroque buildings, but also look forward to a lively and modern Cultural scene sets.

With the paddle steamer through Dresden

What not only vacationers, but the Dresdeners themselves love so much: City and surrounding area by water to explore, especially with pleasure by paddle steamer. The nine slender ships with their sweeping hips, beneath which are huge paddle wheels, gleam green and white in the sun in their harbor on Dresden's Terrassenufer. When the steam siren sounds, everyone knows that a ship is sailing at that moment. And it does so every day, morning to evening, from spring to fall - as long as the Elbe has enough water. The water level must show at least 80 centimeters. 

The fascination that emanates from the ship's ladies, which are well over 100 years old, spans generations. The Sächsische Dampfschiffahrts GmbH & Co. Conti Elbschiffahrts KG describes its fleet as the oldest and largest of its kind in the world. The ships are technical monuments. They glide down the Elbe at a leisurely pace from Dresden, along the vineyards around Meissen and Radebeul. In the other direction, they pass Dresden's Elbe castles, Pillnitz Palace and Pirna past to the rock formations of Saxon and Bohemian Switzerland - 86 river kilometers in total. 

Today, the traditional ships of the Dresden fleet still ring in the main season with the great steamship parade on May 1 every year. And the people of Dresden also use their nine floating monuments for special events. For example, for the big Riverboat Shuffle, which attracts jazz lovers from all over the world. At the International Dixieland Festival, the Elbe becomes Saxony's Mississippi River on several evenings - people and machines then swing together to the sound of jaunty Southern music, and everyone is invited.

Cover photo: Leipzig is Saxony's largest city and has a vibrant arts and culture scene © Philipp Kirschner

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