We got to spend six days exploring Houston’s German Sister City, Leipzig, and I’m here to tell you that the Saxony town 5,327 miles away from us ain’t so different than you’d think. There’s a vibrant arts and music scene, amazingly nice people and delicious food on every corner.
Some Leipzig basics
Take it from us, official unofficial ambassadors to Leipzig.
- Leipzig and Houston have been Sister Cities for 25 years this October. Sister City relationships are ways cities can create a more global presence and awareness — for travel purposes, education opportunities and cultural exposure. Houston week in Leipzig is Oct. 23 to Oct. 30. For more on the partnership, click here.
- The city’s about an hour by train outside of Berlin, and close to a lot of major European cities as well — Prague, for instance, is just a short bus ride away. The Leipziggers seem to be very well traveled — at least around Germany — for this reason.
- It’s pronounced, “Lype-schek”. The way we’d say “zig” is definitely not right. The Germans pronouncing words that end in “G” have a hard “K” sound. The “Z” also is a little different. It almost feels like I’m saying, “Lype-Sick”. This being said, no one ever corrected us, no matter how wrong our pronunciation was.
- The city center is small and completely walkable, but you miss out on a LOT of Leipzig if you stay central. Get a metro pass or rent a bike to truly explore!
Ways Houston and Leipzig are similar
Doesn’t this have the look and feel of our bayous?! Granted, it was a much more mild summer view than sweating by the bayou.
On our first day in Leipzig, we did a tour around the city center. I was surprised by all the shops there were! Sure, there was a mall with the German versions of H&M and Forever 21, but walking through the town, there were these historic shopping arcades, like the Messepalast Specks Hof. This building was built in the 1400s and became an arcade full of shops and merchants sometime in the 1800s. It’s the oldest preserved shopping arcade in Leipzig.
The merchant city identity is also established by the freight industry. Leipzig’s airport is open 24/7 to receive packages and is the second-busiest airport for cargo in Germany, behind Frankfurt. DHL has a huge hub in Leipzig too.
This felt super familiar to me. Houston has the busiest port in the United States — and one of the busiest in the world. Merchants are a big part of Houston’s history too. In the 1800’s, farmers used the bayou system to get their produce down to Galveston to be shipped out.
Fast growing cities
The Paulinum, a university building of University of Leipzig, was built in 2007. The building is modeled after the old university church, the Paulinerkirche, which was destroyed in 1968 during the communist regime of East Germany.
Leipzig is the fastest growing city in all of Germany. Houston is expected to gain the most new residents by 2050 in all of Texas, according to census data. The difference being, Leipzig is a smaller city that’s going through some explosive growth, while Houston, which already has over 4 million residents, is maintaining that volume of growth.
Leipzig’s draws are similar to Houston’s, actually: Affordable housing, job opportunities, colleges and universities and plenty of things to do.
We talked with some locals about the fact that Leipzig has been called the “New Berlin.” This is basically due to this population growth, but also the post-industrial revolution of sorts that the city has gone through. Rather than just being a super industrial town with poor air quality, Leipzig has formed a personality aside from that.
I think Houston is going through something similar. While no one is comparing us to another city, Houston has long been tired to its booming energy industry. That Houston is ALL energy ALL the time is just not true any more.
Leipzig is beautiful — and only one Leipzigger told us otherwise! And we think he was dumb.
I feel like I gotta defend Houston allllll the time. When people say it’s too hot or there’s nothing to do and it’s too spread out blah blah blah. One summer, I lived in New York and when I said I was from Houston, everyone would ask, “But is that close to Austin? Do you go all the time?! I hear Austin is so fun!” Ugh. No one knows the wonders of Houston! I wonder if this is just my own experience, but the city is definitely an underdog when it comes to all the fun things you can do here!
I picked up on this vibe from Leipzig. In a country with Berlin’s counterculture and Munich’s Oktoberfest, I can see Leipzig falling down on the list of destinations to travel to. I hadn’t heard of it before learning of the Sister City relationship. But once there, I realized the Leipzig people are very proud of their city! We were asked FREQUENTLY, why we had chosen Leipzig to travel to, so I get that maybe international travel to Leipzig isn’t super common. However, when we asked how they liked living in Leipzig, everyone said how much they love it. It was always so heartwarming and reminding me of Newstonians!
A backstage view of the Leipzig ballet rehearsing for a show.
Both Leipzig and Houston have a wealth of visual and performing arts that they are VERY proud of. Houston’s Museum District has 19 institutions and sees 8.7 million visitors a year. The city’s Theater District houses the Houston Grand Opera, Houston Ballet, Houston Symphony, Theatre Under the Stars and the Alley Theatre.
Leipzig has its renown Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, which is one of the largest orchestras in Europe. There’s also the Leipzig ballet, opera and more. For more on how great Leipzig’s visual and performing arts are, stay tuned for our post on Leipzig, The City of Music!
When it comes to visual arts, we did a tour of the Spinnerei — which is a former cotton factory turned into art galleries and studios that hosts events too. I mean, is this not basically Sawyer Yards?! Add some Success Rice silos, and we’re there.
We aren’t mad about how much Asian cuisine we got in Leipzig!
Last, but certainly not least, Leipziggers and Houstonians can bond over FOOD. We had so much fun eating all the different types of food in Leipzig. More deets in a blog post to come!
One thing we noticed was pretty similar to Houston is the wealth of Asian cuisine there is in Leipzig (and in Berlin too!). There were tons of places for pho or ramen — we probably ate Asian food at least every other day on our 11 days in Germany. Very similar to Houston’s Chinatown, except scattered throughout the city.
Although, there were no tacos eaten in Leipzig. Get working on that, sis.