The foundation of the University of Leipzig in 1409 initiated the city's conversion into a center of German law and the publishing industry. It was also a seat of the German Supreme Court, as well as of the German National Library (founded in 1912). A terminal of the first German long distance railroad (1838, to Dresden), Leipzig became a hub of Central-European railroad traffic. It is also renowned for its train station building, now the largest passenger train station in Europe. Due to industrialization in the 19th Century, the town expanded rapidly towards one million inhabitants. Extensive areas were built which mostly survived World War II and post-war demolitions. Nowadays, these districts are unique in modern Germany. The constant decline in the number of inhabitants, however, remains a threat to these precious, richly decorated remains of once-Imperial Germany. After 1949, Leipzig became one of the major  cities of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). The Monday demonstrations began in 1989, becoming the most prominent mass protest against the East German regime. The city became known as the City of Heroes due to its leading role in the democratic revolution that eventually led to German reunification.

 A major highlight is the City-High-Rise-Building Leipzig, which, with a height of 142 meters, is the tallest building in the city. Designed by the architect Henselmann in the shape of an open book and constructed between 1968 and 1972, it was originally part of the University of Leipzig campus at Augustus Square. The building was thoroughly renovated between 1999 and 2002, and is now rented to private tenants (such as the broadcaster MDR). You can have a delicious dinner in the Panorama restaurant, or just take delight in the beautiful view over the historic city.

Another important landmark is the Battle of Nations Monument. Built in commemoration of the defeat of Napoleon in 1813 in the Battle of Leipzig, known also as the Battle of Nations, it is widely regarded as one of the best examples of Wilhelmine architecture. The monument was finished in 1913, on the 100th anniversary of the battle, and is believed to stand on the spot where Napoleon saw his army crushed.

Among Leipzig's noteworthy institutions are the Opera House, Gewandhaus Orchestra, Oper Leipzig, and the Leipzig Zoo, housing the world's largest facilities for primates. Additionally, Leipzig offers an international trade fair ground in the north of the city, having the largest levitated Glass Hall in the world.

On the museum scene, well worth visiting is the Museum of City History, set in the Old Town Hall. Alongside a permanent exhibition on Leipzig's history, it regularly hosts special exhibitions. The Bach Museum, operated by the Bach Archive, is situated opposite St. Thomas' Church and is dedicated to the work and life of the great composer and long-term musical director of Leipzig, who worked at this church from 1723 to 1750. Also not to be missed are the Mendelssohn House, the place where this important composer lived and died, as well as the Schiller and Schumann Houses. Leipzig was the site of the FIFA 2006 World Cup draw, and hosted five of the First Round Group matches.