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Leipzig has an irresistible charm. Even those visitors who arrive with unpleasant preconceptions of a shabby, grey, socialist metropolis are swiftly seduced by the beauty of Leipzig. Leipzig's city centre has been completely refurbished since German reunification and its magnificent historical buildings once again bask in their original splendour. Hauptbahnhof, an awesome turn-of-the-century construction which used to be Europe's largest train station, has now been transformed into a Mecca for shoppers. 130 shops and boutiques now compete for consumers' hard-earned Deutschmarks. In short, anyone who was familiar with Leipzig before 1989 would scarcely recognise the city today.

"Leipzig is coming!" is the extremely appropriate motto for this forward-looking city.

However, the traces of Leipzig's recent past are still visible. If you take a walk down some of the side-streets outside the city centre, you can't help but notice the extent at which the city was allowed to fall into disrepair during the socialist East German era. Decayed old buildings are overshadowed by enormous, prefabricated high-rises, which although spruced up, still stand out as unshapely hulks and blot the otherwise harmonious cityscape.

Many of Leipzig's major sights are easily accessible on foot, and are often interspersed by tree-lined parks and squares - making a stroll through the city centre a relaxing and enjoyable experience.

Good public transport links make excursions to the outlying areas a pleasant affair.

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