Spinnerei at Leipzig: The journey from Cotton to Culture

Spinnerei at Leipzig is now well known as a home to galleries, exhibitor halls and artist studios. It’s the hub where you can find the most happening people of the city - working together and creating something new and wonderful yet preserving the rich heritage of the compound where it is located. However, the history of the region dates back to the 1840s at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution across Europe.

Spinnerei Leipzig Cotton Culture day tour travel tip
Reflection at Spinnerei after a brief shower

Always a fan of exploring past and history, I was immediately drawn to Spinnerei when I read about it during my online research about Leipzig. However, it was not until my last day in the city that I actually got an opportunity to check out the place and fall in love with it.

My day at Spinnerei

It was a cold day and the rains in the morning didn’t help at all. It was my last day in the city and I was completely on my own - just the like the last few days. I had planned all my days just how I like them - looking at maps, reading about the city in books and a few conversations with the locals, and today was no different. I had been planning to visit Spinnerei right from the time I heard about it, but somehow it was left for the last day and I had the entire say to explore it.

Spinnerei Leipzig Cotton Culture day tour travel tip
The walk from the tram station...

Spinnerei Leipzig Cotton Culture day tour travel tip
Chasing the light...

Braving the cold and slight drizzle, I stepped out of the hotel leaving all my luggage at the reception and took the tram no 14 to take me to Spinnerei. As luck would have it, the sky started opening up and sunlight made everything glow in golden light. This was certainly unusual and I immediately unpacked my camera and got busy capturing moments around me.

I was rather confused when I dropped off at the last station and had to actually ask for directions to reach this old Cotton mill full of art and artists. The light was so good and I was really glad that I came here today. Somehow I had assumed Spinenrai to be this clearly demarcated area, but it’s actually so large that the space is more like a full neighbourhood. With only a few vehicles in sight, and even fewer people around I was rather unsure on how to actually explore the place.

Spinnerei Leipzig Cotton Culture day tour travel tip
The brick buildings at Spinnerei
Spinnerei Leipzig Cotton Culture day tour travel tip
A man on way to his studio...

I asked a couple of young guys who gave me suggestions on walking around and also recommended a nice little cafe for lunch. There are more than a hundred studios, though these are not really accessible on all days of the year. Check the details below about Spinnerei Gallery Tour when the studios open up their doors and let visitors come in to see these magical places. Unfortunately, when I was there, no studios were open but I could peek into some and could still see quite a bit of active artistic life.

My day ended with lunch at Cafe Versorgung and I loved it totally - actually the place more than the food also. It was full of people who certainly looked very interesting, though I didn’t really disturb anyone during food time. I enjoyed my food and kept looking at the large chimney in the reflection of my window. It was a gorgeous view. A man kept staring at me constantly as I ate my food, but I simply smiled at him :)

Soon it was beginning to get dark and I could see the rains coming. Completely unprepared for any downpour, I decided to bid adieu to this old cotton mill and rushed to the tram station. It started drizzling, but thankfully the tram was already there and I got into the warm coach.

The place is as interesting as it’s history and I think it’s really interesting

A brief history of Spinnerei

As I mentioned, the history of Spinnerei dates back to 1840 when the area of Plagwitz spearheaded the industrialisation of Leipzig. Leipzig was already at the forefront of business in Germany and it’s foray into fast industrialisation was but obvious. Dr Heine is often credited with leading the industrialisation - he bought large farmlands, drained the swampy land, build housing and developed factories. This all developed in conjunction with railways and canal-ways which were intended to carry the industrial production from Leipzig to across the world.

Spinnerei Leipzig Cotton Culture day tour travel tip
Some more lovely light :)

Starting 1920 after World War II, the business activities in Plagwitz begin to decline but it continued production all the way till East Germany collapsed in 1989. The area was doomed to decay into oblivion, but fortunately that didn’t happen. The city council decided to revive the area and all the old industrial complexes were became of hub of fresh new wave of entrepreneurship.

The most prominent cotton mill of Plagwitz was Spinnerei, set up in 1884 and formerly the largest cotton mill of continental Europe. With this new wave, the factory has been developed into a cosmos of art by the artists which have made this mill their new home.

When artists started moving in this area, the first one was Neo Rauch who is also part of the ‘New Leipzig School’ of art. Now he is world famous and many celebrities also buy his creations, including Brad Pitt. About 100 artists have their own studios, along with 11 galleries and non profit space HALLE 14 (www.halle14.org). The not-for-profit art space HALLE 14 has existed since 2002, using 20,000 m² of space in the largest production hall on the Spinnerei site.

Spinnerei Leipzig Cotton Culture day tour travel tip
Artists carrying their essential sullies to the studio...
Spinnerei Leipzig Cotton Culture day tour travel tip
Some art on the door...
HALLE 14 promotes contemporary art, and presents it to the public in various forms and in a way that invites discussion. A separate exhibition programme, an art library, the «Kreative Spinner» programme and partnerships with other institutions dedicated to promoting art, like the Universal Cube and the Columbus Art Foundation are the cornerstones of HALLE 14’s ambitious work.

Opening Hours During the Exhibition: Tue-Sun, 11am-18pm
Regular Opening Hours: Tue-Fri, 11am-18pm, Monday closed

Spinnerei Leipzig Cotton Culture day tour travel tip
Entrance to Hall 3

To reach Spinnerei

The best way to reach Spinnerei is by Tram. Tram 14 ends at Spinnerei and can you can catch it at the Central Station. To go to Spinnerei, walk back a little and take the left and walk through the underpass (train line above) to reach the other side. Spinnerei complex would be on your left, but do explore the area more.

Eating tip: I ate my lunch at Cafe Versorgung and it was a wonderful experience.

Spinnerei Gallery Tour

Three times a year, all galleries and exhibition spaces open up new exhibitions. It’s the best time to visit Spinnerei as the place is buzzing with activity and you can even catch up with some of the most famous artists of the world. Below are the dates for Spinnerei Gallery Tour in 2016:

16 January 2016
30 April - 1 May 2016
10/11 September 2016

Spinnerei Leipzig Cotton Culture day tour travel tip
The Chimney of the old Cotton Mill
Apart from this, from Tuesday to Friday you can also take guided tours through the site of the Spinnerei.

1. The intensive group tour takes approximately 2 hours. During this tour you gain an insight into the history and the development concept of the Spinnerei. On the agenda there is furthermore a visit to the archive, 4-6 of the 14 galleries and exhibition spaces, two workshops and a tour through the site. We charge 150€ (20 person max).

You can book the 2-hours-tour via E-Mail: archivmassiv@spinnerei.de.

More information:

Spinnereistr. 7
D-04179 Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 4980270
Web: www.spinnerei.de
Main opening hours: Tue-Sat 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Spinnerei Leipzig Cotton Culture day tour travel tip
A view of the old mill compound...

Disclaimer: I spent my days at Leipzig as a guest of Leipzig Tourism. All views expressed are unbiased and my own.


  1. Very interesting Sid! I love it when old structures are re-purposed, rather than being destroyed. I'm not a fan of modern...
    Great post!

    1. That's absolutely true...I also love how the place is re-used so beautifully...

  2. What an amazing post Sid! This place looks really very original and beautiful. Not even heard about it before...Thanks for sharing.

  3. Awesome photos. Thanks for your post :)


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