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A Visit to Baumwollspinnerei AKA the Leipzig Cotton Mill

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Dinner at Spinnerei is what I see listed on my itinerary for the second night of a conference I’m attending in Leipzig, Germany. Beforehand, life is a little out of control, so I don’t even spend one minute checking it out on Google. That’s just as well so I have no preconceived expectations.

"Not exactly the entrance I expected"

Not exactly the entrance I expected

"The Leipzig Cotton Mill at night"

The area around the Leipzig Cotton Mill at night

Spinnerei isn’t a restaurant after all. Spinnerei appears to be short for Baumwollspinnerei AKA the Leipzig Cotton Mill.

The Leipzig Cotton Mill, founded in 1884, became the largest cotton mill in all of continental Europe. The area around the mill became a city within a city – a vast industrial area consisting of over 20 factories with onsite tenement housing, schooling and recreational areas – though I can’t imagine they were too grand. At its peak in 1907, 4000 workers were employed. By 1993, a few years after Germany’s reunification, the last of the thread production was stopped.

"Looking out through one of the artist's studios at Leipzig's cotton mill"

Looking out through one of the artist’s studios

What came next was a complete about turn. Instead of voiceless factory workers – people with strong, independent voices like painters, photographers, sculptors, fashion designers, cratftsmen and other creative types moved into the space.

You can take a two hour tour of Spinnerei  during the day – and that would give you a much richer understanding of the history and its’ development as a center for cutting edge art. There are more traditional restaurants somewhere on the property – I just didn’t see them. Nonetheless, a visit to Spinnerei, in particular the artist’s studios, proved to be a great way to mingle with both artists and bloggers – and to have one’s eyes opened to the past and the future. It’s also possible to buy art at one of the three exhibitions held throughout the year

"Artist's space in the Leipzig cotton mill"

The artists have so much space to work

Our time at Spinnerei was a blend of drinking, eating and visiting the studios of a few of the artists. The artists come from all over the world for a period of months to immerse themselves in the Spinnerei community.

Here’s a look at what we saw over drinks and dinner.

"Appetizers are beautifully presented"

Appetizers are beautifully presented

"Appetizers are are as delicious to eat as they are to look at"

Appetizers are as delicious to eat as they are to look at

"My new favourite drink - a rhubarb soda"

My new favourite drink – a rhubarb soda

"It's a stand-up affair only"

Dinner and drinks are a stand-up affair only

"Artist studio in the Leipzig cotton mill"

Huge windows are perfect for flooding the artist’s studios with natural light

"Leipzig artist studio with bed"

The studios looked like a scene in a movie

"Artist tools in the Leipzig Cotton factory"

The tools of the trade

"Artist brushes in a palette of colours"

Artist brushes in a palette of colours

Have you ever visited Leipzig’s old cotton mill??

Thank you to Tourism Leipzig for organizing the dinner.

Leigh McAdam

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Author Hike Bike Travel

Avid world traveler. Craves adventure - & the odd wildly epic day. Gardener. Reader. Wine lover. Next big project - a book on 100 Canadian outdoor adventures.

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Join the discussion 20 Comments

  • This looks like such an interesting place to visit. Glad that they had appetizers and drinks on hand considering that you were expecting to show up at a restaurant. The cotton mill certainly makes for a unique venue. And I love rhubarb soda too, by the way. Drank lots of it in Copenhagen recently!

    • @Dana They actually did provide a full dinner as well – standing up only. It was a very interesting venue to hold such a function and it actually worked out well and I got a bit of a history lesson.

  • noel says:

    I love places like this and interacting with artists that convert old places to exciting new venues – would love to visit here some day!

  • jan says:

    I have not visited but I adore those huge windows that flood the room with light. I could never live in a home that was dark. The photos of brushes reminds me of our daughter’s room. :)

  • Marcia says:

    They say artists bring abandoned (or nearly abandoned) places back to life — and then the real estate speculators move in and take them back. It’d be interesting to visit in a few years to see if this will happen here.

    • @Marcia I’ll be curious to see if the values rise over the next few years in the area. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did. I’d hate to see them forced out – and I do know that happens a lot.

  • It’s so nice to see old buildings being converted into something useful like this. It looks like a wonderful way to spend the night and meet new people. love how you captured their trade tools. I’ve never had a rhubarb soda and it sounds interesting.

    • @Mary I like the fact that this old cotton mill has seen so much. The spaces for artists are bright & airy though there’s still a strong turpentine smell in some of them. It’s a great spot and I wish now that I’d had time for a tour.

  • I think I would have been concerned coming upon that entrance if I was expecting dinner at a restaurant. As it turns out, what a fascinating place. I would have enjoyed wandering around there and been glad that we weren’t tethered to seats at a table. The food looks yummy, and now I want to try Rhubarb Soda. I think I’d enjoy a daytime tour of the entire Cotton Mill, too.

    • @Michele I think the entrance hit me more at the end of the night. When we went in we were part of a big group and everyone was chatting so hardly noticed. I am totally in love with rhubarb sodas.

  • jill says:

    What a cool place – l can see why a lot of creative minds would love to be part of the community. It seems to be a place that fosters creative juice,

    • @Jill Over dinner I met artists from Ecuador, Argentina and the States. I thought it was also great to see the collaboration between artists from all over the world – and one would have to think that interplay fosters a lot of understanding of other cultures.

  • Nancie says:

    I have never heard of this place. It looks fascinating, even if the entrance does look like something out of spy movie :) Those appetizers are works of art. I’m not sure I could eat them (Yeah, right!)

    Thanks for linking to Travel Photo Thursday this week.

  • Hi Leigh, I like it when old abandoned building are converted to nurture creative spirits; it give such a breath of amazing energy into otherwise bleak spaces. What a great surprise it musht have been for you when you saw the entrance into your dinner venue. It seems like an interesting evening – witnessing arts and wining and dining.

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