First documented in 1015, and endowed with city and market privileges in 1165, the city of Leipzig has fundamentally shaped the history of Saxony and of Germany. It was founded at the crossing of two ancient trade routes, Via Regia and Via Imperii. Leipzig has always been known as a place of commerce and still has large trade fairgrounds and exhibition halls known as the Leipzig Messe and located north of the city. Before it became common to dedicate a specific area to trade fairs, they took place in the city itself. Which is why merchants, as well as Leipzig’s unique system of arcades and courtyards constructed many of the historical buildings.
Other forms of exchange soon followed the trade of goods. The University of Leipzig (Latin: Alma mater lipsiensis) was founded in 1409, which makes it the second-oldest university in Germany. University facilities are scattered throughout the city, and you cannot miss the central campus at Augustusplatz, where construction work on the new main building is almost finished (as of January 2011).
Leipzig acquired the nickname Klein Paris ("Little Paris") in the 18th century, when it became a center of a classical literary movement largely lead by the German scholar and writer Johann Christoph Gottsched.
The city is also the home of the Nikolaikirche (Church of St. Nicholas) – the starting point of peaceful demonstrations against the communist regime, which led to German Reunification. The collapse of communism hit Leipzig's economy very heavily (as did communism itself), but after being on the mend for over twenty years, it has emerged as one of the success stories of the "New German States".
Traces of Leipzig's history are everywhere: the ring of streets around the city center marking the former course of the city wall, the city trade houses, abandoned and repurposed industrial buildings in Plagwitz, small town structures in the outskirts where surrounding towns were incorporated during phases of rapid growth, the battlefields of the Napoleonic wars in the south and southeast of the city, and much, much more.