Have a Drink in a 500-Year-Old (Unofficial) German Bomb Shelter - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Have a Drink in a 500-Year-Old (Unofficial) German Bomb Shelter

Have a Drink in a 500-Year-Old (Unofficial) German Bomb Shelter

By Allison Yates

Moritzbastei in Leipzig
SourceJan Woitas/AP


Now it’s a thumping club where people want to get bombed.

By Allison Yates

When you party in Leipzig, Germany, at Moritzbastei, you have to be OK with losing your way. Not with poor decisions made in the early-morning hours, but literally with getting lost.

The last remains of the 16th-century city fortress comprise a series of vaults and interconnected rooms carved into three different underground floors, separated by stone or wrought-iron archways. Turn a corner and you’ll spot a couple cuddling in a corner, whispering over the whining guitar solo of the live band. Around the next there’s a bar where you can order a Heineken next to mesmerizing strobe lights. The extensive space of deceptively endless rooms of varying musical taste — from heavy metal to reggae to Top 40s — is a modern-day rave set in a late-medieval dungeon, complete with a late-night kitchen to satisfy your drunk-induced munchies (you’ll find veggie lasagna, pastas and other carb-heavy deliciousness there).  

The first time Robin Mayer, a Leipzig native currently studying in Dresden, went clubbing at Moritzbastei, he stumbled through the “really confusing” circular layout and somehow ended up stuck in a wardrobe. (I contacted Moritzbastei to get the exact number of drunk patrons found in wardrobes on a given night — among other questions — but my requests went unanswered.) To be fair, he was young and likely went wild on Desperados, a tequila-flavored beer. But what else could you expect from a 1550s-era labyrinth of tunnels and rooms that over the centuries has been converted into everything from a bomb shelter to a school?

It gets so packed, most nights you’ll barely be able to move your feet.

To the average eye, Moritzbastei is nothing more than a dated, yet structurally impressive, historical building. But this cultural center — which also hosts a range of arts from literature and theater to a Goth music festival — has seen tragedy over the years. If you can tune out the pounding bass vibrating the brick and stone walls, you can almost hear the painful cries of 18th-century Russian soldiers who sought refuge here, or the terror of locals during the World War II bombing sieges that severely damaged the structure (at that time it was a women’s professional school). In 1943, Leipzig bombings killed 1,800 people.


After destruction nearly ended this almost-500-year-old building, local students began revitalization efforts in their free time in the 1970s. By 1982 Moritzbastei opened what some believe is its best face yet: a place where it’s certainly possible to “get smashed and wasted,” says Mayer.

Today it’s popular among university students and is a rite of passage for Leipzig rebels (“We spent all our youth there,” says Mayer and his friend Johannis Toring). But in the Veranstaltungstonne, or main event space, you’ll find arts — and drinking — lovers of all ages. It gets so packed, most nights you’ll barely be able to move your feet. But that’s where those sassy shoulders you’ve been practicing can make their debut.

So make a Wodka Gorbatschow toast to one of the oldest standing structures in Leipzig, and remember you’re on the right side of history. 

Go there: Moritzbastei

  • Location: Universitaetsstr 9, 04109, Leipzig, Saxony, Germany. Situated near the Augustusplatz and the Panorama Tower, the only skyscraper in the city.
  • Hours: Weekdays, 10 a.m.–1 a.m.; weekends, 10 a.m.–5 a.m.
  • Fee: Standard dance nights have a 6-euro cover; prices for events and specialty nights vary, but are often free.
  • Pro tip: Try to visit during the Wave-Gotik-Treffen, an annual festival in Leipzig featuring dark music and arts. The party never seems to stop and neither does the extensive range of black attire. Or head to the Leipzig jazz festival in October. But no matter when, make sure to step onto the terrace for great views.

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