When is the last time you’ve seen a city that was destined to be a fortress? A city that was at the cross roads of empires and interests. Visiting Luxembourg is an experience we recommend to see for yourself how this industrial and military fortress became an economic powerhouse and a founding cornerstone state of the European Union.
Below we invite you to read what are the top considerations you should have front of mind when planning your next trip to Luxembourg.
- Travel to and Around Luxembourg
- Where to Stay in Luxembourg
- Things to do in Luxembourg
- 1. Take a photo at Pont Adolphe
- 2. Enjoy a coffee at Place d’Armes
- 3. Admire the Monument of Remembrance
- 4. Admire the views at the Panoramic Elevator of the Pfaffenthal
- 5. Uncover History at Bock Casemates
- 6. Enjoy the stunning views of Chemin de la Corniche
- 7. Explore the Grand-Ducal Palace
- 8. See the Notre-Dame Cathedral
- 9. Understand the History of the City at the Luxembourg City History Museum
- Other things to do in Luxembourg
- Food and Drinks Highlights
- Final Thoughts
Luxembourg City, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, has a rich and fascinating history that dates back centuries. Situated at the heart of Europe, this city has been a witness to the rise and fall of empires, making it a unique and captivating destination for history enthusiasts.
The country is part of the European Union and is a Schengen founding member. The Schengen Area (pronounced: /ˈʃɛŋən/ SHENG-ən) draws its name from the Luxembourgish actual city called Schengen.
The country uses the euro as its currency and is great for visiting as part of a city break.
The origins of Luxembourg City can be traced back to the Roman era when a fort called Lucilinburhuc was established on a rocky promontory. Over the years, this strategic location attracted the attention of various powers, including the Franks, who took control of the fortress in the 9th century. The city’s name, Luxembourg, is derived from “Lucilinburhuc.”.
In the Middle Ages, Luxembourg City flourished as a significant fortress, playing a crucial role in the defence of surrounding territories. The fortifications were continuously expanded and strengthened, turning the city into an impregnable stronghold. Despite numerous sieges and battles, Luxembourg City managed to withstand many attacks, solidifying its reputation as a formidable military stronghold.
During the 19th century, Luxembourg City became a crucial pawn in the power struggle between France and Germany. The city’s fortifications were dismantled in accordance with the Treaty of London in 1867, which declared Luxembourg a permanently neutral state. The city’s transition from a military fortress to a peaceful capital opened up new opportunities for growth and development.
In the 20th century, Luxembourg City experienced significant economic and social progress. It became the centre of the country’s financial sector, attracting international businesses and institutions. Today, it is not only the political and cultural capital of Luxembourg, but also a founding member of the European Union.
Although, French seems to be the de jure language, with signage and names often written in French, you will also find a somewhat German dialect called Luxembourgish which is the de facto language of the area. However, not to worry if you speak none of the two, as Luxembourgers speak perfectly good English and are always up to helping tourists.
Visitors to Luxembourg City can explore its history through various landmarks and attractions. From the ancient Bock Casemates, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to the majestic Grand-Ducal Palace, the city offers a glimpse into its rich past. Museums like the Luxembourg City History Museum provide deeper insights into the city’s heritage, showcasing artifacts and exhibits that tell the story of its evolution through time.
Travel to and Around Luxembourg
Travelling to Luxembourg is very easy considering how well it is integrated in the continent’s travel paths. One option to consider is flying to Luxembourg Airport (LUX) which is the country’s only airport.
We’ve seen plenty of reasonably priced flights from London. Alternatively, many choose to have Luxembourg as a layover/stopover along their travel route. If you are looking for suitable flight options, make sure to check out this article with top tips on how to find cheap flights.
Luxembourg City is also well-connected through its train services. The central train station, located in the heart of the city, provides connections to major national and international destinations.
This is how we actually travelled since we were based in Paris as part of our summer 2023 Interrail trip. For us it felt like a very convenient journey of only two and a half hours with a high speed train (TGV).
From the station, we found you can easily reach other cities in Luxembourg as well as neighbouring countries such as Belgium, France, and Germany. Train travel is known for its speed, comfort, and panoramic views, adding an extra element of pleasure to any journey.
Luxembourg City boasts a well-developed and efficient public transportation system that makes exploring the city and its surroundings a breeze. With a combination of buses, trams, and trains, getting around Luxembourg City is convenient, affordable, and environmentally friendly.
The backbone of the public transportation network in Luxembourg City is the bus system. Operated by the national transport company, buses serve both the city centre and the suburbs, making it easy for residents and visitors to travel throughout the entire metropolitan area.
For tourists visiting Luxembourg City, you should note public transport is free. You don’t need to purchase anything, you just hop on the tram and off you go.
Worth noting though that this doesn’t include domestic trains. So if you are planning to travel outside the city using a domestic train, then you should buy a regular fare ticket.
Another popular mode of transport in Luxembourg City is the tram system. The modern tram lines traverse the city, offering a comfortable and scenic way to travel. With spacious interiors and designated stops, tram journeys are smooth and enjoyable.
The public transportation system in Luxembourg City is known for its punctuality and user-friendly features. The buses, trams, and trains are equipped with modern facilities, including wheelchair accessibility and real-time information displays, ensuring a comfortable and hassle-free experience for all passengers.
Where to Stay in Luxembourg
On this particular occasion we actually had overnight accommodation in Paris. However, you could equally consider sleeping here as there are plenty of attractions to warrant 1-2 nights stay.
We would recommend booking your accommodation through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates. Use the widget below to find the best accommodation in Luxembourg for your specific dates.
Sure, like we say in our article on how to plan a holiday, do account for the overall cost as you have to factor in breakfast.
Things to do in Luxembourg
There are plenty of attractions to consider in Luxembourg City. When considering your trip you can easily allow 2-3 days to visit the city and immerse yourself. You could consider getting the Luxembourg Hop-on Hop-off Bus and City Train combo ticket or you could join a Luxembourg City Guided Walking and Cultural Tour.
You might also want to consider the LuxembourgCard. If you are planning to visit what we list below then it might not be worth buying the pass as public transport is anyway included.
However, the pass is inclusive of the whole country’s attractions and so if you find yourself going potentially to Viandes Castle it could yield a better return on investment.
You will also find that most attractions are accessible by foot and are very close to each other. So even treating this destination as a day trip wouldn’t be wrong.
Below we cover our favourite places in Luxembourg City and our recommendations for each one.
1. Take a photo at Pont Adolphe
Pont Adolphe is a famous bridge located in Luxembourg City. It is an iconic landmark and a true architectural marvel of the city. The bridge, named after Grand Duke Adolphe of Nassau, was completed in 1903 and has become one of the city’s most recognizable structures.
Pont Adolphe spans the Pétrusse Valley and connects the Ville Haute (Upper Town) to the Gare (Train Station) neighbourhood. The bridge is an exemplary representation of the Belle Époque architectural style, characterized by its elegant arches and intricate detailing.
The views from Pont Adolphe are truly breath-taking, offering panoramic vistas of the picturesque Pétrusse Valley and the surrounding cityscape.
We sat down on the benches nearby and simply gazed at the wonderful views watching tourists and cyclists go by. We think it’s a great first stop on your way from the train station.
2. Enjoy a coffee at Place d’Armes
Place d’Armes is a vibrant and historic square located in the heart of Luxembourg City. It is considered one of the city’s main gathering places and is surrounded by beautiful buildings and charming cafes.
The square has a rich history and was once the location of military parades and public executions. Today, it serves as a bustling hub for locals and tourists alike. The name “Place d’Armes” translates to “Square of Arms,” emphasizing its historical significance as a military gathering spot.
With its lively atmosphere, Place d’Armes is the perfect place to relax, grab a coffee, or enjoy a delicious meal at one of the many outdoor terraces. The square is surrounded by picturesque architecture, including colourful townhouses and the majestic Saint Michael’s Church.
Throughout the year, various cultural events and markets take place in Place d’Armes, adding to its vibrant ambiance. It is also conveniently located near other popular attractions in Luxembourg City, making it an ideal starting point for exploring the city.
Whether you’re looking to soak up the history, indulge in local cuisine, or simply people-watch, Place d’Armes offers a charming and authentic Luxembourgian experience.
3. Admire the Monument of Remembrance
The Monument of Remembrance, also known as the Gëlle Fra (Golden Lady), is an iconic and significant memorial located in Luxembourg City. It holds great historical and symbolic value for the country and its people.
The monument was built to honour the Luxembourgish soldiers who lost their lives during World War I and World War II, as well as other military conflicts. It serves as a powerful reminder of the sacrifices made by the Luxembourgers in the name of freedom and peace.
The centrepiece of the monument is a striking golden statue of a lady holding a laurel wreath in her hand, symbolizing victory and remembrance. The statue stands tall atop a granite obelisk, surrounded by engravings of the names of those who gave their lives in the wars.
The Monument of Remembrance is not only a solemn tribute to the fallen soldiers, but it also serves as a gathering place for commemorative events and ceremonies. It is a place where people can reflect, pay their respects, and honour the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
We found the monument to be very picturesque considering the wonderful background of the Pétrusse Parc and the iconic State Bank and Savings Bank building.
4. Admire the views at the Panoramic Elevator of the Pfaffenthal
The Panoramic Elevator of the Pfaffenthal is a unique attraction in Luxembourg City that offers visitors stunning views of the city and its surroundings. Located in the historic area of Pfaffenthal, this elevator provides a convenient and scenic way to travel between the upper and lower parts of the city. To put things into perspective most attractions are in the upper side of the city.
The elevator is situated on the edge of a cliff, allowing passengers to ascend or descend while enjoying panoramic vistas of the old town, the Alzette River, and the picturesque valley below.
Not only does the Panoramic Elevator of the Pfaffenthal provide a practical and free transportation option, but it also serves as an attraction in itself.
That’s why we recommend going fairly early in the morning to avoid the crowds in an attempt to get that perfect shot for your Instagram. Additionally, going down on the lift gives you access to the lower part of the old city but most of it is just residential.
What most tourists do and what we did, we did a round trip having gazed a few minutes at the remaining old city fortifications.
5. Uncover History at Bock Casemates
The Bock Casemates in Luxembourg City are a fascinating historical site and a must-visit attraction for history enthusiasts. These underground tunnels and chambers were once an integral part of the city’s fortifications, serving as a stronghold and a testament to the city’s military significance.
Originally built in the 17th century, the Bock Casemates were continuously expanded and reinforced over the years, reaching an impressive length of nearly 23 kilometres. These underground passages provided shelter for soldiers, storage for supplies, and a strategic vantage point for defending the city.
You can wander through the labyrinthine tunnels, marvel at the sheer size and complexity of the fortifications, and learn about the various military strategies employed to protect the city throughout history.
From here, you can also enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, providing a glimpse into the strategic advantage these fortifications offered.
The Bock Casemates are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and provide a captivating journey into the city’s past.
Overall, they are very similar to the Dover Casemates which we also visited and recommend seeing when in the UK. Another thing worth considering is your fitness level as going up and down these corridors can be a fairly good exercise, so make sure this is something you are comfortable with.
We also suggest having some water with you as the tour can take up to an hour with no toilets or refreshments along the way.
Having said this, once you are inside you get amazing views either side of the valleys and the old city grounds. Moreover, once you reach the end of the tour you will most likely pass by the Castle Bridge where you will get an unhindered view of the lower old city centre and it’s stunning views.
6. Enjoy the stunning views of Chemin de la Corniche
Also called “the most beautiful balcony of Europe” (according to the Luxembourg writer Batty Weber), it runs along the Alzette valley on the ramparts – built by the Spaniards and the French in the 17th century – from the Bock Promontory up to the lower part of the Holy Ghost Citadel, the so-called “Rondellen”.
Up to the year 1870 the Corniche had staircases in steep parts which were levelled off only after the dismantling of the fortress. Moreover the greatest part of the protecting wall with its loopholes was cleared away so as to disclose a superb panorama on the valley of the Alzette, the city district of Grund and the Rham Plateau.
We think it’s a great pleat to take some amazing photos but also to see the old city centre in all its splendour. There are plenty of benches covered by trees as well if you want to sit down and admire the views.
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7. Explore the Grand-Ducal Palace
The Grand-Ducal Palace is a magnificent architectural gem located in the heart of Luxembourg City. It serves as the official residence of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg and is a significant symbol of the country’s rich history and monarchy.
The palace dates back to the 16th century when it was originally a town hall. Over the centuries, it has undergone numerous expansions and renovations, resulting in its current grandeur. The architecture of the palace is a beautiful blend of Renaissance and Baroque styles, with intricate details and elegant facades.
While the Grand-Ducal Palace is primarily a working palace, it also opens its doors to the public during the summer months. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to secure tickets for the visit as they were in small numbers and booked out.
However, we are told that visitors have the opportunity to explore the opulent state rooms, which are adorned with exquisite artwork, tapestries, and furniture. The palace offers a glimpse into the grandeur of the Luxembourgish monarchy and its regal traditions.
Visiting the Grand-Ducal Palace is a must-see landmark that captures the essence of the country’s monarchy and its role in shaping Luxembourg’s identity.
8. See the Notre-Dame Cathedral
The Notre-Dame Cathedral is a prominent landmark in Luxembourg City. This stunning Gothic-style cathedral is located in the heart of the city and holds great historical and cultural significance.
The cathedral is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and was originally built in the 17th century. Over the years, it has undergone renovations and expansions, resulting in its current grandeur. The exterior of the cathedral is characterized by intricate stone carvings and beautiful stained glass windows.
Inside the Notre-Dame Cathedral, visitors can marvel at the exquisite architecture and admire the intricate details of the altar, choir, and chapels. The cathedral is known for its impressive pipe organ, which adds a majestic ambiance to religious ceremonies and musical performances.
The Notre-Dame Cathedral also houses important religious relics, including the “Miraculous Image of Our Lady of Luxembourg” and the “Golden Virgin,” a statue that represents the city’s patroness.
Overall, we thought it’s a great attraction and one that sets to impress you from the get go.
9. Understand the History of the City at the Luxembourg City History Museum
The Luxembourg City History Museum is a fascinating destination that offers insights into the rich history and cultural heritage of Luxembourg City. The museum is located in the heart of the city and is housed in a beautiful historic building.
The museum chronicles the evolution of the city from its early origins to the present day. Through a range of exhibits, artifacts, and interactive displays, visitors can explore the city’s transformation from a military fortress to a thriving economic and cultural centre.
The museum showcases the different periods of Luxembourg City’s history, starting from the Roman era and progressing through the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the modern era. It delves into topics such as the city’s fortifications, its role in European politics, and its cultural traditions.
The exhibits provide a comprehensive overview of Luxembourg City’s political, social, and economic development, offering visitors a deeper understanding of its unique identity.
Overall, we think it’s a great opportunity to learn more about the city itself. It even features an interesting central lift which makes one feel the whole room is the lift.
Other things to do in Luxembourg
If you have some more time to explore Luxembourg, here are some suggestions on what else you can do in the country.
Food and Drinks Highlights
Luxembourgish cuisine is a rich and diverse blend of influences from its neighbouring countries, including Germany, France, and Belgium. Here is a short overview of some traditional dishes and ingredients that you can expect to find in Luxembourg:
- Judd mat Gaardebounen: This is a popular national dish of Luxembourg, consisting of smoked pork collar served with a rich stew of broad beans, potatoes, and onions.
- Kachkéis: This is a soft, spreadable cheese made from cow’s milk and is often flavoured with beer and onions. It is typically enjoyed on a slice of crusty bread or used as a filling for pastries.
- Gromperekichelcher: These are crispy potato fritters made from grated potatoes, onions, and a hint of garlic. They are typically served as a snack or appetizer.
- Bouneschlupp: This is a hearty green bean soup made with potatoes, bacon, and onions. It is a comforting dish often enjoyed during the colder months.
- Quetschentaart: This is a traditional Luxembourgish plum tart made with sweet and tangy plums, a buttery crust, and sometimes accompanied by a dollop of whipped cream.
- Rieslingspaschtéit: This is a classic Luxembourgish dish that consists of a flaky pastry crust filled with a mixture of minced pork, veal, and Riesling wine. It is often enjoyed cold or at room temperature.
- Ardennes pâté: This is a popular cured meat pâté made with pork, spices, and herbs. It is typically served with pickles, mustard, and freshly baked bread.
- Boxemannercher: These are small, sweet bread rolls traditionally enjoyed during the Carnival season. They are often shaped into the form of men or animals and dusted with powdered sugar.
- Kniddelen: These are Luxembourgish Dumplings served in a bacon cream sauce.
Other common ingredients in Luxembourgish cuisine include game meats, such as venison and boar, as well as locally sourced freshwater fish, like trout and pike. Luxembourg is also known for its excellent selection of wines, including those produced in the Moselle region.
When strolling through Luxembourg you will find there are more Parisian style cafes and bistros than authentic Luxembourgish restaurants. A similar experience was in Stockholm where we struggled to find authentic cuisine.
Try traditional food at Café-Restaurant Um Dierfgen
Restaurant Um Dierfgen offers typical Luxembourgish dishes aimed at uncovering some of the culinary treats the city has to offer. The restaurant offers local wines and beers combined with excellent customer service.
As we mentioned above, domestic cuisine can be a bit hearty and as we had outside well over 40 degrees Celsius we believed starting off with some ice cold local beers was a must!
Hristina tried the Kniddelen (Luxembourgish Dumplings) with bacon and sauce and I had the Cordon Bleu. Might not be the most Luxembourgish thing but I’m a sucker for a good Cordon Bleu. Overall, the food looked good and tasted pretty good and everything was cooked to perfection.
Refresh with an ice-cream
During our visit, it was really hot, so after lunch we felt the need to refresh with an ice-cream.
We found this nice ice-cream place with an outside seating area on Grand-Rue. The whole street is very picturesque and definitely worth exploring other places for refreshments.
Luxembourg (the city and the country) have always been on our bucket list. However, given that Europe is such an amazing place with a plethora of things to see, we’ve always gone somewhere else.
We think prices for accommodation and food can be prohibitive for many but even so a day trip still wouldn’t hurt which is what we did on this occasion. Overall, the city feels very well maintained and people look well dressed. It gives you confidence that it’s a very safe city.
Having seen this amazing city finally, we can say it is worth spending a weekend in Luxembourg to indulge yourself in this charming European capital city.
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