The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a microcosm of European culture. Wedged in a small space between Belgium, France, and Germany, Luxembourg has an international feel to it. Home to 150 different nationalities, the country is trilingual, with Luxembourgish, French, and German all serving as official languages. It’s also one of the world’s leading banking headquarters, and it’s home to many branches of the EU as well, contributing to the country’s multinational flavor. Best of all, Luxembourg is clean, modern, and brimming with history and culture.
The heartbeat and capital of the country is Luxembourg City, located in the southern center of the country with all other cities radiating outwards from there, usually within just a 30 minute drive of the capital. In fact, the entire country measures just under 1,000 square miles—roughly 35 miles wide by 50 miles tall—making it one of the smallest countries in Europe, as well as the world. It’s easy to get here by train, with Paris only a couple of hours away, but the best way to get around Luxembourg itself is by car, due to the short distances. Combining a visit to cosmopolitan Luxembourg City with a stopover in one of the country’s outlying regions is a great way to get to know the country. For that perfect mix of city and country, our top choice is the sleepy Moselle Valley wine region near the German and French borders.
Luxembourg City Guide
Luxembourg City rolls picturesquely over a series of hills and valleys crowned by bridges that connect the Old Town and the Kirchberg Plateau, filled with modern architecture and home to the city’s business district. There are a number of sights guidebook-toting tourists can fill their itinerary with, but the true charm of the city lies simply in wandering. Architecture is a big highlight of this city and ranges from storybook castles and cobblestone streets to the cutting edge. For this reason, a walking tour is the perfect way to get to know this ancient fortress city.
Day 1: Walking Tour of Old Town
The best part of strolling around old town are the vistas. Plus the historical city centre is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll peer down on historic districts and climb plateaus where you’ll encounter dramatic lookouts. A great starting spot is Place d’Armes, a square full of sidewalk cafes in the summer. From here branch out to Place de la Constitution, marked with a golden sculpture and offering sweeping views over the Pétrusse Valley. From here you’re just around the corner from Luxembourg City’s main church, the Cathédrale Notre Dame, or Cathedral of Our Lady, which houses the country’s most revered idol known as “Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted.”
From here, wander along the Chemin de la Corniche, a walkway perched at the edge of a plateau which affords unbeatable views of the skyline. This will lead you to the Bock Casemates, a honeycomb of rock passageways carved into the cliff that used to house thousands of soldiers, as well as workshops, kitchens, bakeries, and slaughter-houses. By now you’ll be ready for a snack break, and the Chocolate House is the perfect place to get your sugar kick on.
Just across the way from Chocolate House is the Palais Grand-Ducal. This palace was built during Spanish rule, and although royals once lived here, today it serves as the Grand Duke’s office and is mainly used for formal receptions. (Note that palace tours are only offered during the summer.) Next to the palace is the Chamber of Deputies, home to the Parliament. Finish off your walking tour 2 minutes away at Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall) in Place Guillaume II square.
Finally, to finish off your day in Luxembourg City, head to Restaurant Chiggeri. This charming eatery boasts such a large wine collection, it’s actually in the Guinness Book of World Records. The food is creative and fresh, and they also do dinners in the pitch dark, with wait staff wearing night vision goggles to serve the food.
Day 2: Explore the Kirchberg Plateau & Beyond
The Kirchberg Plateau is home to Luxembourg City’s business district, and it’s also home to many EU institutions, courts, banks, and art centers like the Philharmonie, and the Museum of Modern Art Grand-Duc Jean (MUDAM). For a complete change of pace, head out for an architectural stroll among the modern buildings, soaking in the views of old town in the distance and eventually ending up at MUDAM. This museum is as contemporary inside as it is outside, designed by architect I.M. Pei. Roughly 10% of the collection is made up of works by Luxembourgish artists, while the rest is devoted to international art.
For something modern and hip, try Hotel Melia Luxembourg, part of the Spanish hotel chain. Many rooms in this hotel boast sweeping vistas of the city, and the decor is playful and eccentric. Plus the hotel’s restaurant serves up modern tapas with a creative twist.
Side Trip: The Luxembourg American Cemetery
History and culture buffs won’t be able to resist a side trip to the American Cemetery just a few miles outside Luxembourg City. You’ll need your own wheels to get here as public transport is scarce, but the extra effort is well worth it. In the winter the cemetery is awash is a sea of white, a peaceful and solemn atmosphere in which to remember all the fallen soldiers. Near the front facing all the gravestones, you’ll find General Paton’s grave. There’s also a tall white stone chapel with stained glass windows, as well as two memorial pylons with giant military operation maps inscribed on them. The cemetery is one of only 14 permanent World War II American military cemeteries on foreign soil.
Luxembourg may be small in size, but it’s big in cultural hits. Plus its location can’t be beat—it’s perfectly situated for a combined trip to neighboring France, Germany, or Belgium. While Luxembourg City is a must see spot, be sure to get away to one of the country’s smaller regions to compliment your trip. Stay tuned for our guide to Luxembourg’s Moselle Valley wine region out later this week.
Constitutional Monarchy under a system of Parliamentary Democracy
Head of State:
Grand Duke Henri (given name: Henri Albert Gabriel Félix Marie Guillaume)
French, German, and Luxembourgish (English is widely spoken)