It was a ''Get Out of Germany'' weekend, but without wanting to take time off from work, we were a little limited on where that was. Western Germany borders France, Switzerland, Belgium and the tiny country of Luxembourg. Switzerland is exorbitantly expensive this time of year, we are going to France and May, and we have already been to Belgium, so Luxembourg it was! Added bonus, the city of Luxembourg is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. As it turns out, it was actually a nice, relaxing weekend.
Luxembourg City, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is only a couple hours drive from many places along the Rhine and easily accessible. It's an ancient city, first settled over 1000 years ago. It is built on a rock, sitting high above the Uelzecht river, and over the years, has been built up and fortified by its various inhabitants. It was invaded a number of times, first by the Burgundians, and then by the Spanish, the French, the Spanish again, the Austrians, the French again, and finally the Prussians, mostly because of its unique fortifications, but also because of its strategic location in the center of western Europe.
I did a fair amount of research on things to do while we were there before we went. The Luxembourg tourist website was very helpful, as were some different travel blogs. Being uniquely situated in Europe, Luxembourg was where much of the Battle of the Bulge was fought towards the end of World War II. It is also the final resting place for General George S. Patton. In case you are planning your own trip to the small Duchy, here is a list of 5 things to do in Luxembourg and then some tips if you are planning on visiting this tiny country yourself.
Tour the Bock Casemates
In the 1600s, a unique set of underground casemates were chiseled out of the sandstone foundation. They served as another layer of defense for the city. During times of war, citizen could live, livestock could be stored, troops could move throughout the city, and weapons could be housed in them. In the middle of the 19th century, many of the casemates were dismantled and as a result, only about 10% are open to the public today. One important point to note though is that they are only available to tour between March 1 and October 31. This is not very clear from the website, and was something we discovered when we got there (and found them closed). We were disappointed, but we will just have to go back :)
Take a Walking Tour of the City
This is one thing that I wish more cities would offer. Each day, you can take a tour of Luxembourg city. At noon, the tour is offered in French/German and at 2 PM, the tour is offered in German/English. The cost is 12€ for adults and lasts 12 hours. The tour is managed by the Luxembourg tourist office. Other tours of the city are also available for groups including a World War II tour of the city. I love these types of tours because you often see parts of the city that you wouldn't find exploring on your own.
Drink Luxembourgian Wine
Luxembourg has a very successful wine region along the Mosell river. Their specialties are dry white wines, similiar to German wines, and sparkling white wine, called Cremant. At dinner on Saturday night, I tried a Cremant and I have to say, it was delicious. If you like wine, there are a number of Vinotheks in Luxembourg city where you can try different varieties.
Visit the Weekly Market
If you happen to be visiting the city on a Wednesday or a Saturday, take a stroll through the weekly market at the Place Guillame II square. Vendors set up their stands and sell everything from fruits and vegetable to local honey, delicious cannoli, and cheese (which is amazing and you should try it!). Don't be surprised if you hear four different languages being spoken: Luxembourgish, French, German, and English. Most Luxembourgians know all four, and speak them well. I wish polyglotism would take off more in the US!
Visit One of the Many Museums
Luxembourg city has 12 different museums to visit. The range from The National Museum of Natural History to the Deportation Museum to the MUDAM Museum of Modern Art. There is literally something for everyone. Check out this website to see more information on each museum.
Tips for Visiting Luxembourg
- It tended to be on the expensive side. Dinners ranged from 13 - 30€ per person, more at fancier restaurants. Drinks started at about 5€ and went up from there. Be prepared to spend around 70 - 100€ for a nice dinner out for two people. I'm sure there are cheaper alternatives, but in general, food is not as cheap as in Germany.
- Speaking of food, most of what we found was sea food (weird for landlocked country) and French inspired. In fact, I've heard the food in Luxembourg described as French food with German portions. If you've eaten in either, or both, of those countries, this will make sense to you.
- Don't be afraid to stay just outside the main downtown area. We stayed what looked like a fair distance outside of the city, but in reality was much closer. And it was about 40 euro less per night and the parking was cheaper.
- All the hotels in Luxembourg that I found charged for parking. In the city center, it was about 30€ for 24 hours. The hotel we stayed at was a little bit cheaper at 20€ per night.
- If you will be there for more than a day, look into getting the Luxembourg card. They start at 13€ for an adult, but allow you to use all the public trains and many of the public buses in all of Luxembourg for free. the card also gets you free admission into over 70 attractions/museums and a discount on many others. If we had planned on being here longer, we definitely would have picked one up.
- There are lots of things to do outside of the city. Particularly in the north, there are a number of castles and battlefields, most from World War II, that one can tour. There are also a large number of natural and outdoor activities for one to participate in.
Overall, Aaron and I really enjoyed our quick trip to Luxembourg. Although small, it was relaxing and quiet. If you're in Europe, and looking for an off-the-beaten-path destination, Luxembourg would be a great place to stop.
For more pictures from the city, click though the gallery below.
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