Luxembourg is one of those places that I’ve considered visiting a few times over the years but I never really got around to it for various reasons. I thought about visiting on a day trip from Brussels but the train journey there and back didn’t make much sense. There were no direct flights from Dublin for a number of years until Luxair reintroduced the route having cancelled it during the last recession. More recently, Ryanair began flights to Luxembourg and with prices suddenly quite attractive, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to grab a bargain.
Luxembourg is the second smallest country in the EU (after Malta) and is bordered by Belgium, France and Germany. It’s the only country in the world to have a Grand Duke as its head of state and is one of the wealthiest per-capita countries in the world. 37% of its approximately 600,000 population are from outside the country. Luxembourg was one of the founding six members of the European Coal and Steel Community which was the precursor the European Union.
Our destination was Luxembourg City, the country’s capital, which is served by the nearby Luxembourg Airport. Luxair tends to be a little on the expensive side in my opinion so if you’re after cheap and cheerful, both Ryanair and Easyjet are expanding their routes from the airport. There’s buses into the city and they’re currently expanding the tram system to reach the airport. Public transport within Luxembourg is free so the tram is definitely a good option. We weren’t in the mood to wait (for the bus, not for the tram line to be built) so got a taxi which was just over €40 for four of us with luggage. Trains are also quite handy for getting to Luxembourg and there’s direct routes to Paris, Brussels and other cities in neighbouring countries.
We stayed at Le Chatelet, a quaint little hotel about a 5 minute walk from the train station. We actually chose it because it had a room for four which was hard enough to find elsewhere. The hotel was in a quiet enough suburb of Luxembourg City next to the Pétrusse Valley Park but close enough to shops and places to eat. The street where the train station is has lots of shops and restaurants and leads to the Passerelle which takes you into the old walled part of the city.
We were lucky enough to be in Luxembourg City when the entire city was covered in snow and although it was cold for the duration of our visit, we had checked the weather in advance and had packed accordingly. The city looked amazing in the snow, especially looking from the higher parts down onto the lower parts.
One of those lower parts is called Grund which is lovely for a night time stroll. Apart from the picturesque views along the river, it’s also got a few pubs and restaurants and would be perfect if you were after a nice, romantic meal. We weren’t. The National Museum of Natural History is here too but we decided against a visit.
One thing I’d definitely recommend to do is take the Pfaffenthal Lift. It’s an observation deck with a lift down to Grund in the lower part of the city and it really does offer a stunning view over the valley. We took the lift down and then walked across to the other side which took us into the Parc des Trois Glands (Three Acorns Park). It was all very Narnia because of the snow.
Walking through the Parc des Trois Glands takes you to the Kirchberg quarter which is home to many European institutions including The European Court of Justice, parts of the European Commission and the European Investment Bank. Kirchberg has a lot of hotels but I’d recommend not staying in this part of town if you’re planning on visiting the tourist sites. It’s all a little bit high rise and corporate which is not what Luxembourg City is about. Fine for European business or visiting the European Convention Center, but not for rambling around the sights.
Fort Thungen is located in the Parc des Trois Glands and is home to the Musée Dräi Eechelen (Three Acorns Museum). The museum tells the history of the city and country of Luxembourg from the Burgundian conquest in 1443 to the construction of the Adolphe Bridge in 1903. We didn’t really have time for a visit beyond taking a few pics and wanting to use the loo, which, according to the receptionist, is strictly forbidden unless you’re paying to visit. Word of advice at this juncture – don’t eat yellow snow. The Mudam Luxembourg Museum of Modern Art and Philharmonie Luxembourg concert hall are nearby if that type of thing takes your fancy.
We were hoping to see the Casemates Du Bock, the 18th century tunnels used as shelters during World War II but they close in the Winter for maintenance. The area nearby though is really nice and the views are amazing. Make sure to bring a good walking shoe!
Within Ville Haute, the historic walled city, there’s lots of shops ranging from high street names like H&M and Zara to more exclusive brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci. There’s great restaurants too, especially around Place D’Armes which is the central square.
Most of the buildings in this area are really nice, especially the Grand Duke’s Palace. There’s guided tours in the Summer but not Winter. They probably don’t want you trudging all that dirty snow in on their lovely clean carpets. It’s got two armed guards outside so the Grand Duke must be a big deal. It’s lovely from the outside so if you do go and see the inside, let me know and send pics. Try to steal a lamp or a salt shaker or something.
The Musée national d’histoire et d’art Luxembourg is just around the corner and is actually a great way to spend a few hours. It’s free in and it’s split across six floors. Start at the bottom and work your way up (as the nun said to the bishop). The museum retraces the history of Luxembourg, from prehistory to the Middle Ages. Fort Thungen then takes over the rest of the story.
Overall, I really loved Luxembourg City. I’m a big fan of small countries and Luxembourg is right up there with my favourites. The walled city is great to stroll around and browse. The food was lovely, although a little on the expensive side. If you’re on a budget though, there’s plenty of fast food options too. There wasn’t a whole load to do but I was okay with that. I enjoyed just walking around and taking it in. As a short trip destination, it probably wouldn’t be the type of location you’d go for a stag or hen party but if you want to check out somewhere you’ve not been before that’s laid back and friendly on the eye, it’s perfect.