Beautiful, historic, and quaint Luxembourg, a multicultural country with three official languages, Luxembourgish, German and French. Luxembourg is a landlocked country bordered by Belgium, France and Germany in Northwestern Europe, and one of the smallest countries in the world.
Visiting this charming and notable country for only one day was definitely not enough time to explore all this Grand Duchy has to offer. We stayed in Luxembourg City, the capital of Luxembourg, and located in the southern part of the Luxembourg plateau. Built along the Alzette and Pétrusse rivers, it is known for its ruins of medieval ramparts. View amazing vistas of these fortifications from the Chemin de la Corniche promenade and much more.
History of Luxembourg
My first question before researching this country was: When was this country formed? Prior to visiting a country, as new as Luxembourg, it is helpful to know its history and how it was created. Therefore, I've included a brief synopsis below of how Luxembourg was born.
For over 400 years, Luxembourg was controlled by the Holy Roman Empire, the Habsburgs of Austria and Spain, France, Germany and the Netherlands. Finally, with the Congress of Vienna, Luxembourg became a Grand Dutchy in 1815 (still united with the Netherlands), and finally an independent country in 1890. Relying mostly on agriculture to prosper, Luxembourg eventually joined the German Customs Union, the Zollverein, which led to a major increase in industrialization and in its export of steel and cast iron. Also, a by-product made by the slag from the making of steel became a beneficial fertilizer and therefore, agriculture production grew by over 50%, thus creating a need for workers.
With this growth, many people began to immigrate to Luxembourg, especially in the mining areas near the city of Luxembourg. Many of these people came from Belgium, France, Germany, and Italy. Hence, a multicultural country was created.
Luxembourg, although it was a neutral country, unfortunately became occupied by German forces during WWI and WWII. Luxembourg had no option other than to comply with the German invasions and help the Germans. In addition, the country had close ties with Germany with its major export of steel and had it lost this, the country would have suffered monetarily.
After WWI, the Allies ended Luxembourg's Zollverein Union with Germany. Now, without their economic connection, Luxembourg was in need of help. Therefore, an alliance with Belgium created the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union in 1921, which helped Luxembourg financially. Unfortunately, the German invasion in WWII ended this alliance. Once again in control by the Germans, Luxembourg was forced to partner with Germany. During the invasion, half of the Jews living in Luxembourg fled and the other half were sent to extermination camps or ghettos. By the end of the war only 70 jews remained in Luxembourg!
Following WWII, the pre-war political government arrangement was reinstated, however, foreign policy was altered. Luxembourg played a role in the founding of the United Nations (UN, 1945), the North Atlantic Treaty Organizatoin (NATO, 1949), and the Western European Union (1954).
An alliance with Belgium and the Netherlands became necessary and the Marshall Plan and the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC, 1948) was created, thus creating BeNeLux. In addition, because of its geographical location between France and Germany, and its significant levels of steel production, Luxembourg created the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC, 1951). The country eventually adopted a firm pro-European position, welcoming the Treaties of Rome (1957), Maastricht (1992) and the introduction of the euro (1999-2002). Several Luxembourgers went on to occupy important positions within these European institutions.
With a desire to grow, Luxembourg realized that they needed foreign investments to thrive, therefore the government succeeded in gaining investments from US companies, such as Goodyear (1949), DuPont (1962) and Monsanto (1963). Now, Luxembourg is one of the largest financial centers in Europe. It ranks first in Europe and second in the world for the overseeing of investment funds. The financial branch began to prosper in Luxembourg due to its favorable tax systems, which brought foreign banks to open and grow. This led to Luxembourg being one of the richest countries in the world. In 1994, the Old Town and city's fortifications, built by the Holy Roman Empire in 965 A.D., were added to the UNESCO list of world cultural heritage sites.
Fortunately, as a result of being one of the wealthiest countries in the world, if you travel to Luxembourg you can enjoy free public transportation. All buses, trains and trams are free to use for residents and tourists alike!
By knowing Luxembourg's historical foundation, it gives us a deeper understanding of this landlocked country and why it is so multicultural and such a unique place to visit.
We arrived in Luxembourg City via train from Bruges, Belgium. After transferring in Brussels, our 5 hour train ride (total time with two trains) brought us to the main train station in Luxembourg City. Although only a 20 minute walk to our hotel, we enjoyed a short taxi ride to where we were staying, the Hotel Vauban in the city center. If you prefer, you can take the free public bus line, 9 or 16, to the city center.
Another alternative is to fly directly into Luxembourg airport. From here, utilize the free public transportation offered by the country. The airport is about a 20 minute bus, car or
taxi ride away (taxis are not complimentary).
Where to Stay
Upon our arrival to Luxembourg City we checked into Hotel Vauban to drop off our luggage and tour the city. Hotel Vauban is located on Place Guillaume in the center of Luxumbourg City, which is located across from the town hall and the Palace of the Grand Dukes. Here you can find all museums, stores, and restaurants within walking distance. The hotel includes a wonderful breakfast with the price of the room. In addition, the hotel has a restaurant on the property with commanding views of Place Guillaume.
Walking Tour of the City
We quickly freshened up after our travels and joined a guided walking tour that I booked through Get Your Guide. This 2 hour city walking tour, with wine tasting, was very informative and fun. Our guide, a local Luxembourger, provided a unique and interesting tour of the city center and the Old Town. We met at Place d'Armes Square, which was a 2 minute walk from our hotel. And, fortunately, the Place d'Armes Square is where our tour began.
On your historic tour you will visit all of the landmarks listed below with a short respite during your tour to sample two of the local wines which are made in the region. The wines you will sample are Crémant, a sparkling wine, and Elbling, a regional white wine. Both wines were light and refreshing and unique to the Mosel River valley and can only be purchased in Luxembourg.
Where you will visit on this tour:
Pictured above is (top left to right and bottom left to right) the equestrian statue of Grande Duke William II on the Place Guillaume, The Golden Lady, The Grand Ducal Palace, "Kaddish" a monumental 4-meter high sculpture commemorating the victims of the Holocaust, and Notre Dame Cathedral.
While all of the landmarks were memorable and historic, the Chemin de la Corniche was extaordinary to see. Enjoy strolling the lovely walkway above the escarpment with magnificent views of the old fortress that took nine centuies to build.
I'm a firm believer that a picture is worth a thousand words, therefore, I will let my photos do the talking. While a walking tour without a guide can be enjoyable, a tour with a local Luxembourger will elevate your experience exponentially. I will leave some mystery to these sites of Luxembourg and not explain every landmark so you can encounter this beautiful city with the knowledge of a newcomer and be awed with each site. In addition, your guide will recommend local places to eat and provide a brief history lesson about each site.
After our tour, and a much needed snack from McDonalds to satisfy our fast food cravings, we walked down to the valley to wander the old fortified region along the Alzette River and to view the ramparts up close. We meandered through apple orchards, old fortifications and picturesque walkways to a rushing waterfall. This part of Luxembourg was exciting to explore and was beautiful to boot.
Eating Traditional Foods in Luxembourg City
Once back at our hotel, we prepared for dinner, which was only a short walk away. I had made reservations at a restaurant with local French and Luxembourgish cuisine, Am Tiirmschen.
Located near the Grand Ducal Palace, Am Tiirmschen is tucked away in a remote passageway. Sadly, while searching for information to write about this restaurant, I have learned that the restaurant closed in October of 2023. However, if you can, find another local eatery that serves Bouneschlupp, a creamy Luxembourgish soup with green beans and potatoes, smoked bacon and onions. The soup was light and flavorful. We also enjoyed, Judd mat Gaardebounen, (smoked pork and broad beans) which is another traditional Luxembourgish food that was as tasty as it was unique. After passing by numerous apple trees on our walk earlier, we opted for a satisfying apple tart a la mode -- a perfect way to end a meal.
After a short leisurely stroll back to the hotel, we enjoyed the beautiful evening wandering the streets of Luxembourg City until the sun set.
Our day in Luxembourg was coming to an end. We had been able to see many of the top sights of the capital city, enjoy traditional cuisine, taste locally made wines, and explore the historic town.
Had we stayed in Luxembourg longer, I would have loved to have visited Vianden, a town on the Our River, in the Ardennes region. The town is home to Vianden Castle, which is the largest fortified castle west of the Rhine and dates back to the 4th century. Another area to visit is the Moselle Valley wine region, which hosts vineyards that date back to the Roman Empire. Both of these areas are a short drive or train ride from Luxembourg City.
After a long night's rest, we savored a delicious complimentary breakfast at our hotel, ordered a taxi and took a short drive to the bus station. We are now en route to Heidelburg, Germany! To get there, we will be riding an inexpensive Flixbus to Saarbrucken, Germany. After our hour long bus ride, we will arrive nearby the Saarbrucken train station to pick up our rental car. I have always wanted to drive the AutoBahn in Germany and while this option is not the cheapest way to travel, it is the fastest and a nice way to travel the German countryside. Now, off to Deutschland......