There are certain things I do not understand. Some places seem to exist on a forgotten corner of the world even though they are surrounded by cities that burst with popularity.
Not long ago, I found a great airfare deal from Los Angeles to Frankfurt. Given the opportunity, I needed to plan some sort of circular trip around the city. Since I had plans to explore the Rhine and Moselle Rivers, I started to play with the idea of spending some time in Luxembourg before moving on to Strasbourg. I doubted a lot but ended up buying the train tickets.
Wow! Wow! I am so glad my intuition paid off! I was completely charmed by the beauty and uniqueness of Luxembourg City. Till this day, I do not get why this place is barely mentioned in travel circles.
The city packs all the essentials of a great place: gorgeous architecture, hearty food, clean streets, bustling markets, numerous events and one of the most exceptional fortifications in Europe.
And, let’s not forget Luxembourg City is one of the de facto capitals of the European Union and because of that it is the seat of several institutions related to the political entity.
To make things better, Luxembourg City is the capital of the only Grand Duchy in the world. This is comparable to a monarchy but Luxembourg decided to give its own twist (which I like).
This post was written to show you what to see in the city or how to spend one or two days in Luxembourg. It is my desire that you consider this city and country in your future travel plans.
Luxembourg: Things to Do
Place Guillaume II
We need to start our walk at the heart of the central district: Place Guillame II.
Luxembourg City is located at the confluence of the Alzette and Petrusse rivers. Because of that, it has been of great interest to different empires since Romans times. It has been ruled by Burgundians, Spanish and Austrians. In 1890, once it passed to Dutch hands, it gained independence.
At the plaza, we can see nowadays, the Palace of the Grand Dukes, the Parliament and the City Hall. When we visited, a festival and morning market was taking place on the spot. In addition, the plaza is surrounded by nice cafes, restaurants and shops selling vibrant seafood.
In one of the previous paragraphs, I mentioned how the city was at one point controlled by the Spanish Empire. That is the main reason why the city has a Place d’Armes (or Weapons Plaza). Many Spanish colonial cities in the New World (including San Juan, Puerto Rico) have a plaza with the same name. This was the plaza used by soldiers to meet, form and march.
The one in Luxembourg City has more cafes, restaurants, stores and a rotunda used for events (we witnessed a symphonic concert).
Make sure to walk the streets surrounding these two plazas if you like to shop, eat and blend into the luxurious surroundings of the city.
This is the main religious building in the capital city.
Place de la Constitution
The Constitution Plaza is small but it has a major wow factor. From several points, you can have excellent views of the Petrusse Casemates, the Petrusse River Valley and the Adolphe Bridge.
A casemate is a fortified gun emplacement and we will talk more about them later. The Petrusse Valley has multiple walking, running and bicycle trails. From there, you can see the city from a depression in the ground.
Chemin de la Corniche
Now, we are getting close to the areas that make Luxembourg City so peculiar among other European cities.
Chemin de la Corniche means “Path of the Cornice.” A cornice is a road cut into the edge of a cliff. Hold on, do not get scared! What is more, get very excited because you are going to be able to walk along the fortified walls of the city. While doing this walk, you are going to have stupendous views of The Grund or Low City.
Yes, you read that right. This quarter of the city is located at the Alzette River Valley. It can be accessed from the High City by foot or lift.
The path can be found behind the Cite Judiciare complex. I recommend starting the walk from there. You can start it from the Bock Casemates too but I prefer this route.
Do not leave Luxembourg City without walking this path! The views are incredible!
You are going to start by seeing the colorful houses located at The Grund.
Little by little, you are going to get closer to the Neumunster, one of the most well-known landmarks of the city and the country.
The cherry on top is the Bock Casemates and Promontory. The remaining fortifications of the city are in full view.
Once at the Bock Promontory, a flock of stairs connects pedestrians to The Grund. In my opinion, this an area not to be missed. The views from the top are excellent. However, things are different once you are at eye level with the Neumunster, gardens, trees, and fortifications.
If you started to explore the city early, it is a good idea to have lunch in this area. The National Museum of Natural History is located here. This is a place to enjoy with your kids.
This is another gem in the city!
The Bock is a natural promontory located on one side of the Alzette River. During Medieval times, a Count decided to build his castle in this naturally fortified area. With time, defenses, tunnels (casemates), batteries and barracks were added making it one of Europe’s more strategic strongholds.
At the end of the Austro-Prussian War, the Treaty of London established the destruction of the fortress to ensure the neutrality of Luxembourg in future conflicts. The residuals of the fortifications were declared UNESCO World Heritage Site and are open to the public.
If you have problems with small spaces, tunnels and/or obscurity, you should NOT enter the place. I had a mini panic attack because we got lost once inside. You got a real feeling of how it felt to live or work there.
Other remains of the fortress include:
- Spanish Turrets
- Three Towers
- Vauban Towers
- Hollow Tooth
- Wenceslas Wall
This is the quarter where the main train and bus stations are located. It is not touristic per se but you can find beautiful buildings and plazas walking along Avenue de la Liberte and Avenue de la Gare. These two roads will connect you to the Center.
While walking around, take a look at the Place de Paris, the BCEE building, and State Savings Bank.
This is the most modern part of town and it is home to several European Union Institutions. I didn’t have time to visit this area but I believe it if fair to include it here since I want to showcase the best of the city. The following can be found here:
- European Court of Justice
- European Court of Auditors
- European Investment Bank
- EU Commission
- EU Parliament
- European Convention Center
- MUDAM (Museum of Contemporary Art)
- Luxembourg Philharmonic
- D’Coque (sports venue)
- Fort Thungen (part of the fortifications)
Luxembourg City Museums
For the overachievers, here is a list of museums:
- National Museum of History & Art
- Luxembourg City History Museum
- Bank Museum
- National Library
- National Museum of Natural History (The Grund)
- MUDAM (Kirchberg)
Day Trips from Luxembourg
If you decide to stay in Luxembourg City two or three days, you can reach the following places in 30 to 90 minutes:
- Vianden Castle (some people combine this castle with others)
- Mullerthal Region (for those who enjoy natural area and hiking)
- Trier (Germany)
- Metz (France)
- Nancy (France, do your research since not everybody seems to like this city)
General Info and Recommendations
- There is a lot to see in the city. You need to get an early start if you want to make the most of one day in Luxembourg City. Two days will be way better. You can add a third day if you want to include a day trip to another town in the country
- As you may have noticed, there is a lot of walking involved if you want to see the main points of interests. Get prepared with comfortable shoes and clothes
- For those who want to take it easier, you can use a hop on, hop off (red) bus
- Say bye to the crowds! Luxembourg City has about 115,000 residents and few visitors when compared to other capitals in the continent
- If you have problems walking, remember there is a lift connecting the high and low cities. Oh and, by the way, the views from the lift are awesome!
- Luxembourg is not one of the most budget-friendly cities in Europe. To save, you can make lunch the main meal of the day (there are great deals all over town). Also, festivals and markets sell deliciously prepared food (or fresh fruits and vegetables)
- Staying at the Gare Quartier is much cheaper than staying at the Center
- On a similar note, food is cheaper in the Gare Quartier. I noticed tons of restaurants offering Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian and Lebanese food at really good prices. The only thing is that people in these restaurants speak limited English (or even French). But, that shouldn’t be a problem
- Luxembourg is one of the safest cities in Europe. However, do keep your eyes open if you are staying on the Gare Quartier
- Interesting fact: Luxembourg City and Prague are sister cities
- Visit Luxembourg offers tons of useful information for those wanting to plan a trip to the country
- This site specializes in Luxembourg City tourism
Other Nearby Cities
What things would you like to do in Luxembourg City? Would you like to visit?
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