Gibraltar of the North
Although cannot really recall how many times I’ve now been to Luxembourg, it is certainly getting closer to 10 for sure. Considering the very first time I went in 2009 and how long it took me for returning to do a proper visit, I was not expecting the following trips that came afterwards and will possibly come in the near future. The fact of being that near to London, with plenty of flight options, most of the time so cheap well below budget, then it’s one of these cities great for a escape, enjoy nice food, some culture and good shopping.
Flights to the city are very frequent from cities such as London where we came from, Germany, France or Switzerland, with deals every now and then depending on the season, date and times. It’s not really a big problem to find something nice, but getting a hotel over there can easily cost you way over what you initially though. A great way to save you on budget securing nice flights and hotel is to have a look at the British Airways website and search for “flight+hotel” deals. This is how we are doing more and more often our European weekend trips, and it works awesome! I really encourage you to take a look, because sometimes you can be surprised on how much you can save.
The capital city of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, one of the smallest countries in Europe, is often ranked as having the second highest per-capita GDP in the world, also topping the lists high up in the ranking for best quality of living. The figures of course, directly translates into a pretty much rich country with high standards of living and high costs for everything, like Switzerland. Do not expect this to be a “cheap” trip even if you find a great flight deal, not to mention this is certainly not a backpacker country.
The city is designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its culture and heritage, especially its incredibly well preserved and large fortifications, despite the overall small size of the city. It is of key importance in Europe and the European Union by hosting large institutions such as the European Court of Justice, the European Commission, the secretariat of the European Parliament, the European Court of Auditors and the European Investment Bank.
Visiting the entire city is perfect for a weekend. A day could be well enough for everything, and planning any longer than 2 days would be overestimating unnecessarily. If you are coming here for a weekend, then the best you can do is also visit some other places on one of the days, like the UNESCO listed historical Roman city of Trier just across the border in western Germany at only 45 kilometres; Nancy in France or Liege in Belgium.
For more information about Luxembourg check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. The country’s currency is the Euro. Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Luxembourg
- Gare This quarter of the city follows a pretty much orthogonal urban grid centred along the Avenue de la Liberte up to the Adolphe Bridge where it links with the Ville Haute. The name of the district comes from the train station, the Gare de Luxembourg.
-Train Station Built in 1913 in Moselle Baroque Revival, replacing the older timber station from 1859.
-Avenue de la Liberte Main avenue in the entire city, linking the train station and the Gare Quarter with the Ville Haute via the Adolphe Bridge, where it then changes its name for the Boulevard Royal.
-Place des Martyrs Towards the northern half of the Avenue, it is here where the headquarters of ArcelorMittal are, the largest steelmaker in the world, in a beautiful palace impossible to miss.
-Metz Square The end of the avenue before the Adolphe Bridge is where the iconic building of the State Savings Bank occupies an entire side. The view of these buildings and the bridge from across the bridge itself is one of the most known views.
-Adolphe Bridge One of the icons in Luxembourg, built in 1903 directly connecting Avenue de la Liberte to the Boulevard Royal in Ville Haute spamming over the Pétrusse River down below.
- Ville Haute Meaning Upper Town, is the historic Medieval old city, where most of the sights are.
-Boulevard Royal The main thoroughfare along the west side in this part of the city. Commercial, financial and shopping hub all along, together with Avenue de la Liberte.
-Rue des Capucins and Rue Royale Both forming an axis through the entire Ville Haute. Pedestrian elegant streets full of shops.
-Constitution Square Sitting on top one of the fortification bastions hence its shape. It offers a great advantage viewing point of the valley and Gare district, and the famous stamp of the Adolphe Bridge and the State Savings Bank building.
-Place d’Armes The heart of the Upper Town. Designed after the 1554 fire by a Dutch engineer, was built during the Spanish rule in 1671 a bit smaller than the original plan. It’s 3 streets north from the Constitution Square.
-Palais Municipal Also known as Cercle, is at the eastern side of the square. Was built in 1906 as an administrative building with reception rooms.
–Dicks-Lentz Monument At the western side of the square in memory of the poets Dicks and Michel Lentz who wrote the words of the national anthem.
-Théâtre des Capucins In the heart of the Old Town, is the oldest in the city. One street ahead from the Place d’Armes along the Rue des Capucins.
-Place Guillaume II One street south from the Place D’Armes, is the largest in Ville Haute. The City Hall is at the southern side.
-Grand Ducal Palace The residence of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, one of the major landmarks. Originally the City Hall from from 1572 to 1795, then seat of the prefecture of the Département des Forêts from 1795 until 1817 when it became the Governor’s residence. From Place Guillaume II, along the short Rue de la Reine.
-National Museum of History and Art (MNHA) Displaying artworks and artifacts from all epochs of Luxembourg history. Located behind the Ducal Palace to the northeast of the Ville Haute.
-Saint Michael’s Church Towards the east of Ville Haute in the area known as Fishmarket. It is the oldest known religious site in the city, although its current reincarnation dates back from 1688.
-Bock Fortifications At the eastern tip of the Ville Haute, right behind the Saint Michael’s Church, are the symbol of the city. This hill over the River Alzette offers a natural fortification at three of its sides on its own, where bastions, walls and towers were added to further strengthen the complex becoming one of the strongest fortifications in Europe, second only to Gibraltar, hence the nickname for Luxembourg City the “Gibraltar of the North”. From the Corniche at the top you will get the finest views of the Grund down below.
-Casemates Those underground tunnel defenses below the old castle were first dug during the Spanish period in 1644. Enlarged and expanded over time until the Treaty of London in 1867 when the fortifications started to be dismantled.
-Pont du Chateau Built in 1735 by the Austrians connects the Casemates to the Ville Basse.
-Place Clairefontaine South from the Ducal Palace, this small square is surrounded by old beautiful buildings on all sides and offers nice view from one of the sides of the Cathedral.
-Cathedral of Notre Dame Built from 1613 in Gothic revival style, having its last enlargement completed in 1938.
-National Library Attached by one of the sides to the Cathedral cloister, is across the road from the back of the City Hall.
-Judicial District Towards the southeast tip of the Ville Haute you will pass through most of the city’s courts, all of which housed in beautiful and elegant buildings among piazzas. To name some are: the Commercial Court, Public Prosecutor’s Office, Juvenile and Guardianship Court, District Court, National Supreme Court, State Archives, Justice of Peace
- Ville Basse Meaning Lower Town, located right down below the historic quarter, along the gorge that cuts through the city. Here is the famously picturesque district of the Grund, with its old small houses.
-Neumünster Abbey Built by the Benedictines, the current building is the 3rd reincarnation from 1688. Nowadays it serves as a concert hall, exhibition and cultural centre. Located at the north of the Grund.
-National Museum of Natural History (NMHN) Housed in beautiful buildings by the river Alzette at the former Old Gendarmerie.
Findel International Airport is 6 kilometres east from the city centre. The Eurobus route 16 runs every 10 minutes from/to the train station, making it very well connected at any time, at the cost of only 2 Euros for a single short ticket, or 4 Euros for the day ticket. The journey takes approximately 15 minutes.
Because of its perfect location at the heart of Western Europe, landlocked (completely surrounded by other countries around all sides), and because of its reduced size it is once of the best connected cities across Europe via road and rail. The major routes to/from France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany pass through Luxembourg making it extremely simple and efficient to use overland transportation across.
Within the city, as a tourist sightseeing around you do not need to take any public transportation since everything is walking distance and in between the sights a short walk. However, for farther destinations or to save you time, there are frequent public buses, and a tram line that when expanded will link the airport with downtown. The fare for a day ticket is 4 Euros and covers not only the city but the country itself!. And if you are on a weekend in the city, surprise! The buses are all free of charge, including the airport bus. Take as many as you want without any problem.
If you are planning on visiting the nearby city of Trier across the border in Germany, the bus line 117 covers this route in 1 hour for 4 Euros day ticket, which means you can use it for the return to Luxembourg at no extra cost.
Luxembourg City is the largest in this small country and where majority of people lives. Bearing its reduced size and population, its importance in Europe is self explained. Also for its strong banking and industry sectors. These facts are reflected in the large amount of hotel considering the over all size and population. Not only you have all the large world hotel chains, you have a great selection of top and luxurious hotels. However, top hotel or any other quality in between will not come cheap. Accommodation, coupled with food and drinks (pubs, discos) are some of the most expensive sides in the city.
We found a great deal, however, on the British Airways website in their flight+hotel deals. Not only we got the very best flying times with BA, but also one of the nicest hotels, the DoubleTree by Hilton, 12 Rue Jean Engling in the north of the city, outside of the city centre but well linked by public transport to anywhere downtown (bur number 12 stops at the door as first/last stop of the route). The hotel was really nice, from all members of staff at any department to the level of care, cleanliness and facilities; however, although marketed as a DoubleTree, it is one of the franchises they have, therefore do not come expecting the standards you know from a real DoubleTree, especially the breakfast. They do have a free shuttle to/from the airport, but you will need to contact the hotel beforehand to let them know the time of your arrival, and your intended departure.