Tiny country of Luxembourg sits right in the middle of Western Europe and is quite easy to miss on the map. However, both its unique location and culture make Luxembourg one of the most popular short break tourist destinations in the region.
Whether you want to escape from busy city life for a couple of days or having a European road trip, Luxembourg is certainly worth visiting. Airfares are surprisingly cheap (at least from London) starting at £25 return ticket and in our case it was a no-brainer. We left our busy offices on Friday evening and headed straight to calming countryside (or so we thought).
Luxembourg’s population is just above half a million but its importance within Europe and European Union is indisputable. After the long history of wars in a close vicinity of the country Luxembourgers along with fellow neighbours decided to establish long lasting peace on the continent. Luxembourg-born French statesman Robert Schuman was one of the founding fathers of what later became European Union. Since then Luxembourg bears an official status of one of the EU capitals (together with Brussels) and is home to several European institutions.
The Grand Duchy has, probably, the highest standard of living in Europe and you can easily spot that: streets are clean, houses are nice and tidy, cars are expensive and infrastructure meets the highest possible expectations. Public transport, for instance, helps you to cross the whole county multiple times during the day without any delays allowing you to explore the most.
Some people say, that in order to explore capital Luxembourg City you need two days. Take Monday day-off and you’ll cover the whole country. In my opinion, this is probably already too much. We spent the entire day in the City and left Sunday for the country. For less ambitious and relaxed tourists, 3 days should serve the best.
The trip, as usual, starts at the airport. Luxembourg international airport is located quite close to the City. You’ll need a short bus ride to get to anywhere in the city centre. We stayed in the Hotel Grey next to the Central Station (Gare Centrale). The hotel has good value for money and is very conveniently located, although the area is not particularly great as anywhere near the station. After setting up and confirming the plan for Saturday, we headed straight to one of the most popular bars in the city, Liquid Bar. It is a craft beer venue with many Belgian and German beers but you can also try finding a local gem (we weren’t that successful though).
Saturday started early with a thick fog outside. Luxembourg City is still very charming and the weather can’t make you think otherwise. For the most authentic breakfast we went straight to Place Guillame II where weekly farmers’ market takes place. If you learned either French or German at school, you may now start recalling common phrases and words. With 3 officials languages, people of Luxembourg, probably, don’t have that much capacity for English. So, to communicate with people we had to find compromise between my knowledge of French and their knowledge of English. Nevertheless, it doesn’t affect the taste of cheese and croissant in the morning.
Luxembourg is a very old country and first documented settlements around modern City are dated back to the 10th century. Many historic artefacts were left since then as well as from the Middle ages. It is all reflected in numerous exhibits at National Museum of History and Art. There are also other places to explore history of Luxembourg. The most famous site is Bock Casemates where you can enjoy fantastic view over the city and walk inside the corridors used by city guardians hundreds of years ago. To recharge batteries go to Mousel street where you can find a restaurant of any kind. Big Beer Company is one place to go where you can enjoy a big platter of traditional Luxembourgish-Franco-German food and a pint of locally brewed German-style lager.
If you want to explore the city, make sure you can walk a lot and have comfortable shoes. It has many levels and goes up and down very frequently with numerous bridges crossing rivers. While it surely adds up some points to very scenic view, you’ll soon feel fatigue in the legs. But at the end of the day you’ll realise it was worth it.
Another cultural hub is located a couple hundred of metres above Rue Emile Mousel and includes Fortress Museum (Musée Draï Eechelen) and world-renowned Modern Art Museum (MUDAM). I’m not a big fan of contemporary art, but this time I really enjoyed the visit. If you have some time left, it’s worth walking all the way through city centre and visiting Notre-Dame Cathedral. It was already closing for the night when we managed to enter and enjoy the last couple of minutes in an empty and calm church. Peaceful and relaxed end of the day, now it’s the time to buy a few souvenirs and drink some good wine at Vins Fins.
As was mentioned already, there’s not that many things left to do in the City for the second day. Take an early train or bus and head to the countryside. Luxembourg has the highest number of castles per capita in Europe so everyone can try finding one for himself. During winter period (November to March) many of them are closed, however, several descent options are still available. We decided to go to Vianden Castle, very old medieval castle located in northern part of the country. It once charmed Victor Hugo who was travelling via Luxembourg so he created one of his paintings there. You can enjoy exactly the same view he had from Literature Museum – Victor Hugo House. In the summer time a chairlift is operating in Vianden allowing you to see the castle from a different point of view and take a glance over the border with Germany, but it wasn’t our case.
TIP: Tourism in Luxembourg becomes significantly cheaper when you buy a Luxembourg Card. With €20 for two days you’ll get free public transport within the country and free entrance to the museums.
We were going to spend some time in Diekirch, but transport was diverted because of Diekirch Cavalcade that marks the beginning of Great Lent, pretty much like Mardi Gras in France, where thousands of Luxembourgers in different costumes are having fun and enjoying themselves. Next on our itinerary was a small village Schengen in the South. This village, as you might guess, gave the name to the famous treaty and symbolises a unity of European countries. Waving flags of Schengen states are set up on the embankment next to European Museum and a piece of Berlin Wall is standing by. And that’s it. Nothing more to do there, really. We walked through the German border to Germany and then France so we visited three countries in 15 minutes, but apart from that there’s nothing exciting about the village.
Short weekend break was coming to an end so we had our last dinner in the City, took the bus to the airport, had our passports stamped and came back to our office desks on Monday.
How to get there?
Luxembourg airport has great connections with European cities and the bus ride to the city centre takes about 25 minutes. You can buy a ticket on the bus stop next to the airport, it’ll cost you €2.
Where to stay?
Luxembourg has various options to offer. If you stay in the City where hotels and hostels for any budget can be found. We’ve chosen conveniently located Hotel Grey with central railway station only minutes away. It is not located within nice medieval area but with €70 per night is a good value for money.
What to eat?
Traditional Luxembourgish food is a mix of French and German cuisine. Both traditional and non-local cuisine venues can be found around the touristy areas. Every Saturday morning a farmers market takes place at Place Guillame II where you can try something authentic and fresh. Vins Fins offers inexpensive organic wines to brighten up your evening.
What to do?
Luxembourg has probably the best museum of modern arts I’ve seen so far. Also, History museum and Bock casemates may catch your attention. Don’t stay too long in the City and go to the country. Castles is what Luxembourg is famous for so choose one and explore.
How to get around?
Luxembourg has great public transportation connecting all parts of the country including buses and trains. It is free for Luxembourg Card holders.