Luxembourg is one of the most surprising places to visit in Europe. Perhaps it’s because of its convenient location at a natural crossroads of European countries, and therefore easy to include in many trips. Partly, too, because of the warm welcome and excellent hospitality always enjoyed there. But mostly it’s because for such a small country, it manages to cram so much in that is worth seeing.
The capital, Luxembourg City, is one of the most naturally spectacular in Europe. It’s built around deep canyons, created by two rivers, and linked by towering viaducts. Basing yourself in the city centre, it’s easy to explore on foot. The Hotel Francais, in the pedestrian area, is one we would recommend. Its not too big, has an excellent restaurant, and on a warm evening its great to sit in the pavement bar and just soak up the ambience of Luxembourg at night.
The city is a rich combination on new and old, with a wealth of grand historic buildings and beautiful gardens, balanced by striking modern architecture of the business and cultural areas. Even the multi-faceted blue glass building which houses the modern art museum fits in well with its surroundings. The nearby Philharmonie Luxembourg, and Place de l’Europe are also worth a look while you are on that side of the ravine.
It’s the centuries of history that unveil themselves at every turn, though, which will occupy the majority of your time here. From the Grand Palace it’s an easy walk around the oldest parts of the city, with stunning views across the ravines. Take the opportunity to walk down to the valley below too. It’s an area often not experienced by the tourists, but you get a whole different feel for the city as it towers above you on all sides. There are nicely maintained gardens & pleasant walks through the valley, and the pretty café’s by the river are a perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine along the way. The Bock Casemates, with their centuries old tunnels cut into the rock, are another sight missed by the many who never venture down to the base of the ravines.
Surprisingly for a capital city, good restaurants are a bit of a rarity in Luxembourg. There are plenty of places to eat, especially in the areas around the station, and in the European Quarter, but none that really stand out. Probably the best in terms of an authentic feel, and value for money, are those around the Place d’Armes.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that Luxembourg City is all there is to the country of Luxembourg. Even though its less than 100 kilometres from north to south, the Grand Duchy boasts majestic countryside, pretty villages, and castles seemingly guarding every hill top. Head up into the mountains near the German border, where the densely forested hillsides, rocky cliffs, & deep blue rivers herald an unspoiled region little disturbed by travellers. Take a leisurely cruise on the beautiful River Sure, or try exploring one of a network of marked walks through the forests. There are even ‘hikers huts’ to help break your rambles into easily managed sections. So thoughtful!
The guidebooks all suggest that Echternach is the centre of this northeast region, and the place to base ones self. The small gothic medieval town is certainly striking, and worth a visit, especially to see the abbey and it’s 1000-year old crypt. But try the less well known, but equally impressive, ancient town of Vianden.
With an unrivalled position astride the River Our, the huge turreted medieval fortress, that dominates the hill above the town, has its origins with the Orange-Nassau dynasty back in the 9th Century. As long as the weather’s fine, for just a few Euros take the chairlift up to the 450m high summit. The panoramic views across the town, castle, river, and the lush green valley, are breathtaking.
The majority of the northern region is extremely picturesque, and has numerous small towns and villages, in exquisite setting, to visit. It is an area that really requires you to have your own transport to explore properly, however, since public transport is not particularly geared to the casual tourist. But the roads are good, and most of the best viewpoints have convenient parking areas close by.
The Ardennes are well known, both in Luxembourg and over the border in Belgium, for their excellent cuisine, and its in this area in the north of the country you will find the best small restaurants and bistro’s. Often located alongside pretty rivers, its worth asking locals which are the best places to eat, as they area not always obvious from the outside.
The south of the country has a very different type of scenic appeal, with the stark red rocks around Bettembourg giving this largely industrial district a pleasant feel. On the extreme south eastern border lies the mighty river Mosel, and from the appealing town of Gravenmacher its possible to take a relaxing cruise to nearby Trier, or further downstream to Bernkastel and Koblenz.
But to do that would take you way out of Luxembourg and into Germany, and why would you do that when there is so much to see in the Grand Duchy?