I thought it would be a dull city filled with banks. But leave your doubts aside as you enter this uber-chic city to discover not so well hidden gems! (Featured pic: christophevanbiesen)
Luxembourg City’s strategic location, on cliffs overlooking the Alzette river, encouraged each occupier to add more jewels along the banks and fortify it further. Today you can tour the ramparts around the pedestrianized old town, which offer stunning views over the lower town, or Grund. Once the poor part of the city, this is now a popular restaurant quarter with its narrow medieval streets. Walking the embankments you will pass the cathedral and the history museum cleverly converted from four old town houses and given a glass front.
Quite famously, Luxembourg is one of the smallest countries in the world and spans an area of just 1,650 square kilometers. With a population of 500,000 residents it is a twentieth of the city I live in; Bangalore. But its size actually makes it a great place to visit as many of the main attractions are concentrated in one place and all can be reached on foot. The center of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its own right and many of the top sights in Luxembourg can be found here.
Its one of those places where the modern and historic merge seamlessly together. Do try to spend more than a couple of days here and let it unravel slowly all that it has to offer. You will not regret your extended stay!
Must See and Must dos in Luxembourg
- Wander around the Old Town of Luxembourg:
The first things we did in the snow is walking around the ramparts overlooking the old city and the Alzette river. The amalgamation of all the beige, dark gray and white of the snow is purely mesmerizing. And as it turned dark and the lights came it looked like a Disneyland with those tall sharp coned towers! That’s one walk that will also give you a taste of the cute little city.
2. Casemates du Bock: In 963, Count Siegfried built a fortified castle on the Bock promontory. Every ruler eventually turned the city into one of the most powerful emplacements in the world, the “Gibraltar of the North”. Its defenses were bolstered by three fortified rings with 24 forts, 16 other strong defensive works and a unique 23 km long network of casemates: these could not only shelter thousands of soldiers and their horses, but also housed workshops, kitchens, bakeries, slaughter-houses etc. In 1875, the superstructure of the Bock, a tremendous construction, was razed. However, it proved to be impossible to blow up the casemates, without also demolishing part of the city, so the entrances and the key connecting galleries were sealed. In spite of this, 17 kilometres of tunnels remain, often on different levels and tremendous stairways penetrate up to 40 metres inside the rock face. In 1994 UNESCO listed them as World Heritage.
3. MUDAM-Museum of Modern Art Grand-Duc Jean: It is located on the Kirchberg-Plateau, between the Place de l’Europe and the Old Town of Luxembourg, invites the public to an exploration of contemporary art. The public and exhibition spaces are laid out on three levels over 6.000 m2. The museum gives artists and designers “carte blanche” to invade the museum and offer interpretations of its spaces: the traditional exhibition spaces, but also the intermediary ones (the reception area, the café, the shop, the auditorium, …), by proposing original creations. The collection counts more than 200 works by more than 100 artists.
4. Notre Dame Cathedral: The church is a noteworthy example of late gothic architecture; however, it also has many Renaissance elements and adornments. At the end of the 18th century, the church received the miraculous image of the Maria Consolatrix Afflictorum, the patron saint of both the city and the nation. The cathedral “Notre-Dame” of Luxembourg was built between 1613 and 1621 by the Jesuits to serve as a church to their college (now the National Library).
5. National Museum of History and Art: The museum has a large archaeological collection, particularly of objects discovered during the various excavations: sarcophaguses, tools, coins, jewels, grave markers, etc. the most outstanding objects being found in the excavations at Dalheim (Ricciacus) and Titelberg. The visual arts section of this museum in the capital offers the possibility of admiring a wide range of Luxembourgish painting from the 18th to the 20th century, including the post-impressionist watercolours of Sosthène Weis, paintings by Joseph Kutter, Dominique Lang, Eugène Mousset, Jean-Pierre Beckius, Nico Klopp and Auguste Trémont as well as sculptures by Auguste Trémont and Lucien Wercollier. Oddly enough, my four-year-old son enjoyed it a lot. Wonder why!
6. Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin: The Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin was originally a Jesuit church, the foundation stone of which was laid in 1613. It is a remarkable instance of late Gothic style, revealing various components and ornaments inspired by Renaissance style. At the end of the 18th century it adopted the picture of the Lady Comforter of the Afflicted, who had the power to work miracles, and who is the patron saint of the city and the country. 50 years later it was consecrated Saint Mary’s church and in 1870 Pope Pius IX dedicated the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin. It also acts as the starting point for many walking tours.
7. Grand Ducal Palace: Just a short walk from the cathedral is this beautiful palace. As the original residence of the Grand Duke and the royal family, Palais Grand-Ducal in Luxembourg City is a spectacular piece of architecture, built in the 16th Century during the Flemish Renaissance. The palace’s interior design appears to be an exquisite combination of a variety of styles; a delicate interplay between romantic and medieval-gothic styles and industrial light designs by the German industrial designer, Ingo Maurer. I just found it odd, coming from India that there were all of two security guards! Makes me think…
There are more things to see and do. Like the Kirchberg district for modernity and contemporary art, many castles strewn all over the country, the Passerelle Viaduct with its panoramic views, the contemporary Philharmonic and the Chateaus.
Practical Tips and info:
- Luxembourg is part of the Schengen agreement for Visa purposes.
- Get comfy shoes along. You will see most of the places by foot.
- The three official languages are French, German and Luxembourgish. But you will get by in English.
- The Luxembourg Card: It allows you to visit 60 tourist attractions in the four corners of the country free of charge, and that, of course, includes Luxembourg City. From the ‘Bock Casemates’ to Vianden castle, via photographer Edward Steichen’s ‘The Bitter Years’ exhibition in Dudelange, the fairy park in Bettembourg and the public pool in Redange-sur-Attert, the choices are irresistible.Moreover, the card allows you to get reduced entry fees to dozens of exceptional visits, such as the castle tour, a trip on the Moselle river with the M.S. Marie-Astrid or entry to the Adventure Park Indian Forest in Vianden. Check their website for more.
- Luxembourg’s Monarchs are not Queens and Kings; instead, they are Dukes and Duchesses – hence why Luxembourg is referred to a Grand Duchy (its the only remaining one in the world).
- The city has free wifi everywhere so you won’t have to worry about being stranded without internet when you visit the city.
- A significant part of the city’s parks and suburban areas are privately owned so you can walk through them only in case you have permission from the owner. Before making a walk or a ride to the city’s suburbs, you should check with your guide or hotel employee whether this place belongs to someone.
- The locals may seem to be a little reserved, but they are pretty friendly to travelers and are will generally help with a smile.
- Visa for Indians: As a part of the Schengen countries; you will need a pre-approved visa to get in. I used VFS global. Takes about a week.
- What I Read: Rachel is a small village girl and her quest for adventure leads her to a tiny village on the banks of the Mosel River in Luxembourg. Her paradise was once a meeting place for the Resistance during WWII. This is a thoroughly gripping tale lending the reader insights into the life of the local during the torrid times. Amazon link…
10. What I Saw: One of the reasons why Luxembourg climbed up my list was this show. This show about an American spy is set in Luxembourg and literally takes you to most places in the city. All set in a dark tone, its gripping.