On our recent trip to France, I decided to take a day trip to a new-to-me country – Luxembourg.
I knew very little about this country before my trip and spent a pleasant train ride through the French countryside enjoying the scenery and reading my guide book prior to my arrival in Luxembourg City.
A few fun facts I learned on the way:
- Luxembourg consistently ranks among the world’s top three nations in wealth and wine consumption.
- The country has a well-developed wine region called the Moselle Valley, which is known for its sparkling wine.
- One-third of the country is forest.
- Luxembourg is the only Grand Duchy in the world and one of the smallest countries in the world.
- Despite its small size, Luxembourg has ~130 castles.
A day trip was barely enough time to explore the main sites in Luxembourg City, but it was enough to pique my interest and make me want to go back and experience more of the country – including all those forests, vineyards, and castles I read about!
I stopped in the tourism office downtown and picked up a really handy self-guided walking tour brochure with an easy-to-follow map and details about the major points of interest along the way. Here were some of my favorite spots.
Avenue de la Liberte and Place de la Constitution
After arriving at the main train station, I walked the avenue de la Liberte to the downtown area, passing wonderful old buildings all along the pedestrian zone. The 1913 Place de Metz, with the spire pictured in a couple of the photos below, was my final stop before crossing the amazing Adolphe bridge over to the Place de la Constitution.
The bridge was constructed between 1900-1903 and had the largest arch stone at that time. The Place de la Constitution, with its multiple tiers of flower-lined walkways and colorful flags, is home to a memorial that was erected in 1923 to honor Luxembourgish soldiers who died in WWI.
Around the corner I entered the Place Guillaume II where I started my walking tour. It was under construction, but I was able to follow another self-guided tourist around the heavy machinery to the palace.
Grand Duchal Palace
The palace is large and smack-dab in the middle of so many other buildings that it’s hard to get a singular impression of it. You have to circle all the way around and piece it together in your mind.
The older Renaissance sections date from 1572 while the middle part was added on between 1741-1743. When it was originally constructed, it served as city hall – hence its central placement. It didn’t become the residence of the country’s monarch until 1890.
Saint Michel’s Church
This church was built in AD 987. That number is not missing a 1 in front of it – it might be one of the oldest churches I’ve visited!
I couldn’t believe how many other people following their map glanced at it and walked on by. I spent some time inside admiring the stained glass windows, pipe organ, sculptures, and the inner workings of the turret clock, which are now located under glass right inside the entrance.
Marche-aux-Poissons and Am Tiirmschen
Former center of the Old Town, the fish market plaza was the crossroads between two ancient Roman roads. Today, there are several restaurants with indoor and outdoor seating where you can relax and admire the surrounding buildings.
I had read about one of the restaurants, Am Tiirmschen, inside the fish market building, which dates from the Middle Ages. The inside was small and neat with lovely exposed stone and seating in different nooks and crannies.
I ordered the kniddelen, which is considered the national dish. Small dense dumplings sautéed with bacon lardons = to die for. The bread and baked apples that accompanied the dish were also delicious.
While the food and atmosphere were amazing, the most unusual thing happened while I was eating. A group of six people in business attire entered, and it turned out to be three diplomats from the U.S. and three from Luxembourg. They were trading stories about their roles at the UN and spent the meal discussing foreign policy. (In case you’re wondering, much of their discussion was about women’s rights and LGBTQ rights.)
I was the only other people in the room and tried to quietly enjoy my meal and not draw any attention to myself. I couldn’t believe they didn’t ask me to leave – it was a thoroughly unexpected experience!
Bock Promontory and Casemates
I was very excited about seeing the Bock cliffs and casemates, but sadly the Bock casemates were still closed due to COVID-19. The casemates are a 21-km network of underground passages in the rock walls that have been used as shelter from various enemies from the 1640s up until WWII. Another reason I need to return someday – I’d love to take one of the guided tours and learn more about the history of these tunnels.
Instead, I spent my time walking around the Bock plateau, admiring the views of the Rham plateau and the Grund down below. I wandered down to the remains of the old castle and back before heading toward my next stop, the Corniche.
Often referred to as “the most beautiful balcony of Europe,” the Corniche runs from the Bock plateau all the way around the Grund until you reach the Cite Judiciaire on the Plateau du Saint Esprit.
I had amazing views of the Grund and surrounding area but very little shade and it was quite warm! I passed lots of people who were stopping to take pictures along the way.
It took me a while to find the elevator down to the Grund, but it was worth the extra time and effort! The elevator holds about six people and runs you from the Old Town down to the Grund and back. I’ve ridden many forms of transportation to reach different areas within a city, but never an actual elevator!
This suburb sits at the bottom of the cliffs and on the banks of the Alzette river and is home to the ancient Abbey of Neumunster, which was a 17th century cloister. In a couple pictures below you can also see the remains of the Wenzel wall, which dates from 1390 and provided protection for those living in the valley.
I walked around the abbey and adjacent ancient Hospice St. Jean, but it wasn’t clear how to enter (or if entry was possible – the doors I tried were all locked). I was running short on time so I roamed around and then enjoyed my walk along the river and back to the elevator.
Cathedral Notre-Dame de Luxembourg
The late Gothic Notre-Dame Cathedral dates from 1613 and was my final stop before walking back to the train station for my return trip to Paris.
While very interesting and amazingly detailed inside, I think most people visit it because it’s right across the Adolphe bridge in the old quarter and thus, very accessible. I really enjoyed some of the internal architecture, but overall I was personally more intrigued by St. Michael’s church!
I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to visit Luxembourg. I loved exploring Luxembourg City and look forward to returning to explore more of this tiny country in the future.