A downtown perched on the sheer cliffs surrounded by deep valleys carved by the meandering Alzette and Pétrusse rivers. And these same cliffs acting as the natural fortifications making the city impregnable for ages earning the city the historical epithet of the “Gibraltar of the North”. Yes, we are talking about ‘Luxembourg City’ the capital of Luxembourg or the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. This small city is sure to enchant you with its charm!
We were based out of Geneva in Switzerland and Paris was just a 3-hour train journey away. We would plan several trips to Paris to explore the best of France in and around Paris. And during one such trip, we planned a day trip to Luxembourg City the capital of one of the smallest and richest country. Luxembourg is a landlocked country nestled between France, Germany, and Belgium which makes a day trip from Paris, Berlin, and Brussels to Luxembourg much easier through the well-connected rail network.
The Luxembourg City center is compact and there is a lot to see and explore which can easily be done on a walking tour. We love exploring a city on foot in that way we get to explore much more than on our list and most of the times get to experience the city like a local. With a map of the city and major attractions listed down, we started walking down from the railway station to the Luxembourg city center.
Things to do in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
Luxembourg City Railway Station
A two-hour train journey drove us through a beautiful landscape of rolling verdant hills and deep scenic valleys. The train station with its imposing clock tower built in Moselle Baroque Revival on a prominent thoroughfare lined by several public buildings exuding the architectural splendor of the city is the first time impression we get as soon as we step out of the station.
A pedestrian footpath led us to the 100 years old double arched Adolph bridge connecting to the Haute Ville (Medieval city center). The magnificent bridge rises 42 meters high from the Petrusse valley with incredible views over the valley.
The Petrusse River carved its path into the rock creating a large gorge that acted as natural fortifications up to 50 meters penetrating high into the sky. The ample green scape spread across the valley surrounded by peculiar rock formations and ruins of fortifications amidst the tranquil aura is great to saunter or just relax. The valley is dotted with many medieval buildings with a backdrop of towering skyscrapers an astounding amalgam of old and the new. There is a 14th century St. Quiren’s Chapel built into the rock which is one of the oldest Christian sanctuaries and is said to house several caves inside the chapel. There is also a golf course and a tiny steam train in the park.
Walking further there is a small monument to the army with the statue of a lion carved on it next to the street. We took a right from here and walked further hoping for a better panoramic view of the valley below. We even found several sculptures and artworks lining this alley.
When we walked back to the main street there was this green mini train waiting for the passengers. The driving past the historical sites of the old Fortress. The ‘Petrusse Express’ has been taking the tourists on a ride exploring the historical sites of the city of Luxembourg since 1987. The round trip starts and ends at Montee de Clausen (near the Bock Casemates). Get more details here or reserve your seat here.
Around 10 minutes walk from the bridge is the Notre-Dame Cathedral. The 17th-century gothic architecture cathedral with traces of Renaissance and Baroque elements has three imposing towers dominating the city skyline. The exquisitely carved statues and artwork of the entrance portal, the gorgeous interior flanked by white columns supporting the vaulted ceilings and remarkable stained-glass windows are sure to leave you in awe.
Monument of Remembrance
Across the street is the striking Monument of Remembrance or Gelle Fra in Place de la Constitution. The gilded bronze figure of a woman holding a laurel stands on the focal of a 21-meter-high granite obelisk. It represents Nike, the goddess of victory and commemorates all those who sacrificed their lives in World War II.
The Museum of the Bank of Luxembourg City as seen from the Place de la Constitution. A visit to the Bank Museum is a great way to discover the 140 years of banking tradition and its role in the growth of Luxembourg.
William Square or Place Guillaume II
We walked through the throng of tourists in the outdoor cafes and restaurants, souvenir shops along the street to the tourist office to collect the city route map. The tourist office is in William Square or Place Guillaume II. The square is dominated by an equestrian statue of former Grand Duke William II who gave the country its first parliamentary constitution.
Luxembourg City Hall
Another prominent building in the square is the 19th century neo-classical Town Hall. The building entrance is flanked by two majestic bronze statues of Lions. The Town hall is the private office of the city’s mayor.
Grand Ducal Palace
Just across the street of the square is the 16th century Grand Ducal Palace built in the Flemish Renaissance architectural style. It is the official residence of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg where he performs most of his duties as head of state of the Grand Duchy. The opulent interior and sumptuously decorated ceilings and walls are open to the public during summer with a 45 min guided tour. The tours provide an insight into the various aspects of the administrative workings and the staterooms. It also houses the Luxembourg Parliament in the left wing.
On the street opposite to the palace is the Chocolate house. The Chocolate House is must visit for it offers a wide assortment of homemade hot chocolate to select from more than 30 different types.
There is another interesting church on the way from the Duke’s palace to the Bock Casemates. The 14th century Eglise St. Michel or the Saint-Michel Church stands on the site of the castle chapel built in 987. The church features Romanesque and Baroque architectural styles and is a must visit for its remarkable intricate stained glass windows. The entrance to the church is free.
Le Chemin de La Corniche
The promenade along the old ramparts of the city overlooking the valley peppered with old quarters along the winding Alzette River is no less than a fantasyland. Le Chemin de La Corniche is called as Europe’s Most Beautiful Balcony. The well-preserved old quarters of Grund are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and exemplify the city’s rich cultural heritage. Grund has several cafes and medieval buildings tucked away into the narrow cobblestone alleys which are great for a leisure walk along the Alzette River while you take in the architecture and charm of the pastel-colored buildings. One can take an elevator at Place du St.-Esprit or just stroll down from the casemates.
The Bock casemates are a maze of underground passages carved out of rocks which were the part of a castle built by Count Siegfried in 963 to protect his property. A network of 23 km of underground galleries and passages were built in the 18th century of which only 17 km remain today. The casemates or Bock Casemates could act as a refuge for thousands of soldiers and public during the wars and housed kitchens, bakeries, and slaughter-houses. An interesting part of the casemates is that it is multilevel they have staircases in the passages also carved out of rock to access the upper level.
Statue of Grand Duchess Charlotte
On our way back to the station in the square Place Clairefontaine behind the Notre dam was the statue of Grand Duchess Charlotte. During her reign, Grand Duchess Charlotte contributed towards improving the living standards of Luxembourg. She worked on rebuilding the country after World War II and helped boost the tourism.
Luxembourg City today has emerged as one of the influential capital city but its history and culture remain intact amidst all the modernization.
As we had only one day in Luxembourg City we had to miss a couple of Luxembourg attractions which you may want to check it out:
Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial
The Luxembourg American Cemetery is the final resting place of 5,076 American military dead of the World war II similar to the Normandy American Cemetery in Bayeux. There is also a memorial to the 371 Americans whose remains were never recovered.The Sandweiler German war cemetery a mile away contains remains of the German soldiers of the same war. Bayeux was a touching experience and we wished to visit the one in Luxembourg too but couldn’t due to short of time.
Fort Thungen houses the Musee Drai Eechelen or the Three Acorns Museum which exhibits information on the history of the city and country of Luxembourg from 1443 to 1903 through multimedia, photographs and other artifacts.
Wenzel Circular Walk
The trail is a tour exploring the gems of the city of Luxembourg connecting the upper and lower town through the famous Bock casemates offering a wonderful panoramic vista of the city through several vantage points. The Luxembourg tourism office offers guided tours every Wednesday and Saturdays. It is good to be informed that some parts of the trail may not be accessible by strollers or wheelchairs. Get more details here. Though we did not do this tour we believe we had covered everything on this trail by ourselves.
The Luxembourg card is a tourist pass that offers free access to more than 60 museums and Luxembourg tourist attractions of the city of Luxembourg. The card can be availed for a validity of 1, 2 or 3 days. The card also offers free access second-class access to the trains and buses on the public transport. Get more details or buy online here.
Have you been to Luxembourg City? Which was your favorite part of sightseeing? Do share with us in comments
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