A Stop in Luxembourg City

Earlier this month, I (Jeremy) had a meeting to attend in Luxembourg, and thought I’d write up about the visit. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I enjoyed this mysterious city on the French-German linguistic boundary, full of castles, greenery, and banks.

Luxembourg City is fairly compact – you can see most of the core, and do some interesting walks in a weekend or so. As I read the guidebook, it looked like with a car, there was plenty more to explore in the countryside. I could totally returning, as part of a road trip, to see the castles, “Little Switzerland,” and the Moselle Valley region.

Most folks have only vaguely heard of Luxembourg – it’s a country smaller than Rhode Island both in land area and in population (630k), between France, Germany, and Belgium. It spent much of its history being ruled by neighboring entities, and really only emerged as a country in the mid-to-late 1800’s. That said, thanks to industries like steel and banking, it has one of the highest per-capita GDPs in Europe, and it hosts institutions such as the European Court of Justice as well as Amazon’s EU headquarters.

Logistics

How to get there:

  • Luxembourg is a 2 hour direct train ride from Paris. There are good train connections from Frankfurt or Brussels as well.
  • If you are road tripping in Europe and have a car – this is a good way to see the Luxembourg countryside, though you’ll mostly keep the car parked in Luxembourg City. Gasoline is relatively inexpensive compared with neighboring countries.
  • There are flights from various European hubs, but for me, it was simpler/cheaper to take a non-stop flight from the US to Paris, and take the train.
  • Once you’re in Luxembourg, public buses/trams are free (verify this!), to relieve traffic.

Language-wise: Luxembourg City is largely French speaking, but English is widely understood. In the countryside, German is more common than French. There’s a Germanic language called Luxembourgish also spoken in the country, but they don’t expect visitors to speak it.

Visit

In my case, it was somewhat of a whirlwind visit. My free hours were mostly on a Sunday afternoon and a Monday morning, so I didn’t get a chance to explore museums, but I still felt like I got a chance to get the feel for the city.

I ended up staying just south of the old city, about a 5 minute walk from the train station, and maybe a 10-15 minute walk from the old town center. On checking in, the hotel handed me a paper map which showed the geography – the center, surrounded by green space. In practice, much of the center is elevated (Ville Haute), while the river part is at a somewhat lower elevation:

I headed to the compact Ville Haute (High City), where I saw the cathedral and war memorial at the south part (alas, I didn’t take as many pictures as I expected). The area overlooking the green space was quite nice, and later ended up hiking down there by the river.

The center of Ville Haute was the Place d’Armes, which was a big square lined with restaurants, cafes, as well as some government buildings. Plus a McDonalds, they always seem to put a location in a key square in European cities. There’s another large public square to the East of Place d’Armes, the Place Guillaume II, though it was under significant construction during the visit.

Nearby there was the palace, which is used by the constitutional monarch (a Duke rather than a King) for ceremonial purposes. It’s possible that I saw the duchess the next morning – I happened to be nearby and saw the area fenced off, with police escorts and photographers, and saw them entering the palace from a nice car. In any case, here are a few photos of the palace:

To get to the Grund (lower level) area, it’s possible to walk up/down, but these’s also an elevator. I enjoyed this area by the river. I spent while wandering away jet lag on Sunday evening and Monday morning, walking on these fairly pleasant green trails:

There were some interesting ruins to wander on paths to see (e.g. Bock Casemates), but the amount of free time I had meshed fairly well with being able to see these. The west and north sides of the center, next to the green space, seemed to have more office buildings and banks.

South of the center, where I stayed, was less quaint, but with plenty of shops and such. There was a great French bakery right around the corner from my hotel where I had breakfast. The food itself was good overall, though I’d suggest French or Italian cuisine over super authentically Luxembourgish food. For high-end food (which I didn’t have time for on this visit), Luxembourg has a fairly high concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants (9) for a country of its size (630k people).

In any case, Luxembourg City came across as a pleasant place to take a break. I’d definitely be up for visiting again sometime, particularly seeing the surrounding countryside with a car. To be clear, it’s no Paris or Rome in terms of amenities, but it doesn’t aim to be – it’s simply a very nice, green, castled place in the heart of Europe that I hadn’t seen before, and is worth a look if you’re in the vicinity.

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