Luxembourg is that place that everyone knows it exists because somehow they have heard about it, but almost nobody is able to place it on a map.
Most people know Luxembourg inhabitants are extremely rich, but nobody has ever met one of them. So that they can be 100% sure they exist for real.
With any luck, you can find someone who knows the state of Luxembourg is somewhere between Germany, Belgium and France, but does anybody know what languages they speak in Luxembourg?
Well, I’m sorry to say that up to the beginning of 2020 I was also a bit confused about Luxembourg. I was able to point it on a map (more or less). but I had no idea about the language they speak and, that’s for sure, it wasn’t on my top 10 list of places to visit. It wasn’t either in my bucket list, honestly.
Then, one day my husband and I were searching for places to visit on a weekend within Europe and we found dirt-cheap plane tickets to Luxembourg City. Honestly speaking, we agreed to go there without too many expectations, completely open-minded, and see what the city would offer to us. We had no idea what to expect. And looking back, we made a great choice deciding to spend a weekend there, exploring, and trying to fill all our knowledge gaps.
That said, if you are asking yourself if Luxembourg City is worth visiting and you are on the fence whether to go, this article is for you!
First, I will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about Luxembourg City and then I will make you revive our trip and show you the beauty of this city through our eyes.
Without further ado, let’s start this journey and learn how to spend one remarkable day in Luxembourg City!
Where is Luxembourg located?
Luxemburg is a country in Western Europe that shares borders with Belgium to the west and north, with Germany to the east, and with France to the south.
Situated in the southern part of the country, its capital, Luxembourg City, is one of the four official capitals of the European Union (together with Brussels, Frankfurt and Strasbourg).
It is the seat of the highest judicial authority in the EU, the Court of Justice of the European Union, among others institutions, agencies, and bodies of the European Union that have their headquarters in the city.
Luxemburg City is 213 km (132 mi) away from Brussels, 372 km (231 mi) from Paris, and 209 km (130 mi) from Cologne.
With an area of 2,586 square kilometres (998 sq mi), Luxemburg is one of the smallest sovereign states in Europe. Besides, with a population of 631,492 ( as of January 2021), it is one of Europe’s least populated countries. Almost half of the population is made up of foreigners of 170 different nationalities. Being the Portuguese, French, Italian, Belgian, and German the most represented foreign communities.
What language do they speak in Luxembourg?
Luxembourg is definitely a multilingual country considering that the majority of Luxembourgers speak four languages, and, as we saw, almost 50 per cent of the total population are foreign residents.
Nonetheless, Luxembourgish, French and German are the official languages and the most frequently spoken within the country, as is natural. Although the vast majority of the population speaks English as well.
What is Luxembourg known for?
Luxembourg is widely known for being one of the richest and smallest countries in the world, and for its low taxation, so as to be considerate as a tax haven.
Is it expensive in Luxembourg?
It’s not cheap as a tourist by any means, but it’s no worse than other places such as New York, London or Paris.
How many days should you spend in Luxembourg?
One day in Luxembourg city is enough to visit all its main features.
I would recommend, though, to arrive the evening before and spend the night there. So that you can wake up already there and devote the entire day to visit the city and leave the day after.
What can you see in Luxembourg in one day?
As promised, to help you understand how to spend one remarkable day in Luxembourg City, I’ll bring you with me and revive every step of the stunning day we had at the beginning of 2020 (just before all the COVID-19 pandemic craziness popped out).
Before starting, though, you need to know that Luxembourg City centre breaks down into Ville Haute (High City) and Ville Basse (Low City) or the Grund. Most of its iconic landmarks stand in the higher part, while the lower part is more renowned for its medieval atmosphere and its nightlife.
We flew to Luxembourg a Friday after work. Once at Luxembourg airport, we took a bus that brought us to the city centre in 30 minutes. We stayed at the Hotel Parc Plaza, in the upper part of the city. So, the following day, we started our tour of the city from there.
Important tip: if you arrive in the city at night, let’s say after 10 pm, have something to eat before leaving the airport. Most of the eateries, in fact, are already closed at that time and you don’t want to hit the sack with an empty stomach! We found out about that at our stomach expenses.
1. Adolphe Bridge
Adolphe Bridge (Pont Adolphe), also known as New Bridge, was the first thing that showed up on our right walking along Avenue Marie-Thérèse.
It is a majestic double-decked arch bridge erected in the early 1900s and named after Grand Duke Adolphe, who reigned Luxembourg at that point.
Adolphe Bridge, with its 42-metre (137-feet) height, offers an incredible view on the Pétrusse Valley and the homonymous park.
Fun fact 1: at the time of the construction, this bridge had the biggest stone arch in the world.
Fun fact 2: the bridge hosts a 154 m long and 4 m wide lower deck suspended beneath the existing deck, between the arches of the bridge, to act as a dedicated bidirectional bicycle path and footpath. We crossed the bridge through the lower deck to go back to our hotel later that day and it was a curious experience!
2. Monument of Remembrance
After Adolphe Bridge, while continuing on Boulevard Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a 21-metre-tall granite obelisk with a gilded bronze statue on its top caught our attention.
It was the Gëlle Fra (Luxembourgish for “Golden Lady”), officially known as the Monument of Remembrance (Monument du Souvenir), a war memorial erected in 1923 and dedicated to the thousands of Luxembourgers who volunteered for service in the armed forces.
In 1940 the Nazis pulled it down and it returned to its original and current site, Constitution Square, only in 1984. Today it is a symbol of freedom and resistance for the Luxembourg people.
From here you can enjoy a superb view over the Pétrusse Valley and the Adolphe Bridge.
Fun fact: in 2001, a controversial version of the monument, showing the statue as visibly pregnant and with a different inscription, was created by Sanja Iveković and erected nearby. Named as “Lady Rosa of Luxembourg”, it is now stored in Luxembourg’s Museum of Modern Art.
3. Notre-Dame Cathedral
Continuing on Boulevard Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a few metres from the Monument of Remembrance, you can find Notre-Dame Cathedral.
Its foundation stone was laid in 1613, but in the 20th century, it was enlarged and expanded.
The church is a noteworthy example of late gothic architecture; however, it also has many Renaissance elements and adornments.
Fun fact: the back door opens and closes by itself, leaving all the tourists flabbergasted (us included)!
4. Place d'Armes and Dicks-Lentz monument
Exit the cathedral from the back door, turn left onto Rue Notre Dame, and then right onto Rue Chimay. At the end of the latter, you will encounter Place d’Armes.
That is a pedestrian square, surrounded by lots of street cafés and restaurants, that serves as a meeting point for locals of all ages.
Place d’Armes, also named “Parlour of the City”, was completed in 1671 and owes its name to the fact that the French troops of Louis XIV used it for parades.
Today it hosts a Christmas Market and open-air concerts under the Old City Kiosk in the middle of the square.
On the east side of the square, you can find the old City Palace, nowadays called Cercle Cité, converted into a convention and exhibition centre in 2011.
On the northwest side of the square, lies Jan Palach Square with the Dicks-Lentz monument standing in the middle. This historic monument was erected to pay homage to the two national poets, Dicks and Michel Lentz, who wrote the words of the national anthem.
The column is topped by a lion, the heraldic animal of the Grand Duchy, while the blacksmith incarnates the steel industry.
Fun fact: if you get closer you can see an inscription engraved on the pillar. It contains words so dear to Luxembourgers that those represent their motto: “Mir wëlle bleiwe wat mir sin” (we want to remain what we are).
5. William II Square
From Place d’Armes, head to Rue du Cure and then turn right onto Rue du Fossé and you will soon find William II Square (Place Guillaume II) on your right.
This square is named after William II of Nassau-Orange, King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg. It is also known by locals as Knuedler (from the Luxembourgish “knued”), though, referring to the knot in the belt of the Franciscan friars that in the middle of the 13th century built a church and a monastery that overlooked the square till 1797.
Today, William Square hosts the Town Hall in its western half, the Luxembourg City Tourist Office in the southwest, an equestrian statue of William II in the eastern half, a local market twice a week, open-air concerts and feasts.
The King and Grand Duke William II of Nassau-Orange played a significant role in Luxembourgish history since he was the one who granted the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg its first parliamentary constitution, one of the most liberal in Europe at the time.
Fun fact: an accurate copy of the statue of William II can be found in The Hague.
6. Grand Ducal Palace
From William II Square take Rue de la Reine and you will face the Grand Ducal Palace (Palais Grand-Ducal).
It is the city official residence of the Grand Ducal Family and the place where the Grand Duke of Luxembourg performs most of his duties as head of state of the Grand Duchy.
From the time of its construction, this building has served many purposes. It was the city hall of Luxembourg from 1572 to 1795, the seat of the prefecture of the Forestry Department in 1795, the headquarters of the Luxembourg Government in 1817, and residence of the Governor, the representative of the Dutch Grand Dukes from 1817 to 1890. Finally, since 1890 the building has served as the Grand Dukes’ official residence.
In the middle of the 18th century, though, they built an extension, whereas the Parliament was installed in 1859.
During the German occupation in the Second World War, the Grand Ducal Palace was used by the Nazis as a concert hall and tavern and most of the original pieces of furniture, art collections and jewels were ruined.
In 1945 the palace finally returned to be the seat of the Grand Ducal Court.
Fun fact: The Grand Ducal Guard (Corps de la Garde Grand-Ducale) performed as the ceremonial guard of the palace from 1945–1966. Today, instead, you can see men of the troops of the Army of Luxembourg perform this duty outside at the palace.
7. Chamber of Deputies
Continue on Rue du Marché-aux-Herbes and you will find the Chamber of Deputies (Hôtel de la Chambre) on the left corner with Rue de l’Eau. It is literally next to the Grand Ducal Palace.
During the German occupation in the Second World War, the Chamber of Deputies was suspended and the building’s functions made subservient to those of the occupation forces.
In the late ’90s, the building underwent major renovations and was expanded to accommodate the public.
Fun fact: on the upper extremities of the building there are three columns, each of which has a figure on its top representing an archangel. Each archangel holds a different object in each hand, such as a sceptre, a crown, a Luxembourgish cornucopia, a coat of arms and a code law. All together they symbolize the legislative power administered by the Grand Duke along with the Chamber.
8. National Museum of History and Art
From the Chamber of Deputies, take Rue du Fossé, turn right onto Rue Large and then continue onto Rue Wiltheim. You will find the National Museum of History and Art on your left.
What impressed us the most was the large and well-preserved mosaic from the Roman villa in Vichten on display in the Archaeological section.
9. Castle Bridge
From the National Museum of History and Art, head to Rue Sigefroi, and then turn right onto Montée de Clausen. You will then cross Castle Bridge (Schlassbréck).
It was built in 1735 out of red sandstone, replacing a wooden construction with a drawbridge in use until then. It was entirely restored in the 90s.
Fun fact: The peculiarity of this bridge resides in the fact that it connected the Upper Town and the Bock Promontory in several manners both on the surface and underground.
10. Monument of the Millennium
Continuing on Montée de Clausen, you will find the Monument of the Millennium on your right.
In 1963 the Municipal Authorities and the State decided to set up a monument along this boulevard standing on the Bock promontory to celebrate the millennium of the capital.
During construction, though, they uncovered the foundation walls of the first stronghold of Count Siegfried of Ardenne. In 963, in fact, the Count acquired this massive rocky ledge and he strategically built his fortress on it. Remembered in history as the fortress of Luxembourg.
Consequently, the original plans for the monument were discarded for the benefit of a partial reconstruction and completion of the foundation walls. Despite that, those walls are now known as the Monument of the Millennium of the City of Luxembourg.
11. Bock Casemates
Continuing along Montée de Clausen, you will see the entrance of the so-called Bock Casemates, a subterranean defence system made up of 23 kilometres (14 miles) of tunnels placed on different levels and delving as deep as 40 meters (130 feet).
These underground galleries were initially carved in the 17th century, under Spanish rule.
Over time the Bock (name of both the promontory and the fortress) became strategically critical to dominating the west bank of the Rhine, projecting power across the French-German border, and controlling the Low Countries. As such, the defensive structures of the site were continually expanded and improved upon by each subsequent owner (Burgundians, Spaniards, Austrians, French, and Prussians).
They included not only 25 artillery slots, but also stables, storehouses, workshops, kitchens, bakeries, slaughterhouses, and barracks for 1200 soldiers.
On account of these impressive fortifications, Luxembourg was even given the epithet of the “Gibraltar of the North”.
After the dismantling of the fortress in 1867, as a consequence of the Treaty of London, 17 kilometres of the casemates were spared, left in good condition.
In 1933 they opened to the public and in 1994 UNESCO listed the Bock and the Old Town of Luxembourg as World Heritage.
Fun fact: unfortunately, we couldn’t visit those galleries since they are closed in winter.
12. Chemin de la Corniche
From the Bock Casemates entrance, go back onto Montée de Clausen, cross Castle Bridge again and turn left onto Chemin de la Corniche (Walls of the Corniche).
Hailed as Europe’s most beautiful balcony by Luxembourg writer Batty Weber, this pedestrian promenade winds for 600 m (0.37 mi) along the 17th-century city ramparts.
Therefore, it offers a breathtaking view of the Alzette river canyon towards the hefty fortifications of the Wenzel’s Mauer (Wenceslas Wall), the Ville Basse district of Grund and the Rham Plateau.
13. Place de Clairefontaine
From Chemin de la Corniche, take the stairs leading to Rue Large and turn right onto Rue du St Esprit. Then, turn left to stay on Rue du St Esprit and finally turn right onto Place de Clairefontaine.
This square owes its name to a shelter, belonging to the abbey of Clairefontaine, near the Belgian border, and that was demolished in 1933.
In the middle stands a 2.75-metre high bronze woman-shaped statue in honour of Grand Duchess Charlotte erected in 1990.
The Grand Duchess Charlotte is another very dear figure for the Luxembourgeoises. It was thanks to her that during WWII the resistance movement in Luxembourg developed strongly. And it was also her that, after the war, led the country towards European integration and economic development.
The square is completed by several Luxembourg flags that suggest the presence, behind them, of a government building: the Ministry of State (Ministère d’État).
14. National Monument of the Solidarity
From Place de Clairefontaine, head to Rue de la Congrégation and then turn left onto Boulevard Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Walk along the Boulevard and after a few hundred meters you can find the National Monument of the Solidarity on the left.
Rising on the so-called Cannon Hill, this monument commemorates the dead of the Second World War and recalls the resistance and the solidarity of the Luxembourg nation towards the Nazi occupation. The paved inner courtyard symbolizes prisons, concentration camps and barracks. An ordinary, chiselled stone represents the war victims.
15. Judiciary City
From the National Monument of the Solidarity, get back to Boulevard Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then turn right onto Rue du St Esprit and you will find the Judiciary City (Cité Judiciaire) on your right.
It houses 16 courtrooms and 300 legal offices built in modern Moselle Baroque, to match the surrounding area, and designed by Robert Krier. Planned since 1991, it was officially inaugurated in 2008.
From there you can enjoy another spectacular view over the valley of the Alzette and the Grund, and find the St. Esprit elevator that will bring you all the way down to the Grund.
16. The Grund
The Grund (Gronn in Luxembourgish) is a quaint city district with medieval charm, popular for its nightlife. It’s one of Luxembourg City’s oldest neighbourhoods, dating far back as the 14th century.
It is a great place to wander around, in both summer and winter, to enjoy a stroll among its trees, stone buildings, ancient bridges and beautiful landscapes. And, simply look up anytime you can relish the magnificent view of the green heights and historic buildings of the Ville-Haute.
We spent the evening there, wandering and admiring the views.
After having dinner, we walked all the way back to our hotel and enjoyed a night beautiful variant of almost all we had seen during the day. We left Luxembourg and Luxembourg City the day after.
As said, Luxembourg was not on the top of our bucket list. It was not even on that list, to be honest. We booked this trip without expectations, thinking that in the worst-case scenario we would spend the weekend travelling, that is what we are most passionate about, and add another check in the list of countries we visited together.
Once there, though, Luxembourg City was able not only to win out over our scepticism but also pleasantly surprised us. It made us appreciate it for what it is: a beautiful, neat and clean city with lots of historical value and heritage, a great desire to keep pace with the other European capitals without sacrificing its identity, and the willingness and commitment to offer to its citizens, in the first place, and tourists, secondly, an amazing experience.
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