What to See & Do in Luxembourg City
Overview of Luxembourg
Luxembourg is the kind of country that tends to be overlooked as a travel destination. Maybe it’s because, if you don’t have your geography right, you might need to squint a bit or really zoom in to find it on the map landlocked in between Germany, Belgium and France.
It’s one of the 10 smallest countries in Europe and not exactly a tourist hotspot or the most exciting destination, especially compared to its neighbours, but to us it made it even more appealing to visit.
Luxembourg is the only Grand Duchy in the world where a monarch is the official head of the state. Luxembourg’s Grand Duke Henri though is only a figurehead these days ever since 2008 when he refused to sign a euthanasia bill due to his personal preference, therefore the parliament amended the constitution and they no longer need his signature to approve laws. He is, however, found on mugs, magnets and all other possible souvenirs you can imagine and find all over the country.
Luxembourg has 3 official languages - French, German and Luxembourgish. Our skill of all of these is awfully minimal but even with that limited knowledge we always got confused with which language to use in which situation with all the thank you’s and hello’s.
See & do
We arrived at Place Guillaume II, the city square in the heart of old town, on a Saturday, when it was overflowing with market stalls selling anything from antiques, flowers, veggies, sweets and, appropriate for the time of the year, lots of pumpkins and apple juice.
The nearby Palais Grand-Ducal is the town residence of the Grand Duke which is mainly closed for visitors but it a pretty sight from the outside.
We wandered into Luxembourg’s own Cathedrale Notre-Dame – a stunning example of Gothic architecture with Renaissance elements. A lot of members of Grand-Ducal family are buried there.
Walking along Le Chemin de la Corniche, often referred to as the most beautiful balcony in Europe, will restore your belief in the hype, with its charming views and take you to the most popular attraction in the city.
On your way there, try not to miss the façade on Rue de la Loge that bears the national motto of Luxembourg. ‘Mir wölle bleiwe wat mir sinn’ translating as ‘We want to remain what we are’.
It seems a fitting statement reflecting the spirit of Luxembourgers, considering its history of territorial disputes that still sees Luxembourg independent from all of its neighbouring territories that have tried to annex it many times over.
Cut in the Bock cliff and still standing there from long ago when Luxembourg was one of the strongest fortresses in Europe, Casemates Du Bock is an underground military defence system and tunnel fortifications. Before neutralization of Luxembourg and dismantling in 1867, the defence system was 23km long over several storeys and carved out to the depth of 40m.
Much like Luxembourg, it has changed owners many times over the centuries with the first casemates being built under Spanish domination in 1644 and over time gradually extended by Italian, Spanish, Belgian, French, Austrian, Dutch and Prussian engineers.
During First and Second World Wars, Casemates served as a shelter with the capacity to protect 35 000 people.
It’s certainly unique and you will get lost wandering the tunnels if you’re anything like us. Undoubtedly this place has witnessed a lot throughout its history and must have some great stories so we did wish there was more information on the display in English.
Entrance is free with Luxembourg card, see how to get one and more tips on Luxembourg here.
Musee National d’histoire et d’art Luxembourg (MNHA or National Museum of History and Art) is free to visit for permanent exhibitions and costs € 7 for temporary exhibitions or (again) free with Luxembourg card (it’s really worth it, especially if you are planning to travel outside of the capital.
As one of the temporary exhibitions we saw the mindbending work of one of the most important American modernist artists of 20th century and main representatives of Abstract Expressionism - Hans Hofmann. This exhibition showed the chronological development of Hofmann’s work towards abstraction.
Even if you are not into modern art or any of the temporary displays, there is plenty to see from fine art to archaeology.
In the evening, we headed for the Grund, which is the oldest quarter of Luxembourg city, located in the lower part of it with charming medieval buildings and a wonderful promenade taking you to local bars on the banks of Alzette river where the nightlife happens. We got it covered here.