I have a confession to make: I am fascinated by the itsy bitsy nations of Europe, and I harbor a secret desire to visit all of them some day. Since I am currently a bit homebound while I care for my newborn daughter, I am mentally reliving some of my more recent travels. As such, I am taking it upon myself to add Luxembourg to my Tiny Country Spotlight series today!
Officially named the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, la petite nation is squished into 1,000 square miles between Belgium, Germany and France – Europe’s 7th smallest country by landmass. A remnant of the Holy Roman Empire, this territory stationed in the crossroads of Western Europe has been occupied by many foreign powers over the centuries. However, even as other empires and monarchies fell in modern times, Luxembourg maintained its status as a grand duchy, affirmed by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 after the fall of Napoleon. In fact, Luxembourg is the only grand duchy in existence today.
But, I wondered, what’s so grand about Luxembourg? Last fall on a road trip to explore the Champagne Region of France with some fellow Zurich expats, we decided to include a day in Luxembourg City to see if we could answer that question for ourselves. With only a few hours at our disposal, we discovered six ways to enjoy Luxembourg City:
1. Take in the views from Le Chemin de la Corniche
Every city needs a pleasant place for a stroll, and Luxembourg’s promenade, called La Corniche for short, is the place for a thoughtful saunter. The Alzette River lazily snakes through a row of historic buildings below the castle battlements and ramparts, which staunchly protect this romantic setting from modern intrusions.
2. Admire the architecture
A stroll along Le Chemin offers visitors the opportunity to admire the darling rooftops of the Grund neighborhood. I found those steeply pitched roofs of grey slate and the symmetry of the windows mysteriously attractive and simply delightful.
3. March through the Casemates Du Bock
Because of its central location, Luxembourg was a desirable military outpost of every nearby nation for centuries. In fact, it became known at The Gibraltar of the North on account of the most notable attraction in the capital city: the Casemates du Bock. The Bock Casemates are a network of tunnels carved out of the cliffs underneath the medieval castle ramparts that served as fortified bunkers. Nowadays, visitors can roam what remains of the rocky maze and imagine defending the city against enemy attack!
(Just watch out for the wells…)
4. Indulge in a bit of Luxembourgish luxury
Luxembourg is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Luxembourg City has some serious high-end shopping. Whether in search of elegant accessories or rich chocolates, a taste of luxury is only one credit card swipe away.
5. Swing by some grand landmarks
The official residence of the royal family of Luxembourg is not a building to be missed. With its gorgeous 16th Century Flemish-Renaissance facade, the Grand Ducal Palace is a formidable landmark of the city. In the summertime, the palace opens up for tours.
One of Luxembourg’s most beloved monarchs is commemorated in the city center: The Grand Duchess Charlotte, who reined from 1919 to 1964. She became a symbol of national pride and independence from the occupation of Nazi Germany during WWII. Her statue is located not far from the palace in the Place Clarefontaine.
Grand Duchess Charlotte and other monarchs are interred in the ducal crypt of the Notre Dame Cathedral. Founded by the Jesuits in the 1600s, the cathedral was significantly enlarged in the 20th century. The massive columns of the nave, the gothic arches, and the stained glass windows are some of its most notable features.
6. Fall in love with the green and the gold
With one third of the city’s surfaced covered in foliage, Luxembourg rightly earns the title of “The Green Heart of Europe.” However, when you visit in autumn, green turns to gold – bestowing an extra special sprinkle of enchantment over this Tiny Country Capital.
Although I can’t speak from personal experience, with rolling hills, arcadian hamlets and dignified castles, I imagine that the rest of Luxembourg seems worthy of a Sunday drive. But the question remains: would I include Luxembourg on a European tour itinerary? Probably not. Yet, did I enjoy my visit to Luxembourg City? Absolutely.
Salut! Have you ever been in Luxembourg? Is it fair to compare Luxembourg City and Gibraltar? Did you know that Luxembourgish is a real language? Or that Amazon’s European Headquarters is located in the Grund district? For more fun facts about Luxembourg, check out this article by Expatica.