Luxembourg was never on my radar. This itty-bitty country is known for…well, not much to be honest. Being tiny? But when a friend told me she was heading there for a quick overnight I thought – why not?
Ok, my reaction was more like this:
Surprisingly, it turns out it’s cheaper to fly from Ireland to Brussels (where G was staying) and train down to Luxembourg than it was to fly to Luxembourg. In the end, that worked out really well, as I got to see two Belgian cities – Brussels and Leuven – that I’d never seen before. Sweeeeet.
Luxembourg is pretty awesome, you guys. And it’s completely do-able in 24 hours. 22 hours to be exact! With an extra day or two, I’d love to have explored the countryside and some smaller towns, but the city itself has more than enough to satisfy. I really fell for Luxembourg, which was totally unexpected.
Plus, this country is a bit of a bad-ass.
Exhibit A) Three members of the House of Luxembourg reigned as Holy Roman Emperor during the 14th and 15th centuries. Exhibit B) The original castle was one of the strongest fortifications in Europe. Though it tried to remain neutral during both World Wars, like many places, it wasn’t given much of a choice and was occupied. Exhibit C) After WWII, sick of France and Germany’s shit, Luxembourg became a founding member of the United Nations, NATO and the European Union. Not bad for such a tiny place.
Getting the train from Brussels allows you to see some of the really lovely countryside of both countries. Once you arrive at the other end, it’s just a ten-minute walk from the station to the heart of the old city.
Okay, to be honest, there’s not a whole lot to do in Luxembourg. But, there’s a lot to SEE. Gorgeous architecture, narrow, cobbled streets twisting up and down hills…Luxembourg is a fair amount of exercise just to explore. There’s also a ridiculous amount of fancy-ass shops; think Gucci, Dolce….if that’s what you’re into. There’s also a surprising amount of homeless people, many of whom sit forlornly outside said fancy-ass shops. It’s a strange contrast.
My favourite part of Luxembourg was the view. Not many cities have fabulous views across rooftops without first having to climb onto those rooftops. But Luxembourg’s unique geography means that the old part of the city – Grund – lies on the riverbanks below the high cliffs and promontory of where the fortifications used to be and where the newer section of the city is. Luxembourg is the proud owner of ‘Europe’s Prettiest Balcony’, although who actually decided that is beyond me. A well-deserved moniker, the balcony itself is perched on the edge of the cliff and, like every tourist attraction around the world these days, is bedecked with love-locks.
There are three things I insist you do if you ever visit Luxembourg. The first is to head to the balcony above to see the gorgeous view for yourself (and leave a love-lock…if you must). The second is to head down into Grund in the late afternoon and stroll along the river just as the sun goes down and the street lights come on. It’s definitely the time of day when the place is at it’s prettiest.
The third item on this list is to visit the Casemates du Bock. The only part of the fortifications left are the 20-something kilometres of tunnels inside the cliff face.They weren’t completely destroyed with the rest because of fears of destabilising the rest of the city. The entry is a little confusing to find (go to the bridge, on the left is a view-point on top of a shelter with a UNESCO sign inside. There’s a not-very-obvious stone stair at the back – it’s down there), but the tunnels are fun to explore (and take silly pictures in) for an hour or so. Guided tours are available and would probably be a lot more informative, but just to see the tunnels themselves is pretty cool.
A full afternoon and morning the next day was plenty of time to see what Luxembourg City had to offer. There are also many museums and parks to wander if you have more time to kill. I still can’t believe how fond I am of this place after spending (less than) one day there. Some places just stick with you, ya know?
The train from Brussels takes about 3 hours. Prices seemed to change depending on how many people were booking, with return being cheaper than two singles.
If you’re not on such a tight budget, flying in is also pretty easy. Or, if you’re coming from England, Ryanair do crazy cheap flights from Stansted.
There’s only one hostel in the city, currently costing €25. We decided to give Airbnb a go and loved it. There are a good number of options available.
The Casemates du Bock close during the winter, generally between November and February/March. Tickets were €6 for adults/€5 for students.
For vegans: I highly recommend Beet in Place Guillaume II – they do an amazing selection of vegetarian and vegan food for decent prices. The falafel is to die for. EXKi is another good one – this “fast food” chain is in several countries now, with ready-to-go sandwiches, baked goods and coffees. I found a couple of vegan sandwiches, all very clearly labelled.
So have I managed to put Luxembourg on your radar?
When a love of travel meets a passion for wildlife…
I’m a zoologist who explores the world while working for conservation organisations. I write about my experiences in the hope of inspiring others to follow their dreams and see the beauty of this earth – in a responsible and ethical way.