Europe is blessed to have a number of countries that immediately attracts visitors from all corners of the globe. From Paris to London to Rome to Berlin, the history throughout the continent of Europe is endless. However, what about the lesser known nations that frequently are forgotten? Countries such as Andorra, San Marino, Liechtenstein, and Luxembourg are nations that are unlikely to be top of many bucket lists. Spending time in two of these smaller countries has now proven that they are extremely worthwhile. Having already visited Liechtenstein, our attention switched to Luxembourg. ‘What to do in Luxembourg’ is the million dollar question that you every right to ask!
Hopefully, after reading this post, you will be able to answer this question and perhaps you will be inspired to add this nation to your next European adventure. Regardless of your future travel plans, I hope you will appreciate the rich history that lies within the medieval walls of Luxembourg City. Keep reading to learn more about this historic nation!
Why Explore Luxembourg?
The final leg of our Eurail journey saw us travel from Zurich, Switzerland to Amsterdam, Netherlands. This was a perfect opportunity to explore Luxembourg! Luxembourg is a country that neither of us knew much about except that it is located in the heart of Europe by Germany, France and Belgium.
Having previously spent a day in the beautiful municipality of Liechtenstein, our opinion on these less recognized nations is far from the typical stereotype.
Luxembourg may be small, but it’s certainly worth a visit. The convenient location makes this nation worth experiencing, even if it is only for a few hours or a day while you move between some of Europe’s more infamous countries.
Luxembourg City used to be a fortress city which was completely surrounded by high stone walls, and although the fortress no longer exists, the stone walls remain and are both a historians and architects dream. More on this particular feature later.
Politically speaking, Luxembourg is one of smallest sovereign nations in Europe but proudly possesses the world’s only remaining grand duchy (led by a Grand Duke rather than a King/Queen/President).
Our time was spent in Luxembourg’s capital, Luxembourg City so the following guide only provides details on attractions and landmarks there. I am intrigued to see what is outside of this urban area because if it offers as much beauty and history as the capital, I am sure there will be even more reasons to visit this country.
Casemates du Bock
Luxembourg’s most iconic landmark has to be the Casemates du Bock. The fortified walls that are present today date back to the 10th century when Count Siegfried built a fortified castle. This location quickly became one of the most powerful strongholds throughout Europe and was renowned as the ‘Gibraltar of the North’ given that defenses here were so strong.
For over 900 years this fortress was preserved, until 1867 after the declaration of neutrality when the majority of the defenses were destroyed. The decision was made to maintain the Casemates rather than destroy them, primarily because they were connected to so many other features and tunnel systems that destroying them would have caused so much destruction to the city as a whole.
But what exactly are the ‘casemates’? Casemate is derived from a Greek word meaning chasm and is essentially a bomb-proof vaulted room intended to protect military personnel and equipment.
17 kilometers of tunnels exist and guided tours plunge visitors deep into these casemates with stories waiting to be discovered at every turn. It’s no surprise that UNESCO identified this as a World Heritage site in 1994.
We enjoyed exploring and learning more about this iconic Luxembourg attraction and look forward to heading back in the summer months to delve deeper into the tunnels and experience the real history here.
Adolphe Bridge and La Passerelle Viaduct
If you love architecture, whether it be modern or traditional, the Adolphe Bridge in Luxembourg City will surely spark your interest. The gorgeous bridge takes traffic across the Pétrusse and is almost 140 feet above the valley floor. Construction started at the turn of the 20th century and was completed in 1903.
To commemorate the late Grand Duke Adolphe, the stunning piece of architecture was named directly after the former monarch. Locally known as ‘Pont Adolphe’, this bridge once held a world record for having the longest stone arch bridge at 153 meters. However, this title didn’t last long as in 1905 a German bridge soon surpassed this.
We walked across the nearby La Passerelle viaduct which is also a stunning piece of architectural ingenuity. This is in close proximity to Adolphe Bridge and connects Avenue de la Gare to the Franklin D. Roosevelt boulevard.
This viaduct dates back to the mid-19th century and is renowned as the ‘Old Bridge’ while the Adolphe Bridge is the ‘New Bridge’.
When you compare the two bridges, it’s interesting to notice the design characteristics of both and whether you are an architecture aficionado or simply a passerby, it’s hard not to appreciate Luxembourg’s two gorgeous bridges that play such an integral focal point in day to day life.
Grand Ducal Palace
I mentioned earlier that although Luxembourg is one of the smaller nations throughout Europe, it remains as the only nation with a grand duchy. The official residence of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg is the Grand Ducal Palace and undoubtedly offers one of the most beautiful spectacles throughout the city.
The facade of the palace is breathtaking and the majestic interior can actually be visited during guided tours that take place in the summer months. It’s not every day that you get to explore a palace that is still a royal residence!
If exploring the Grand Ducal Palace is not enough, just a short walk from here is the stunning Notre Dame Cathedral so both of these landmarks are certainly worth a visit to Luxembourg City on their own.
Monument of National Solidarity
Our tour of Luxembourg City continued at the Monument of National Solidarity after walking across the Adolphe Bridge. Located on Canon Hill a short walk from the bridge, this towering monument was constructed in 1971 and serves as a commemoration for those that fought in the Second World War.
This iconic landmark is more than just a monument. It offers the people of Luxembourg a memory of how the nation fought back and resisted Nazi intrusion, but today perhaps the most impressive feature of this is where it is located and the stunning views that are available across the Pétrusse valley.
An eternal flame burns in front of the monument depicting the everlasting memory of those lives that were tragically lost while other features here represent varying aspects of World War II.
Monument of Remembrance
Just a short walk from the Monument of National Solidarity is Gëlle Fra (Golden Lady) which is another important landmark in representing Luxembourg history. This Monument of Remembrance is a perfect companion to the Monument of National Solidarity as it remembers those in the Great War (World War I).
The 21-meter tall obelisk is the focal point though the bronze statue of a lady sitting on top of this tower represents the Greek goddess of victory, Nike!
Even if you don’t have much time to spend in Luxembourg, as you can see there is enough to keep you occupied. The capital city is steeped with rich history and this is reflected throughout the architecture and medieval remnants that are still apparent scattered among more modern designs.
Although Luxembourg may not be a country that you would visit without plans to experience a bordering nation, you should certainly consider adding this to your itinerary even if it is just a day trip. Hopefully, this quick guide will give you a few ideas of what to do in Luxembourg and you will have as great a time as we did…even if the weather is not always favorable (remember you are in Europe!)
Have you visited Luxembourg or any of Europe’s ‘other’ small nations?