Luxembourg-City is a city that many travellers overlook because of its small size and the fact that its major sights remain relatively unknown. Don’t be fooled by the figures though, this city has in fact a lot more to offer than its size suggests and should therefore definitely feature on your Europe bucket list.
History and overview:
Luxembourg-City was founded as a small castle in 963 and subsequently evolved into a powerful fortress that several major European powers wanted to call their own. The city was in fact ruled by the French, the Spanish, the Austrians and the Germans and all these historical episodes left their mark on the city in cultural and architectural terms.
The Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg became an independent country in 1839 and the fortress had to be completely dismantled in 1867 in order to meet the independence treaty’s neutrality requirements. This explains why very little of the ancient fortress is actually visible today, except for the largest underground fortification system in the world, the Casemates, which remains intact.
Note that Luxembourg is the only Grand-Duchy in the world and with a population of roughly 600k inhabitants, it is the second smallest EU member state. The city itself has only 120k inhabitants but due to the huge amount of commuter workers from the neighbouring States and from the rest of the Grand-Duchy, the city feels bigger than it actually is. Luxembourg-City is also one of the most international cities in the world, 70% of the residents of the city are foreigners which spawns a unique cultural and linguistic diversity.
Due to the country’s recent economic success, the city has been growing spectacularly over the last few years and massive infrastructure developments (notably a tram line, several large shopping malls and residential towers) are taking shape as we speak. The city is therefore full of building sites which does impair its present attractiveness a bit but fortunately the Old Town and the lower areas remain untouched.
The best area to stay is without a doubt the city centre around the Old Town. Kirchberg is an alternative if you are planning to stay for longer and if you want to see some of the modern parts of the city or if you are on a business trip. If you are on a budget, you will probably end up in the Gare (railway station) area which has some shady streets but overall isn’t too bad.
Hotel Simoncini: One of the best boutique hotels in the very heart of the city. Stylish rooms coupled to a lovely breakfast buffet and an unbeatable location make this the top choice for a short stay.
Hotel Meliã: A great hotel located right on the edge of the modern Kirchberg district. This larger hotel delights travellers with its crisp and modern rooms, its gym and sauna facilities and its great restaurant and breakfast buffet.
The budget option: Youth Hostel Pfaffenthal: One of the only options for budget travellers in the city centre. The Youth hostel offers everything you expect from a modern hostel and benefits from a great location between the Old Town and the Lower City.
Cultural offer and activities:
Mudam: Museum of Modern Art: (3 Park Drai Eechelen) World famous architect Ieoh Ming Pei designed this pompous marble and glass structure which contains several permanent and temporary modern art exhibitions. An absolute must for art enthusiasts.
Old Town and Corniche: The little colourful houses that make up the small Old Town are a joy to behold and the Corniche promenade is an excellent place for a walk and offers fabulous views over the lower parts of the city.
Casemates: The ‘Casemates’ underground tunnel system is the longest set of medieval corridors anywhere in the world. The Unesco world heritage site covers a total length of 17km and some parts can be visited, the two entrances are the Bock Casemates (entrance: 10 Montée de Clausen) and the Petruss Casemates (Place de la Constitution)
Petruss Valley and Grund: The Petruss valley contains one of the most beautiful parks in the city and is part of Luxembourg’s green centre. The Grund area in the Lower City has beautiful picturesque houses and some hip bars.
National Art and History Museum: (Marché du poisson) A nice museum on the old fish market with a large collection of ancient artefacts and historical items.
Fortress Museum: (Rue du Fort Thüngen) right next to the Museum of Modern Art, the Fortress Museum will delight history lovers who want to learn more about the medieval fortress that once constituted Luxembourg’s core.
Wine & Dine:
Um Dierfgen: (6, Côte d’Eich) One of the best local restaurants in Luxembourg-City where you can try all the local dishes such as Judd mat Gaardebounen (pork with garden beans).
Snooze: (27, Rue Philippe II) This small hip pub probably has the best burgers in the country. They are quite pricey but the quality makes up for it and the choice is extensive.
The Tube: (8, Rue Sigefroi) A small pub in the Old Town that attracts a diverse crowd and stays buzzing from late afternoon until 3AM.
Rue du marché aux herbes: One of the main ‘after-work’ streets in the city where bankers, tourists and other residents gather for a drink after work and stay until 1-2AM.
Gotham Club: (14 Avenue de la Faiencerie) One of the top clubs in Luxembourg-City with a chic and modern touch to it.
Gloss Bar & Club: (35, avenue John F. Kennedy) One of the only clubs in the modern Kirchberg district. This small club hosts very varied events, ranging from bankers’ gatherings and after-work events to techno parties and electro nights.
Konrad Café: (7 Rue du nord) One of the best bars in the city centre. The setting is alternative and the clientele is a mix between hip young professionals and expats. Konrad moreover has a great selection of Luxembourgish craft beers and some of the best cakes in the city.
Grund area: One of the coolest areas in the lower city to go out at night with small trendy bars and affluent pubs.
Steiler: (2, Rue de la Loge) The oldest bar in Luxembourg-City has witnessed a certain renaissance during the past few years and is now one of the hottest bars in the Old Town.
Apoteca: (12 Rue de la Boucherie) One of the nightclubs that have gained popularity throughout the last few years. This crossover club is located in an Old Town basement and delights night owls with its cool setting and its great atmosphere that does not stop until very late.
The Pyg: (19 Rue de la Tour Jacob) One of the coolest pubs in Luxembourg-City, situated in the lower area of Clausen and absolutely buzzing on the weekend.
Final tips & verdict:
The centre is easily walkable and the buses are a great way to get to other areas. Taxis are ludicrously expensive and therefore only a last resort option. (Update January 2018: the first part of the new tram line has now been completed but so far only covers Kirchberg business district)
The city is beautiful and picturesque and has much more to offer than most cities this size. Its high liveability coupled to the country’s strong economy has made Luxembourg very attractive for expats which creates a great international vibe. It is definitely a place you should visit, the summer months are the best time to enjoy the lovely cafés in the Old Town and to walk through the cobbled medieval alleys.
Be aware of the complex linguistic situatation in Luxembourg-City. The country has three official languages: Luxembourgish, French and German but most of the city’s commuter workers speak French. English is also widely spoken by the Luxembourgish and expat population and the city also has a large Portuguese community.