Making the Most of a Weekend in Luxembourg
By Ginger Kern
You’re traveling Western Europe and have two days to spare? Don’t overlook one of Europe’s smallest countries – if you give it the chance, Luxembourg will reveal sights and experiences to you that range from natural beauty and medieval castles to heart-thumping clubs and mystical midnight city walks.
Living as an American expat in Germany, I took every possible opportunity to travel in Europe, but Luxembourg had never been high on my list of priorities. However, when a close friend and fellow expat suggested we meet there for the weekend, I finally hopped on the German regional train from Trier to cross the border and after 45 minutes, arrived at the Gare de Luxembourg.
The two of us were hosted by a CouchSurfer who made sure our limited time there was filled with experiences that revealed the multifaceted sides of Luxembourg.
To give the journey a kick-start, our host took me on a high-speed motorbike tour through the Luxembourg countryside. Throughout the five-hour ride, it got to the point where anything less than 150 km/h (93 mph) felt excruciatingly slow.
At that speed, given that Luxembourg is only 2586 km2 (998 square miles), it’s possible to cover half of the country in an afternoon and quickly reach sights like the picturesque medieval castle in Vianden.
Constructed between the 11th and 14th centuries, the castle is a beautiful example of a feudal residence of the Romanesque and Gothic periods and a noteworthy cultural asset to the region. Open every day at 10:00, adult visitors pay a mere 6€ to explore the three levels of this fairytale-like structure on the Our river, just minutes from the German-Luxembourg border.
The countryside immediately outside of the city of Luxembourg and onward towards the German-Luxembourg Nature Park surprised me with its tranquility, made more striking in contrast to the adrenaline-filled motorbike ride.
The incredibly smooth roads wound along idyllic streams and, once in a while, we stumbled upon waterfalls like la Petite Suisse. We paused to walk along the trails beside the road and noticed visitors climbing the sheer rock walls that border parts of the drive. This small country was turning out to hold some rather lovely surprises, which our host revealed to my friend and me later that evening.
We took to the streets for an introduction to the city of Luxembourg’s night life.
Businesspeople simply slipped from suits into business casual attire for the evening, as the quaint bar and club quarters were jammed with people whose wealth showed. 30- and 40-somethings crowded the streets, sipping strong cocktails outside of the numerous dance clubs and venues.
10€ later and we had ended up in Magnum at 14 Avenue de la Faïenceie, a stylish club with thumping mixes of house, techno and chart hits, swanky VIP lounge areas flooded with champagne, and strict bouncers who assured that the patrons were noticeably better dressed than average club-goers. But be sure that everyone you’re planning on dancing with is at least 21 or, regardless of Luxembourg’s drinking age of 16, it won’t matter how well they’re dressed – they won’t be allowed in to join the fun.
For a low-key alternative after a night of dancing until Magnum closes (6 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays), you could do what we did the following night; our host led us to the city center for some nighttime photo opportunities. Empty streets and a waxing moon made for a peaceful midnight atmosphere; we all took advantage of Luxembourg’s aesthetic charm and enjoyed the lights by night.
By day, it’s easy to relax and indulge with a visit to the Chocolate House Nathalie Bonn, located at 20 rue Marche aux Herbes, just across from the Palais Grand-Ducale.
Built in 1460, the building itself is a townhouse still largely existing in its original style, and one of few of its kind in Luxembourg today. This chocolate shop is a cozy delight and the perfect place for a rich cup of hot chocolate.
To put a twist on the classic variety, Nathalie Bonn created the ‘hot chocolate spoon’, a type of lollypop dipped into steaming milk to create a unique experience. Flavors like ‘strawberry and pink pepper’ or ‘cappucino orange’ are among the 50 varieties of the unusual hot chocolate available, which are perfectly paired with a selection of handmade cakes and premium French and Belgian chocolates.
Our visit to the Chocolate House was a pleasant trip, both for the mouth-watering cakes and the gourmet hot chocolate experience.
After we warmed up, we took a five-minute walk down Rue Notre-Dame to the Monument of Remembrance, the ‘Place de la Constitution’ and visited the ‘Gëlle Fra’ (golden lady) for a history lesson and a perfect photo opportunity with Luxembourg’s flag. This war memorial is dedicated to the thousands of Luxembourgers who volunteered for service in the armed forces of the Allied Powers during World War I.
Poised on top of the obelisk, the gilded, bronze lady holds out a laurel wreath, placing it on the head of her nation. We were reminded of the multicultural influences of Luxembourg’s past, when the country had pledged neutrality during WWI despite German occupation. Thousands of Luxembourgers outside the country served as soldiers in the French army, fighting against their occupiers. Today, Luxembourgers celebrate their national holiday near the Place de la Constitution, the perfect place to watch an epic firework show on June 23rd, complete with musical accompaniment.
The best place for photos at any time of year is along the riverside near the Uewerstad, or “upper city”, as you’ll have a clear view over the river valley below. In fact, a walk through the countless tunnels with hidden adjoining rooms, wandering under stone arches and across small, wooden bridges only enhanced the magical feeling we got exploring the city at night.
Our general impression of Luxembourg?
It’s an underrated destination that more people should take notice of. Yes, the standard of living is high, driving up prices of food and accommodation, but the quality you’ll receive is an expense worth splurging on. My personal feeling? Luxembourg will be a place for discoveries that play with your senses and leave you wanting just a little bit more, which is saying a lot for such a small country! The region is sparsely populated, with only one town (Wiltz) with a population of more than four thousand people.
Little Switzerland, in the east of Luxembourg, has craggy terrain and thick forests. The Moselle valley is the lowest-lying region, running along the southeastern border. The Red Lands, in the far south and southwest, are Luxembourg’s industrial heartland and home to many of Luxembourg’s largest towns.
The border between Luxembourg and Germany is formed by three rivers: the Moselle, the Sauer, and the Our. Other major rivers are the Alzette, the Attert, the Clerve, and the Wiltz. The valleys of the mid-Sauer and Attert form the border between the Gutland and the Oesling.