Despite being an important hub for the European Union, as well as the banking and other multinational industries, Luxembourg City is one of the least known European capitals. Even though it attracts a substantial population of expats (38% of Luxembourg’s population is foreign-born) and a steady stream of business travellers, it’s not known as a tourist destination.
This is a pity as not only is Luxembourg City attractive – indeed, it’s situation on a number of plateaus and gorges is spectacular – it has all the cultural, historic, culinary and hedonistic attractions that make for a good short break. And if you have more time, the pint-sized Grand Duchy has some beautiful countryside a stone’s throw from the capital.
Luxembourg City has a wide range of accommodation, but non-business visitors will prefer hotels in the compact city centre, the oldest part of town. If money’s no object, the designer Hotel Place D’Armes – situated right on the old city’s central square – offers an opulent experience at prices to match (from €320 per night). Just round the corner, the more modest Hotel Vauban is comfortable and reasonably priced (from €90 per night).
For those on a budget, the best option is the Luxembourg City Youth Hostel which is open to all and close to the old city. It is so comfortable that the Luxembourg hoteliers association have complained that it takes away business from them (from €19.90 per night). The area around the train station, just south of the city centre, offers a host of reasonable options, such as the Empire Hotel (from €50) although parts of the neighbourhood are a little sleazy.
Luxembourg has more Michelin starred restaurants per capita than any other European country. The two star Mosconi, in the Grund district at the base of the old city, offers spectacular Italian food. Luxembourg’s most celebrated chef Lea Linster has her flagship fine dining restaurant in Frisange, a short bus ride east of the city.
The city is dotted with reasonably priced brasseries. One that also serves hearty, Germanic-style, Luxembourg specialities is Mousel’s Cantine, just outside the old city. With a number of locations in the city, the patisserie Oberweis offers chocolate and pastries as decadent and as any in France, Belgium or Switzerland.
Luxembourg City’s top tourist attraction is the Bock Casemates, a complex of defensive tunnels carved out under the old city. Another underground attraction, also in an old casemate, is the quirky Am Tunnel gallery located below a bank near the railway station.
Amongst the city’s host of museums, MUDAM is the undisputed star, with world-class exhibitions of modern art. Designed by the architect Ming Pei (who created the Louvre pyramid) its spectacular, futuristic design is in keeping with its location in the modern business district of Kirchberg.
The compact old city, situated on a plateau surrounded by stark ravines, is perfect for strolling around on foot. The central Place D’Armes is the place to start and plays host to a Christmas market and other events during the year. The Grand Ducal palace and Notre Dame cathedral are a short walk away but the real pleasure of the old town are the views on offer at the Bock promontory, the Pont Adolphe, the Chemin de la Corniche and other points where the plateau suddenly ends.
At the bottom of the ravine to the east side of the old city, the Grund district gazes up the dramatic escarpments along the banks of the Alzette river. A warren of narrow lanes, pubs and old buildings, the area is particularly atmospheric at night when the old city is lit up. Connected to the old city by a public elevator, it’s also possible to take a meandering walk from the Grund along the Alzette that eventually leads back up the cliffs.
Although no longer made in the country, Villeroy and Boche is Luxembourg’s most famous brand. Its high-class porcelain and glassware is ubiquitous in the Grand Duchy and the flagship store at 2 Rue du Fossé, close to the Place D’Armes is the obvious place to shop for presents for the design-conscious.
Luxembourgoise wine can be bought anywhere in the city and the sumptuous food and drink shops along the Grand Rue, next to the Place D’Armes are a happy hunting ground. Particularly worth seeking out is Crémant, Luxembourg’s slightly lighter version of Champagne.
Must Do Outside The City
Luxembourg packs a lot into a small space. If you prefer to spend your 24 hours outside of the city, the Moselle river, which forms part of the eastern border with Germany, is about 30 minutes away from the city and boat trips on the river offer a relaxing way to see the region. The Moselle is also the centre of the centre of the country’s wine industry. There are plenty of opportunities for tasting tours and the wine museum in Ehnen is a convenient place to start.
Half way between the Moselle and the city is the town of Mondorf, location of Luxembourg’s only casino and its best spa, the Domain Thermale. The spa offers a huge range of treatments, a sauna complex and a hot spring bath and is a relaxing place to soak away an afternoon.