Shared by our featured writer Becky.
Luxembourg…both young and old…quiet and vibrant…secluded and neutral.
Luxembourg, technically the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, is a small country in western Europe bordered by Belgium to the north and west, Germany to the East, and France to the South. Luxembourg City is the capital of the country, and together with Brussels and Strasbourg, one of the three official capitals of the European Union (EU). It is the seat of the European Court of Justice, the highest judicial authority in the EU. Sounds dull and boring – but not so at all!
Luxembourg City is a place to fall in love with. With about 150,000 residents, it has managed the growth and expansion well for a city its size. It has one of the most successful economies in the world. There is a blending of old and new that is full of history and full of new creation all at once.
Here’s a list of things you must see and do in this lovely city even if you only spend one day there. The list is in no particular order but recommended by the locals. I hope that you too will be captured in the magic of this small unique world that’s blending the old world with a new one.
Spend a few moments with Gëlle Fra, the gold lady of Luxembourg. By the locals she is considered the Patron Saint/Protector of the area. The bronze sculpture represents Nike, the goddess of victory and is a war memorial for citizens who gave their service in World War I and II as well as the Korean War, for fighting for France when the Germans occupied their country and other noble causes.
The monument towers over a beautiful park and is a great spot for a stroll in the Ville Haute quarter of Luxembourg City. There’s quite a story about the sculpture, having been dismantled in 1940 by the Germans, restored but with the lady missing, and Gëlle Fra finally found in 1980 under the national football stadium. The monument was fully restored in 1984 and has been added to over time. While it’s been a little controversial at times, she still stands proudly today as “The Queen of Freedom”. The laurel wreath in her hands is outstretched to place the wreath on the city.
Luxembourg City History Museum provides a history of the city and how it came to be where it is today and the various regimes that ruled the land. Luxembourg City was very small when first settled but grew quite rapidly for its time and continues to do so. Many of the original documents are preserved in glass cases that you can pull out and see. There are models and screens explaining the various eras of rule and what the land looked like. The most interesting fortresses were created around the city and interconnected much of the city until the late 1800’s.
At a warmer time of the year, these casements are open to the public and one can wander around the inner workings – now mostly ruins, and experience what it was like for the military men to be inside and guarding their city. There was also a special photography exhibit of everyday people and scenes from the last several years on display at the museum. It was a great way to spend an hour or two getting to know the city and its history. There is a small fee to enter the museum.
Go to the Chocolate House and order a Chocospoon while watching the changing of the guards across the street. Try the Chocospoon with Bailey’s – so delicious! It’s probably the best hot chocolate on the planet. Your serving includes a chunk chocolate on a stick that melts in a cup of steaming milk. Top it with a very unique marshmallow and whipped cream. This is hot chocolate to die for! A great concept that you simply must experience in a small store with a dining room upstairs – along with great art. It’s a must do event in Luxembourg for sure.
Casemates du Bock
Walk across the bridge from the old city towards the train station and check out the Casemates du Bock if they are open and you are not claustrophobic. They can be slick, dark and narrow with some stairs. (They were closed the day we were there.) These were essentially army barracks during times of war. Built early in times of great threats to the small city, some 23 km of casements were built for protection and used to house the army and it’s needed supplies including their horses.
It’s now a Unesco World Heritage Site and a portion of the casements and narrow stairways used are open to the public. After touring the casements, continue across the bridge and down the walkway to Grund, the lower city. Wander through the streets and find the bottom of the glass elevator. Ride the glass elevator up to the Old City (no charge to do so). Can you go out on the glass at the top and look down? I watched grown men who could not take that step! What a beautiful panorama of the two level city from the top.
Don’t miss the Villa Vauban. This great museum experience was free when we were there. There were two exhibits, and many interactive activities for children. The photography by Edward Steichen was fabulous. He is a native of Luxembourg and they were very proud to have an exhibit of his work there. The house itself has been renovated to fit the art typically displayed. Villa Vauban takes its name from a fort of the old fortress of Luxembourg built by Sebastien Le Prestre Vauban (1633 – 1707), military architect of Louis XIV. What a great use for a restored historical building!
There are many more things to see and do in this lovely city to which we will definitely return. Luxembourg continues to pride itself on being neutral; they open their arms to people from around the world. Go out of your way if you must, but stop and see this lovely country. The summer months offer beautiful nature trails and bike riding…and in the winter there are many cultural opportunities to experience, including many more museums than we were able to see in a day. Enjoy the journey into a city both past and present.