I constantly have a list of places I want to visit, and to be honest, it keeps getting longer. You’d think after hitting 30 countries my list would become shorter, but that is clearly not the case. Every time I travel, it opens me up to the possibility of places I’d never thought I’d consider. I think travel opens me up to new experiences and makes me more open-minded, which is why my list is growing not shrinking. Of course there is also that urge to “check off all the countries in Europe”. At least the ones that have direct flights from London Stansted. But seriously, 95% of the places visited are AMAZING, so that means I pretty much keep an open mind when booking travel. When I search for cheap flights, I love finding and good deal and keep an open while searching. Which is exactly how I ended up in Luxembourg. I can’t say that I’d been dying to go to Luxembourg; pretty much the only thing I knew about it was it is small and expensive. Side note: when you visit Luxembourg AFTER going to Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland, suddenly Luxembourg isn’t that expensive. Back to booking travel… I’d always known Luxembourg was easy option, and perfect for a short weekend trip because it’s so small. Soooo, when I found 25 pound return tickets for a three day weekend in September, I jumped on them! It was such a good deal, after all, the parking at London Stansted was more than the price of the roundtrip airfare. I mean, you just can’t pass on an opportunity like this, am I right??? It turns out I was right, because Luxembourg was beautiful and fun. We spent an enjoyable three day weekend there. To be honest, you don’t need 3 full days, you can see a lot in two days if you move at a quicker pace; Luxembourg City is a perfect Friday night to Sunday night trip if flights are agreeable. If you’re driving through, even better – stop in Luxembourg for 24 hours or less and you’ll still see a lot! I went into this weekend with very little research, and just took it day by day, and it worked out just fine.
Our flight landed later in the evening, and since taxi fare is pretty costly in Luxembourg City, we took the bus to save money. The bus was 2 euros a person, and dropped us off at Luxembourg Gare (the train station) which was right around the corner from where we were staying, Hotel Grey. I chose a hotel in the Gare district, because it was MUCH cheaper than staying .6 miles down the road in the city center. Since we try to travel frequently, I’m always up for saving money (without staying in a hostel, that’s not for me!). It turns out the more affordable hotels are closer to the train station, but there is a lot to see and do (shopping, restaurants, markets, street vendors) on the walk from the outer district into the main city center, so you aren’t missing out. We also lucked out with gorgeous, sunny weather, so the walk didn’t bother us at all. This hotel ended up being perfect for us. The room was definitely large by European standards, and had a mini fridge. However, I’d caution you against sharing this room with a friend, instead of significant other. The shower was in a completely see through glass wall, and visible from the entire room. After checking into our hotel, we passed out, with a plan to hit the ground running the next day. We try to get up early when we travel, to ensure we make the most of the short time we have in each city. What is that phrase? Best laid plans…. Ha!
So, we slept in a little. That’s okay, right? It was the first week back to school and I needed it! A summer of relaxation and travel means September is always rough for teachers! Eventually we dragged ourselves out of bed to get ready for the day. Sometimes you just need those lazy Saturday mornings, even when traveling. Since we were trying to be economical on this trip, instead of going out to breakfast, we stopped at the Carrefour Express near our hotel for smoothies, and other breakfast items. This saved us a lot of money and time. I did miss my usual breakfast latte that I always get when traveling, as hard boiled eggs from the supermarket aren’t much of a treat, but it’s healthier, right? We headed to the city center, and wandered around a bit. We had a little time to kill before joining a Free Walking Tour. I love taking Free Tours when I’m traveling, because not only do you save money, but you cut out the middle man. Instead of paying for an overpriced tour through a company, you’re tipping the guide who is giving a “free tour”. Many times, the guides are university students, or young professionals looking to make extra money. Our tour took us to some interesting places, and gave us the history of Luxembourg. Unfortunately, due to crowds and noise on the streets, we could not always hear/understand our guide, but he was passionate about the history of Luxembourg and was doing a great job of sharing what he knows.
Our free English Walking Tour began at the Monument to Dicks et Lentz, in a large square in the city center. Since we arrived early, we wandered through the Saturday flea market while waiting. There are also a bunch of restaurants and shops nearby to browse. The first thing our guide spoke about on the tour, was the Monument to Dicks and Lentz. They were poets in the 1800s who wrote the National Anthem of Luxembourg. The statue has a lion on top, which is an animal that represents Luxembourg. The tour continued on towards the Royal Palace of Luxembourg, though our guide explained that the Royal Family doesn’t spend much time there; they stay in a castle in the countryside most of them. The Parliament of Luxembourg is the building next to (attached to) the Palace. There was a long discussion about the French flag and the Luxembourg flag, which are basically the same, except the Luxembourg flag is a slightly different shade of blue. Totally looks the same to me though!
The next stop on the tour was the Church of Saint Michael, located on the city’s oldest religious site. The Church is Roman Catholic, and the original church was built in the late 900s. This particular church has been destroyed and rebuilt several times, and looks pieced together in some respects. It is a small church, but pretty on the inside. We had a chance to stop inside for a few minutes, and it’s worth spending five minutes to see. We didn’t have to pay any admission as you do with some churches in Europe. I’ve developed this habit of lighting a candle and saying a prayer when going in a cathedral, so I did that and walked around for a minute or two. The tour didn’t stop here for long, but it was enough time.
The tour continued to the Casemates du Bock, where we were greeted with stunning views of the city below. Luxembourg is somewhat hilly, and there is a “lower city” named Grund, that you can see from Casemates du Bock. Casemates du Bock was originally a fortified castle built in 963. Eventually most of the fortifications were destroyed. However, there are still many tunnels and passages that still exist. They were used as WWII bomb shelters. We did not have time to go in the tunnels during our tour, but it is possible to visit them. We enjoyed the views from the Casemates and took many pictures. The view of Grund, on the Alzette River is perfect from the Casemates Du Bock. The Grund area is also fun to walk around and enjoy a beer.
We made our way through the city, stopping at smaller and lesser known sites and learning a little more about Luxembourg. The tour ended at Notre-Dame Cathedral of Luxembourg. Not surprisingly, most French speaking cities we’ve been to have a cathedral named Notre-Dame, or Our Lady. Notre-Dame is the only church in all of Luxembourg to earn Cathedral status. It also boasts an impressive stained glass collection inside. Built in the early 1600s, it stands as an example of the late Gothic period, but also has some Renaissance features. Inside the Cathedral Crypt are the remains of former Grand Dukes and Duchesses of Luxembourg. We went inside and marveled at the beautiful stained glass, and walked around for a bit. The Cathedral is more beautiful on the inside than it is on the outside, and is definitely worth a visit.
Visible from the front of Notre-Dame Cathedral, the statue of the Golden Lady stands across the road. It’s a War Memorial, also called the Statue of Remembrance. It’s dedicated to the Luxembourgers who served in WWI but later became a memorial for all wars. Luxembourg remained neutral during WWII, until it was invaded by the Nazis, and then it became part of the Allied Powers. After Luxembourg entered the war, golden statue was taken down and hidden for safe keeping. The more travel, the more we learn cities and villages used to hide their important statues, artwork, and even stained glass, to keep it from being destroyed during World War II. There was only one problem with hiding the Golden Lady… they forgot where they put her! She remained safe in her hiding place until she was discovered in a stadium in 1981. The good news is, she was in tact and indeed safe.
After our tour, we wandered around until we found a place for lunch. We ended up at a fast food place called Les Cocottes. Except, I wouldn’t really call it fast food… it was more like take out, or prepared meals that you could take home, or heat up in the restaurant. You are able to see what you are getting before they ring it up. It ended up being a really tasty and affordable way to have lunch. They have everything from hot meals to side salads to desserts. I ordered a red onion and mushroom quiche and my husband ordered a thai beef salad with a peanut dressing. I would definitely recommend this place; it is fast, affordable, and delicious!
With full bellies, our next stop was shopping! For a small city, there is a lot of shopping in Luxembourg. There are also a lot of upscale stores like Louis Vuitton and Hermes, you know, the kind of stores where you need to be buzzed in if you look like you can actually afford to buy something! We don’t have the wallet for these shops, and we definitely weren’t dressed the part to fool them into thinking we could spend money there. So hard pass on Hermes. Maybe next time, after I win the lottery. Don’t worry, there are some “normal” shops there as well, including many chocolate shops! The chocolate shops were fun, especially when they were giving samples. When we were there, it was some kind of holiday and they had vendors on the streets in front of the stores. While we spent part of the afternoon browsing the shops and vendors, we didn’t buy much at all (and did enjoy the free chocolate samples). Speaking of chocolate, we were excited to find a Leonida’s shop right near our hotel in Gare. If you’ve read my post about Brussels, you’ll recall this was our favorite chocolate shop because it was the best quality for a low price. And it’s freaking delicious; my three favorites are the speculous, anything caramel, and coffee flavored chocolates. While this chocolate is not made in house, it is still just as good, presumably because it is shipped in from the Brussels shop! It’s definitely worth a try, particularly anything with caramel or hazelnut!
While in Luxembourg City, we spent some time in the area of the city named “Grund”. This is the lower city, and it’s often seen in photographs, with the river winding through it. On one end of the city, you can take a glass elevator down, and the other end has an enclosed elevator with no view. You can also weave through the hilly streets and walk down yourself. Grund has several cute pubs and restaurants, as well as charming homes and shops to browse. It’s a must do when in Luxembourg. We enjoyed drinks outside while in Grund, and loved walking around the area.
One of the main attractions for me in Luxembourg, is the Luxembourg American Cemetery. Living in Europe, it has been so interesting to visit many World War II sites, and also very sobering. The events that we learn about growing up, all happened over here, and to see how almost every country we’ve visited has been impacted by WWII, has been eye opening. The Luxembourg American Cemetery is run by the American Battle Monuments Commission, which is responsible for maintaining and overseeing the memorials to American service members overseas. The American Battle Monuments Commission was established in 1923, by President Warren G. Harding. The agency became responsible for overseeing the memorials in the eight cemeteries in Europe that were previously handled by the War Department. Presently, there are 26 American Burial Grounds with 124,000 American buried there, and 30 separate monuments or memorials on foreign soil. These are all maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission, or ABMC. Luxembourg American Cemetery was established on December 19, 1944. It is a World War II burial ground, and the final resting place for 5,073 American service members, many of whom died during the Battle of the Bulge. It is also a memorial to 371 service members who are considered Missing in Action. The city of Luxembourg was the headquarters of George S. Patton’s Third Army. General Patton is buried in the cemetery as well. It is extremely moving to walk along the rows of symmetry and stare at the seemingly endless white crosses of those who gave everything to defend freedom. The real heartbreak is seeing just how young some of those heroes were, and seeing the crosses of unknown soldiers. Luxembourg American Cemetery is a peaceful and moving tribute to the heroes of our past. Definitely put it on your list when in Luxembourg.
If you have the time, tour the Luxembourg countryside! We used the Hop on Hop Off Nature and Castle line and toured the countryside on a comfortable cabriolet bus (the roof closes when it rains). The sides of the bus are all windows, so you have a great view the entire time. It was actually a hop on hop off bus, but it was a green bus instead of red, and looked slightly different, but it’s had the same logo. To be honest, you can’t keep “hopping on and off”. The schedule was very limited, so if you want to make the last bus back to Luxemboug City, you can only stop twice (and that’s if you take the first bus out in the morning). It’s a beautiful tour and a nice way to see the countryside. We stopped in Vianden to see Vianden Castle, and tour the town. I highly recommend Vianden; it’s a such a cute, quaint town, and the castle is amazing! The castle construction began in the 11th century and was restored in 1977. The exhibit inside the castle has detailed information about the different eras the castle was used, and how it looked with all the changes. We spent most of our time on this stop and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a very picturesque town.
We had time to choose another stop on the Nature and Castle Hop On Hop Off bus. Some of the stops are nature points (as the name suggests) and we do love hiking. However, we weren’t prepared for that as we didn’t bring proper footwear. It’s something to consider if you enjoy nature and hiking. Since we were hungry and it was past lunch, we decided to stop somewhere we could eat. We stopped in the small village of Echternacht, and enjoyed lunch and walking around the town. We ate at Aai Echternacht, and my schnitzel was delicious! Let me tell you, I’m not huge into fried food, but schnitzel is the exception. Usually when I go to Germany or somewhere close, I order schnitzel at least every other meal. This one did not disappoint, and I washed it down with a beer. It was a delightful afternoon eating outside in the main square. Afterwards we walked through town, admiring the architecture, and enjoyed some ice cream. The town is right on the German border; in fact a smaller river divides Luxembourg from Germany and you can walk right across into Germany if you choose. It was an easy walk back to the bus stop to catch the last Hop on Hop Off cabriolet back to Luxembourg City.
Luxembourg is a small, but beautiful country. It is rich in history, and has German and French influences, meaning the food is great! Luxembourg also has a lot of beautiful castles in the countryside. The shopping is great, the city is easy to navigate, and the people are friendly. The best part – it’s a small country and Luxembourg City can easily be seen on a weekend trip. If you’re looking for a two day getaway, or day trip from parts of France, Belgium, or Germany, consider Luxembourg City. You won’t be disappointed – it’s a unique country with French and German influences, good food, and friendly people.
When is your next trip to Luxembourg??