Sightseeing in Luxembourg: A City Guide to Attractions and Public Transportation
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Our time in Scotland came to an end. We said goodbye to Mia and Winnie, the sweet pups we cared for and spent time with during our house sit in the suburbs of Edinburgh. We got to the airport nice and early to take advantage of our Citi Prestige card that gives us access to Priority Pass lounges. One of the big advantages of having lounge access in European airports is that we have a quiet and comfortable place to sit and work while we wait for our flight. This isn’t necessarily the case for all passengers, as gates for flights aren’t announced in advance and seating can be extremely limited depending on the airport you’re flying through. In addition to lounge access, we have a 11 tips on flying and saving money on European budget airlines that you don't want to miss!
Our destination was Luxembourg City, Luxembourg, with a stopover in Birmingham, United Kingdom. We had a two-and-a-half-hour layover, so we again used our Priority Pass to get into a lounge and get some snacks before taking off for our final destination. Luxembourg City is the capital of Luxembourg, and while we’d looked at pictures and had done some research ahead of time, we really didn’t know what to expect once we arrived. Our curiosity grew as we looked out the airplane window on our descent for landing. As we looked down and scanned the city, we felt we were looking down into a scene from a fairytale.
Founded in the tenth century, Luxembourg City was a strategic defensive location. Over nine centuries, fortifications were built that make the city what it is today. Much of the city walls were taken down in the 1800’s due to the 1867 Treaty of London, which ended the city’s use as a military site. The city walls, towers and portions of the fortress that remain in the city are considered unfit for military use. In 1996 UNESCO declared it a World Heritage site. The walls and fortifications, along with the architecture of the buildings, have created an atmosphere that attracts visitors from around the world.
When looking up information on Luxembourg, or just spending time in the city, you may come across it being referred to as The Grand Duchy. A grand duchy is a state or territory ruled by a duke or duchess, and Luxembourg is the last remaining grand duchy. In 1815, gaining independence from France, the Congress of Vienna declared Luxembourg a sovereign grand duchy. Luxembourg is the last remaining grand duchy.
Current day Luxembourg is a central part of Europe. Even though it’s a small country, it’s capital is home to several large companys' European headquarters. It doesn’t take much time being in Luxembourg to notice the wealth around you. Even on the outskirts of town, we watched the cars drive by and couldn’t help but comment that we’d never seen such a high concentration of luxury cars. We looked up the GDP per capita and were surprised to see that in 2016, Luxembourg was the second wealthiest country in the world. Sitting behind Qatar, Luxembourg is almost double the GDP per capita of the United States at over $101,000. It’s known as a center for banking and investment management. With a high minimum wage and a high cost of living, Luxembourg is a very affluent place to live and is also considered to be very safe.
When we landed in Luxembourg, we landed in what’s probably the smallest airport we’ve been in so far. The Luxembourg City International Airport is an extremely clean and modern, single terminal airport. Our hotel was less than a block from the airport, so our commute ‘home’ was really quick and a nice contrast from our typical journey once off the plane. It was our first time staying at an Ibis branded hotel. It’s a budget European hotel, which to us seems to be comparable to the Motel 6 brand of hotels in the United States. It worked out just fine for us, although amenities in the room were limited to the bare minimum. Lodging in Luxembourg City is on the higher end, cost wise, so luxury wasn't something we were seeking. As our hotel was near the airport, it was a bit out of town from city center. As we usually do, we set out to take our daily walk around town. While there was limited sidewalk, we still enjoyed the walk. Luxembourg seemed to be covered in dense trees and green vegetation. Homes and buildings seemed well maintained and people were generally kind. Our first impressions of Luxembourg City were quite positive.
From the hotel, we took a bus into city center each day to sight see. Public transportation in Luxembourg is a network of trains and buses. In Luxembourg City we used buses to get to all of our sightseeing destinations. However, while we were there, the city was in the midst of building a city tram network. There’s basic bus information, including tickets and maps on the city's website. We used Google Chrome’s built-in translate feature to translate the page to English. It’s of course not a perfect translation, but ii's enough to figure out the essentials to navigate Luxembourg’s public transportation. When we arrived at the airport, we confirmed bus and ticket information at the information desk. There are two basic options for tickets when using public transportation in Luxembourg, short term and long term.
- Short Term Tickets – Good for two hours after validation. This type of ticket can be used for transferring between buses. Purchase a short-term ticket for €2, or a pack of ten for €16.
- Long Term Tickets – Good from the time of validation until 4 am the following day. This type of ticket can be used for unlimited rides on public transportation. Purchase a long-term ticket for €4, or a pack of five for €16.
The city is pretty small and most of the attractions are in city center. If you’re staying in city center, you may not need to worry about public transportation and instead just walk. However, do keep in mind that the city is built on a hillside (a natural defense system), so there’s a lot of walking and climbing up stairs and hills.
Tip: We learned the hard way that buses are free on Saturdays. The tourist office we stopped at, kindly let us know that buses were free for the day. Unfortunately, we’d already purchased and validated our Long Term tickets for the day, so we weren't able to get a refund. We sure wish the Luxembourg tourist site or public transportation site had mentioned that! Be sure to double check that this is still the case when you visit.
Luxembourg Sightseeing Itinerary: Two Days
To possibly make your research on sightseeing in Luxembourg (and other destinations) easier, we’ve kept our maps with all of the information we gathered (accurate at the time of our sightseeing). Finding hours, prices, and general information can sometimes be challenging, so we’ve tried to include these details on our maps and provide appropriate links below. We travel by public transportation and every city is different. We’ve included our experience and tips on public transportation so you can learn from our mistakes and not look as lost as we do on day one in a new place. And finally, not every attraction is suitable for every visitor, but the copywriters and marketing departments for the destinations sure make it sound like it. How many times have you read “Great for kids and adults alike” and shown up to wonder why anyone over 20 years-old without kids would go out of their way to be there? Below we’ve included our itinerary with tips, impressions, and our takeaways on each place that, when combined with the official attraction information and website, may help you decide if it’s a destination for your travel adventure or not.
NOTE: We used this sightseeing map for our personal sightseeing adventures, because of that some notes may not make perfect sense, and some information could be outdated. Information on this map was valid at the time of creation. All prices are shown in US dollars but are actually Euros (local currency). That being said, feel free to save it to your Google account and use it as a starting point (or modify it accordingly) for planning out your personalized itinerary in Luxembourg.
Luxembourg Sightseeing Day 1
Meaning “Hollow Tooth”, Dent Creuse is a ruin of what was once the beginning of Luxembourg. Our day started here for stunning views of the city. Starting on this bridge, overlooking the valley in one direction and the old city built into the hillside in the other, was the best way we could have begun our exploration of Luxembourg City.
Casemates du Bock
After taking in the view from Dent Creuse, head to the Casemates du Bock. Follow the signs that will take you down the side of the bridge. Don’t miss the paths on the left side that take you to small windows in the wall for more quaint views of the city. Casemates du Bock is one of two Casemates in Luxembourg City that can be visited. It’s a must see, as the fortress built on the Bock promontory dates back to 963 ACE. Overtime the city was fortified with three rings of walls, 24 forts, and 23 kilometers of casemates. The first of the Bock Casemates were built by the Spanish in 1644. Although most of the fortifications were destroyed, there are still over 17 kilometers of tunnels. Entry to the Casemates du Bock was only €6 at the time of our visit, although, only cash payment was accepted.
Saint Michael's Church, Luxembourg
After exploring the Casemates du Bock, make your way back towards the city. Saint Michael's Church, Luxembourg, also known as Eglise Saint Michel, is the oldest religious building in Luxembourg City, dating back to 987 ACE. The church has a turbulent history and has been destroyed many times, although it has always been rebuilt. The church was last rebuilt in 1688, and refurbished in the 1960's and 1980's. You’ll find the church has architectural elements of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque times. It’s a small church, with an unassuming architectural presence from the outside, but worth the visit to admire its beautiful stained glass windows and appreciate its history.
Chemin de la Corniche: Europe’s Most Beautiful Balcony
From Saint Michael’s Church, head down the road to take in another spectacular view. Known as Europe’s most beautiful balcony, you’ll have views looking back onto the fortifications and Casemates du Bock. Don’t forget to look down into the valley to see the Alzette River running past Saint John’s church.
Next, we continued our walk down the road and passed the Grund Gate, built in 1632. We almost passed it without realizing it, but it's a nice photo opportunity.
Melusina Mermaid Sculpture
Continue on the road as it winds down the hill. As you walk down, you’ll have great views of Wenzell Wall, with its 37 towers and 15 gates along 875 meters. At the bottom, just before crossing the the Stierchen Bridge, you’ll find stairs that lead to a pathway that’ll take you along the bank of the Alzette River. It's a pleasant walk that you shouldn’t miss. About 100 meters down (heading south-west), you’ll find a purple/mauve sculpture of a mermaid. A plaque explains the tale behind the Melusina Mermaid sculpture. The sculpture has a very colorful and international backstory. The mermaid was created using a special 3D printer located in Berlin. From there, the 3D printouts were shipped to Hungary where they were coated with ceramic. Finally, the sculpture was shipped, and assembled in Luxembourg City to celebrate the city's 1,050th anniversary.
Stierchen Bridge (Pont du Stierchen)
From the Melusina Mermaid sculpture, take a few pictures of the Stierchen Bridge and the Wenzell Wall. Then, make your way back to the bridge and cross over. The bridge was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994. Stierches-geescht is a ghost that is believed to haunt this bridge and parts of the old city. If you believe in ghosts, or just enjoy the tales, you’ll appreciate the story of its haunting.
The Second Gate of Trier and the Old Gate of Trier
Continue up the path and up the stairs, and you’ll cross the The Second Gate of Trier, built in 1590. This gate leads to the crossing of Rham Plateau road. Make your way up the hill and pass through the Old Gate of Trier, also known as Jacobs Tower, or as Dinselpuert. The gate was built in the 15th century and had a drawbridge for the moat and a cannon casemate above.
Ravelin Vauban Towers
At this point, you’ll likely have already laid eyes on the three imposing defensive towers. Continue up the hill and turn to your right to get a full view and pictures of the Ravelin Vauban Towers.
National Monument of the Solidarity
Make your way southwest through the valley to cross Maierchen bridge and onto Rue St. Ulric. From here, you can find the panoramic view Pfaffenthal Lift elevator in city center to ease your journey back up, or, if you’re up for it, follow the streets back up the hill. Once up to the newer part of the city you’ll find the National Monument of the Solidarity. It commemorates the solidarity of Luxembourg in the fight against the Nazis, and it’s a memorial for all those who died during World War II. The unpolished and undecorated stone represents the victims of the war, memorialized with an eternal flame.
Next to National Monument of the Solidarity is Passerelle bridge, where you’ll find views of the valley below. From here, you can set your sights on the Adlophe bridge. Unfortunately, during our time in Luxembourg City, it was covered in tarps due to an extensive renovation effort. Below Adolphe Bridge is Pétrusse Park. A park filled with numerous pathways beckoning exploration, especially, if you’re up for a romantic stroll.
Tip: Day one is a full tour through the old city of Luxembourg that explores the wall, defenses, and casemates of Luxembourg. The city of Luxembourg has put together a walking tour of this area, called the Wenzel Circular Walk. You can do the tour with a guide for a cost, or, you can get a free copy of the map, and do the tour on your own. Stop by the visitors center in city center to pick up a copy, or download the PDF map and brochure. We found that the Wenzel Circular Walk supplemented our sightseeing from day one very well!
Luxembourg Sightseeing Day 2
We start day two with the Petrusse Casemates. While we were visiting, the site was unfortunately closed to visitors. However, it was still worth a stop for pictures of the view into the valley, the old city, and the wall. Hopefully, this isn’t the case for your visit, and the Petrusse Casemates will be open for exploration.
Place de la Constitution and The Golden Lady (Gëlle Fra)
Head north up the street to the Place de la Constitution, which is a square that dates back to the 17th century. This square is known for its views of Petrusse Park and the city bridges. Another reason to visit is Gëlle Fra, the Golden Lady. It’s a World War I memorial that was erected in 1923. The granite obelisk is toped by the Golden Lady, The Queen of Freedom, and is a memorial to the 3,700 Luxembourgian citizens who served in the French army and 2,000 of whom died. That is roughly 1% of Luxembourg’s pre-war population. During World War II, the Nazi occupation dismantled and hid the memorial. After the war, the city reassembled it from the parts that were recovered, although the Golden Lady wasn’t found until 1980. The memorial was finally completed in 1984. It’s now dedicated to all Luxembourg soldiers who volunteered for service during both World Wars and the Korean War.
Cross the street and go to Notre-Dame Cathedral, the only cathedral in Luxembourg. Built in 1613, the cathedral was originally a Jesuit church, but became a Catholic church, Church of Our Lady 50-years later. In 1870 the pope elevated it to a cathedral. The entrance to the cathedral is on the city’s main street, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Boulevard, next to the library.
We found the inside of the church to be quite beautiful. We visited mid-day and it was very busy. If you’re looking for a less crowded, quiet experience, we’d recommend going to the church early in the morning. You could easily move this to the first thing of the day, as it’s near the other sites that are at the top of day two. The cathedral is free to visit and at the time of our visit, the hours for visiting the Cathedral were 10:00 am to 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm to 5:30 pm, daily.
Orchestre Philharmonie Luxembourg
For the next portion of our sightseeing, we did a one-and-a-half mile walk across the city, although taking a bus would be a simple alternative. We made our way here because of the stunning architecture we saw in pictures of the building. However, if you have time, it’s recommended to see a concert here as well. Once we arrived, the building was in fact beautiful, but, in our humble opinion, the buildings around it detracted from possible photos we could take. We still enjoyed walking around the campus and taking a few pictures. Plus, we were seeing attractions nearby, so it wasn’t out of our way.
Walk behind the Orchestre Philharmonie and find a path and stairs down to the MUDAM Luxembourg. Both the art and the architecture can be appreciated at this modern art museum. Hours and entrance prices can be found on the Practical Information page.
Around the back of the MUDAM Luxembourg is Fort Thüngen, also known as the Three Acorns. It’s a defensive fort with walls and a moat built in 1732 that was accessible only by a 136-meter tunnel. It was expanded by the Prussians in 1836 and reinforced in 1860. The fort was demolished in 1870 and 1874, leaving only the three towers (Three Acorns) and the foundation walls that were uncovered in 1991.
The remains of the fortress are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fort, walls, and the greens surrounding the area are worth the time to explore and take pictures of. In 2012, after reconstruction of the site, it was reopened to the public and it included the Musée Dräi Eechelen, a museum with a permanent exhibition of the history of the site.
Additional Attractions to Visit in Luxembourg
While our two day adventure in Luxembourg was complete with the above itinerary, there’s more that can be seen in Luxembourg. Keep in mind that interests vary from person to person and the itinerary we created was for our interests. With that in mind, here are some additional and/or optional sights you may consider seeing.
- Grand Ducal Palace – The official residence of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg
- National Museum of History and Art – MNHA displays artwork and artifacts from Luxembourg’s history.
- Luxembourg City History Museum – Displays temporary and permanent exhibits and features an exhibit of the 1,000 year history of Luxembourg City.
- Place Guillaume II (William Square) – A public square in southern Luxembourg’s historic Ville Haute quarter.
- Villa Vauban – This art museum features 18th and 19th century paintings.
- Roude Pëtz – Also known as the Hämmelsmarsch fountain. Look closely, some people say the accordion player is holding up his middle finger as a show of the sculptor’s dislike of the mayor and/or prime minister at the time. Located at the end of Grand Rue by Rue du Fossé.
Continuing Our Travels to Belgium: By Train
Instead of taking a plane to our next destination we took a train. Trains from Luxembourg City central station headed to Brussels leave nearly every hour. There’s no need to buy tickets in advance, as the prices are fixed. Just show up to purchase tickets for €42.40 (accurate as of our visit) and board the next available train. Generally, you won’t have to wait more than an hour. Find more details on trains leaving from Luxembourg to Belgium and other parts of Europe on Seat61.com.
We boarded our train in Luxembourg City and took a scenic train ride through the countryside to Brussels, Belgium, where our travels would take us onward to explore Belgium and all it has to offer.