“The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg”, is a perfectly acceptable answer to the question, “Where can I go for a mini-vacation?” Over a summer weekend, we had the chance to visit Luxembourg and experience the country’s diversity through its food culture. In this post, we share some of our highlights and travel tips and hope that we can inspire you to visit Luxembourg.

 

Where is Luxembourg?

This was a recurring question we were asked as we prepared to visit Europe’s seventh smallest country. Just to be sure ourselves, we looked it up to confirm what we already knew; that compared to its surrounding neighbours Germany, Belgium and France, Luxembourg is tiny!

Arguably, when it comes to quality experiences, size does not always matter – as we later learned in Luxembourg.

Visit Luxembourg | Philharmonie | Kirchberg

Philarmonie, Luxembourg City’s music and artistic events centre

It seemed only right to fly to Luxembourg, one of Europe’s prominent financial centres, from London City Airport, an airport close to another major financial hub, Canary Wharf. Our LuxAir twin-turboprop Bombardier Q40 aircraft made short work of the one-hour hop to Luxembourg’s Airport Findel.

Did you know? Nearly half of Luxembourg’s workforce commutes into work from another country.Click To Tweet

Proving the possibility of ‘desk to city break in hours’, by noon, we were seated at Kaempff-Kohler, a gourmet café /restaurant in one of the city’s main squares, sampling our first glass of Reisling and lunching on fresh salmon.

Visit Luxembourg | Where to eat | Kaempff Kohler

Kaempff-Kohler is one of several family-owned pastry/delicatessen purveyors to the Royal Court of Luxembourg

Place Guillaume with its many alfresco cafés was the perfect spot to people-watch. Delightful pastry/gourmet shops and bohemian cafés nestled along cobblestone streets tempted our taste buds with ‘Pinterest-perfect’ delicacies and invited more than a casual glance at their window displays.

Visit Luxembourg | Where to eat | Kaempff Kohler

HDYTI Tip: Foodies will enjoy a weekly farmers’ market which takes place in the main square at Place Guillaume, opposite the Luxembourg City Tourist Office (LTCO). This is a great place to sample fresh local produce.

 

Luxembourg’s heritage of diversity

We observed first-hand how Luxembourg’s neighbours have contributed significantly to creating Luxembourg’s cultural diversity. This diversity is evident in Luxembourg’s spoken languages (e.g., Portuguese), cuisine, music, culture and population – over 170 different nationalities call Luxembourg home.

The world’s only Grand Duchy (a state ruled by a grand duke or duchess) has an interesting past. Founded in the 10th century, Luxembourg became a famous military fortress. Over the following centuries, the country changed hands between The Netherlands, Spain, Austria, France and Prussia before becoming an independent constitutional monarchy in 1839.

Kaale Kaffi (coffee and vintage shop)

We gained insight into some of this rich history when we joined a local tour guide to explore a section of the Bock Casemates (beneath Montée de Clausen). This 17-kilometre network of underground tunnels was cut out of the solid rock beneath Luxembourg City and formed part of the country’s defences back in the 18th century. Recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, the tunnels are open to the public.

Things to do in Luxembourg | Bock Casemates | Visit Luxembourg

View of Neimënster from the Bock Casemates

Our LCTO guide, an amiable and engaging historian, took us along the ‘Wenzel Trail’ – a circular walking route which incorporates the tunnels, the Old Town’s walls, cultural attractions, natural landmarks and city vineyard projects. Strategic points along the route provided opportunities for reflection and stunning panoramic views.

Despite imbibing influences from other cultures, Luxembourgers have managed to preserve their unique character over time. This character is evident in the city’s architecture where modern, contemporary structures coexist alongside the historical without disrupting the unique heritage fabric of the city.

Some fading calligraphy on the side of a historic building read:

Mir wëlle bleiwe wat mir sinn

Our guide translated this for us to mean ‘We want to remain what we are’. This phrase best summarises why Luxembourg City is sometimes referred to as a ‘city of contrasts’; a global powerhouse with an ancient soul.

Things to do in Luxembourg | Wenzel Walking Tour | Visit Luxembourg

Luxembourg’s more recent history is equally significant. The 1985 agreement to eliminate internal border controls between European member states was signed in Schengen, a small village in the country’s south-eastern wine-producing region, Moselle.

A quick pit stop by the European Museum in Schengen allowed us to see where the physical borders of Luxembourg, France and Germany met – a surreal experience in itself.

HDYTI Tip: A good time to visit Luxembourg is June 23, when the country celebrates its national day. Taking advantage of the good summer weather, visitors can enjoy free open-air events including music concerts and other events celebrating the country’s heritage.

 

Unexpected Luxembourg

Geographically, Luxembourg is land locked. However, this lack of direct access to the sea does nothing to diminish the beauty of the landscape across the country. A very different and totally unexpected Luxembourg awaited us away from the city.

Leaving our Sofitel hotel accommodation in Kirchberg, we drove past towering European Union (EU) buildings and the futuristic Philharmonie as we headed east towards Moselle.

Visit Luxembourg | Philharmonie | Kirchberg

Driving along the Moselle River, which forms a natural boundary between Germany and Luxembourg, we observed that it seemed like a great location for a family vacation, evidenced by the number of locals engaging in water sports.

Luxembourg has the highest rate of car ownership in the world (with 647 cars per 1,000 population). This probably accounts for why we heard several complaints about traffic congestion from the locals. Fortunately, the weekend traffic was non-existent and we soon arrived at our accommodation, Résidence Am Klouschter, an immaculately presented mansion turned modern hotel.

Exploring the Moselle region is a wine lover’s dream. The weekend we visited, over twenty wine-growers and distilleries had opened their cellars to visitors as part ‘Wine, Taste, Enjoy‘, a local industry initiative to promote the region and it’s produce.

Visit Luxembourg | Where to buy wine | Vinoteca Ville

At Domaine Viticole, we were welcomed by Max Lahr, a local wine grower and producer of several Reisling and Crémant varieties. We got more than we expected when, combined with a panoramic vineyard tour, he treated us to wine-tastings and fresh local produce. This was a wine-tasting experience which engaged all our senses.

Luxembourg’s wine producers have recently struggled due to poor yield. We learned this fact later that evening, over dinner from the young manager at wine estate / restaurant, Cep D’Or. This challenge has led to many of them combining wine-growing with hospitality.

Things to do in Luxembourg | Wine tasting in Moselle with Max Lahr | Visit Luxembourg

Did you know? Restaurant Chiggeri, located in Luxembourg City, has the world’s largest wine list (over 2,200 varieties). – Source: Expatica

 

Turn up and hike in Mullerthal, ‘Little Switzerland’

Another unexpected fact we learned about Luxembourg is that forests cover more than one-third of the country.

Blessed with perfect weather, we got a chance to experience some of Luxembourg’s ancient woodland and rock formations during a two-hour hike around Echternach, in Mullerthal (Mëllerdall in Luxembourgish). This area is commonly referred to as ‘Little Switzerland’ due to its outstanding natural beauty.

We had not turned up with any hiking gear and were pleased to be able to use free hiking gear (boots, waterproof jackets and maps) provided by the friendly staff at the Mullerthal Trail office.

A delightful picnic treat awaited us at the end of the hike; a colourful spread of locally sourced cold meats, cheeses, spreads, vegetables and fruit. In Luxembourg, everything tastes even better with Crémant. Thankfully, our guide provided enough to satisfy several parched mouths.

Things to do in Luxembourg | Hiking Mullerthal region | Visit Luxembourg

 

Luxembourg: A country of interesting contrasts

Visit Luxembourg | Where to eat

Travel helps us challenge our preconceptions about other cultures. Our visit showed us that Luxembourg is much more than a boring symbol of faceless European bureaucracy.

Some things remain unclear, however.

Ranked by gross domestic product (GDP), Luxembourg is the second richest country in the world (behind Qatar) and has the highest minimum wage in the EU. However, it would appear that money doesn’t always buy happiness.

The 2016 annual Happy Planet Index (HPI), a global ranking which aims to show ‘how well nations are doing at achieving long, happy, sustainable lives’ placed Luxembourg just behind bottom-ranked Chad (out of 140 destinations). Shocking!

Fortunately, statistics do not always tell the full story.

The warmth and hospitality of our Luxembourg hosts, the natural beauty of this multi-cultural country and the diversity of its food culture demands a return visit. A Twitter account, perhaps linked to Luxembourg’s Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel, captured our thoughts perfectly: ‘sometimes good things come in small packages‘.

Visit Luxembourg | Where to eat | Patisserie Cathy Goedert

 

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Visit Luxembourg | ©HDYTI

Disclaimer: Our press trip was organised by Visit Luxembourg. Transfers, accommodation, meals and experiences were organised by our hosts. However, all views and opinions remain ours. Our sincere thanks go to the staff at Luxembourg for Tourism and Luxembourg City Tourist Office for sharing their insights with us.

Eulanda & Omo Osagiede are London-based freelance writers and award-winning social influencers who run the popular travel, food, and lifestyle blog HDYTI (Hey! Dip your toes in).

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