Exploring ancient castles and the capital city of Luxembourg - one of the most underrated tourist destinations in Western Europe
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Luxembourg1 day / July 2020
Highs & Lows
The country is so small that you can explore most of to within a weekend
Although centrally located, it is still 3-4h drive away from other big cities such as Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam or Frankfurt
Luxembourg! Although smaller than London in terms of size, and much more in terms of population (it has less than 650 000 inhabitants), this marvellous country is a home for more than 100 castles dating back from the 16th century, and it is one of the greenest countries in Europe, whereas many exceptionally beautiful circular walks are scattered inside its borders. Those were few of the reasons why I suggested exploring it for a weekend to a group of friends. At this point of time we were located in Venlo, the Netherlands – 2h drive away from Luxembourg. Easy.
Since I spent 6 months after this experience doing an internship there, I was able to discover more of this country and the city of Luxembourg, therefore I will unfold this narrative in a more elaborate way, giving tips for some restaurants and sharing some of the country's history and economic development.
We started our trip early in the morning so we could take advantage of the whole day and drove through the plains in the south of the Netherlands and the north of Belgium. Needless to mention to most of the readers, those countries are in the Schengen area of Europe Union, meaning that there are no borders. As you can imagine this makes travelling simple and quick. We enjoyed a lot the south of Belgium, in particular, due to its picturesque landscapes of hills, forests, and lakes. Much of Luxembourg is similar. Most of road was dividing a dense forest into two. What an enjoyable ride that was. Naturally, at a certain moment it was time for a stop, and so we did at Clervaux castle. It is located in the north part of the country, a 30 min drive away from the capital. Historians believe the castle was built in 12th century and greatly expanded in 15th century. Clervaux castle now houses the offices of local government, the local tourist office, a magnificent collection of models of Luxembourg's fortified castles and the Museum of the Battle of the Bulge exhibiting weapons from the Second World War. It is located on top of the hill, where one could enjoy a panoramic view of the town of Clervaux. After spending more than an hour there, it was time to continue to the capital Luxembourg city where we were about to spend the night.
Just after a bit more than 30 mins we entered Luxembourg city. We decided to park the car in the neighborhood Kirchberg to avoid dealing with the nasty parking one could find at the centre of any big city. Kirchberg is the financial center of the country where most banks, lawyers and auditors are located as well as where European institutions such as the European Commission and European Court of Justice are based. In addition, due to the company friendly tax policies in Luxembourg many big tec companies such as Amazon have established their European headquarters there too. It is also worthile to mention that the country is considered one of the richest in the world. It all begin by discovering a great deal of steel deposits. After the decline of the steel industry in the 1970s, the country focused on establishing itself as a global financial center and attracted lots of capital. During the work week Kirchberg hosts thousands of employees from the neighboring France, Germany and Belgium, however, it is quite empty during the weekend since they are all home. The decision to park there seemed rational at that time but turned out to be less than ideal since there were several underground parking garages just under the main square of the city. Nevertheless, by parking there we could enjoy a breathtaking view of the Grund. Located in a basin, one needs to go down via the Saint-Esprit lift (with a glass floor) or walking the small artistic streets to reach it. But it’s worth it! Walking is the best way to savor the tranquility of the neighborhood. It is surrounded by trees, stone buildings and ancient bridges. In fact, this district has less than 1 000 inhabitants! At the same time, it is very popular place to go out at and it is located just beneath the city center. We decided to have lunch in the area and ate at a cozy place called Uptown Bar. While gently wandering around and digesting the delicious lunch after, we stumbled upon the so-called Bock Casemates – a UNESCO World heritage site and a defense system made up of kilometers of tunnels, initially carved in the 17th century under Spanish rule. Although initially not part of our plan, it was definitely worth the visit. Next, it was time to get some rest, so we headed to our hotel. Subsequently, we spent the last part of the day exploring the city center, shopping, enjoying a glass of wine or Crémant (very popular type of sparkling wine, employing secondary fermentation just like the Champagne does) and eating at the place with the best burgers in town – Grand Café. This was it for the very eventful first day of the trip.
In the morning of the next day, we had a very delicious pastry breakfast at the hotel. Ready for the next destination - Larochette castle, we had to say bye to the beautiful Luxembourg city, but this was not an easy job, I must admit. One other advantage of this small country is that the distance by car from the farthest points is approximately an hour. We reached Larochette in 30min, driving through a dense forest. Once again, this castle was on top of the hill of the city, and it required a short hike to get to the top. However, the weather at that time was perfect, so we enjoyed the hike. The castle itself overlooks the picturesque village of Larochette, and it conveys a similar view to the one that Luxembourg city offers towards the Grund. The first buildings of the castle date from the 11th century. We were told that a fire dating back from the 17th century destroyed the castle and part of it was renovated 30 years ago. Overall, the vibe in the area was very nice. It seemed to be a perfect weekend gateway spot for the people in Luxembourg and the surroundings. We spent most of the day there and in the late afternoon it was time to drive back to the Netherlands. But first we had a final stop in Diekirch, a small town on the road, to get some food.
Q & A
How was the food?
Best pizza in town - La Torre & Ornesto Best burgers in own - Grand Cafe Best sushi in town - Sushishop
Public transport in Luxembourg is completely free for everyone so plan your trip with this in mind. The transport system is efficient and can get you anywhere in the country for less than an hour.
Although it is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and therefore one would expect that it is very expensive, the truth is that the prices in restaurants and cafes do not differ much to what you could see in any other capital in Western Europe. You could get a pizza or a burger approximately for EUR 13-15. What makes the difference is the rent prices, having the cost of the smallest studio starting at EUR 1500.