Europe,  Luxembourg,  Travel

Luxembourg City: Things To Do

Luxembourg City is a beautiful, extremely walkable European city with a rapidly growing population of just over 115,000 people. Located in the south of the small country of Luxembourg you will find that neither the capital nor the country as a whole is very touristy. All public transportation is free in the country making Luxembourg the first country to do so and as of writing one other country has followed suite, that being another small Euopean country of Malta. Luxembourg City is one of the capitals of the European Union (along with Brussels, Strasbourg and Frankfurt) and is the home of several E.U. institutions. Luxembourg is known as a very international country with Luxembourg City specifically having foreigners represent 70% of the city’s population, whilst Luxembourgers represent 30% of the population. There is a sizable Portuguese and Italian minority as well as a sizable population from Belgium, France and Germany, the three countries surounding Luxembourg. Visitors can expect most information to be in French and German and usually English and Luxembourgish as well.

The Grund is a quarter of Luxembourg City located in the valley below the centre of Luxembourg City on the banks of the Alzette river. The Grund also contains the location where the Pétrusse river joins the Alzette river. Located in the lower part of the city, you will have to go down the small winding cobblestone streets or take the Pfaffenthal elevator, Grund public elevator or the Pfaffenthal-Kirchberg funicular to access it. The views from the Pfaffenthal elevator are breathtaking.

Nestled in the lower fortified section of Luxembourg City, the Grund is known for its cultural and architectural heritage. The Grund has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994. Historically it was the most populated district of the city today and is the least populated district in Luxembourg City with less than 1,000 inhabitants.

Casemates du Bock, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a promontory giving the area its natural fortification. The rocky cliffs above the River Alzette were where Count Siegfried built his Castle of Lucilinburhuc in 963, providing a basis for the development of what would become Luxembourg. Since then the Bock and its fortifications have continuously evolved. The underground tunnels were first built in 1644, in the era of Spanish control. They were added to and reinforced over the years to protect against the Burgundians, Habsburgs, Spaniards, Prussians and French attacks. The constant threat of attack did not end until the Treaty of London was signed in 1867, which proclaimed the fortifications to be demolished. Since then the ruins of the historic castle and the expansive underground system of passageways known as casemates have drawn much attention due to their historical significance and continue to be visited by historians and tourists alike.

The National Museum of History and Art (MNHA) displays artworks and artifacts of Luxembourg history on the Fishmarket in eastern part of the historic Ville Haute quarter.  MNHA is a beautiful modern building that is much larger than it appears from the outside.

Luxembourg City History Museum located just around the corner from Palais Grand-Ducal and a few minutes walk away from The National Museum of History and Art (MNHA) is a museum chronicling the over one thousand year history of Luxembourg City. The building is located near the Casemates and from the balconies you can get a great view of the city and the valley down below. The space is a fabulous mix of old stone and glass complete with a big glass elevator giving you a peak of every floor while riding.

Cinémathèque de la Ville de Luxembourg is a film archive and theatre. It has been a member of the International Federation of Film Archives since 1983. Inside you will find various vintage film posters and equipment. A variety of old and new films in various languages are shown. Typically if a film is not in English there are English subtitles and subtitles in French or German if the film is in English. Most film screenings only cost a few euros.

The Golden Lady in Constitution Square is a representation of Luxembourg’s independance as she symbolically places a wreath on the head of the nation. Officially called The Monument of Remembrance it was inaugurated in 1923 to commemorate the Luxembourgers who died in the First World War. During the Second World War, Luxembourg was invaded by Germany and the Nazis dismantled the memorial in October of 1940. The monument was however saved and now stands again overlooking Luxemboug City.

Notre Dame is a Roman Catholic Cathedral located just down FDR boulevard from The Golden Lady and Constitution Square and dates back to 1613. It is the only cathedral in Luxembourg and I believe well worth a visit.

Place Guillaume II Square  is a main square in Luxembourg City with both a famous statue of Grand Duke William II on a horse and Luxembourg City Hall. Throughout the year the square is the site of many festivals, markets and events.

The Passerelle, also known as the Luxembourg Viaduct and the Old Bridge to the people of Luxembourg City, is a viaduct in Luxembourg City running south into the city centre. Ville Haute, another district of the city, carries road traffic across the Pétrusse valley. It is 290 m long, with 24 arches, and 45 m above the valley floor. It is also known as the Old Bridge by many because it is older than the  ‘new bridge’ being Adolphe Bridge, which was built between 1900 and 1903. The Passerelle was built between 1859 and 1861 to connect the city centre with Luxembourg’s new railway station, which was located away from the city centre to maintain the defensive capabilities of the city’s fortress. 

The Adolphe Bridge is a double-decked arch bridge at the heart of Luxembourg City. Following the demolition of the city’s famous fortification, under the 1867 Treaty of London, Luxembourg City shifted its urban planning from that of maximising strategic impenetrability to opening up the city to allow for easier travel of people and goods. With this transformation from a fort to a modern city talk of building bridges began. The foundation stone of Adolphe Bridge was laid on the 14 July 1900, and it was inaugurated just over three years later, on 24 July 1903.

Galerie d’Art Contemporain Am Tunnel is an underground contemporary art gallery, located in a tunnel as a part of the underground casemates of the city’s ancient fortress. Situated in the Gare quarter of Luxembourg City near the historic The State Bank and Savings Fund in a finance district. Admission is also free!

The State Bank and Savings Fund is the leading national financial institution of Luxembourg founded in 1856. The building is what puts it on this list. Following construction of the Adolphe Bridge from 1900 to 1903, the Luxembourg government asked the Savings Bank and the Railway Company to build a monumental building at the head of Avenue de la Liberté. According to Paul Eyschen, the liberal minister of state at the time, the building is meant to symbolize a new era and the large tower in the skyline to set as a counterpoint to the church tower on the Iglesia de San Miguel in Ville Haute. The building was to be eye catching from across the bridge and infact it is the building that puts it on this list. The building was built between 1909 and 1913 in a Néo-Renaissance style, designed by Luxembourgish architect Jean-Pierre Koenig (1870-1919).

Iglesia de San Miguel is a Roman Catholic church in the historic Fishmarket, in the central Ville Haute quarter. The church is the oldest surviving religious site in Luxembourg City. The first church was built on the location in 987 as the castle chapel for the Sigfried, Count of the Ardennes, the first count of Luxembourg.

Luxembourg City Hall is located on William Square, it was built between 1830 and 1838 in neoclassical style. Stones from an old Franciscan monastery, dismantled in 1829, mainly went into its construction of the hall. The city hall serves as the centre of local government, including housing the office of the Mayor of Luxembourg City.

Palais Grand-Ducal is a palace in Luxembourg City with a beautiful façade. It is the official residence of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg. The building was first the city hall of Luxembourg from 1572 to 1795, the seat of the prefecture of the Département des Forêts in 1795, and then the headquarters of the Luxembourg Government in 1817. During the German occupation in the Second World War, the Grand Ducal Palace was used by the Nazis as a concert hall and tavern and much of the furniture and art was ruined. Following the return of Grand Duchess Charlotte from exile in 1945, the palace once again became the seat of the Grand Ducal Court. Today foreign heads of state are accommodated at the palace.

Museum Dräi Eechelen is a museum in the Kirchberg district of Luxembourg City close to Fort Obergrünewald and Grand Duke Jean Museum of Modern Art. There is a trail leading up to all three from the Grund which is how I got to the museums and fort. The museum is located in the fully restored Fort Thüngen, which was built by the Austrians in 1732 to reinforce the Fortress of Luxembourg. The museum opened to the public in 2012. Museum Dräi Eechelen mainly follows the history of Luxembourg from 1443 to 1903. The musuem has only main plaque and wall labels in English, but don’t let this stop you from visiting. The museum is also free!

Fort Obergrünewald is a historic fort left over from the time that the entirety of Luxembourg City was a fortification. The fort was interesting to explore, however it can feel a bit like a maze once you enter.