A bit of history:
Luxembourg City, the capital and the largest city in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (i.e., the country of Luxembourg) has origins dating back as early as 963. Because of Luxembourg’s geographical location within Europe, the city has often served as a grounds for the military. Walls and fortresses have been built around the city periodically starting as early as the 900s, many of which remain today.
So, back to 963; there was this guy, Siegfried of Luxembourg (sounds pretty hoity toity, doesn’t it?) who was a close relative of King Louis II of France. He came to town and decided to build himself a castle upon the nearby Bock cliffs, which he named “Lucilinburhuc” or “small castle”. This marked the beginning of Luxembourg City.
Next big thing for Luxembourg City: the Church of the Redemption was created. This was 20 years after the castle was built. Another important church, the Church of St. Peter, was built in 1120.
Jumping ahead nearly 200 years, new city constructions began in 1340; this also marked the year that Luxembourg City opened up a regularly occurring tent fair, bringing visitors and traders into the city.
Everything looked peachy in Luxembourg until 1443 when the Burgundians, a garrison from Burgundy, led by Philip the Good (i.e., the Duke of Burgundy) conquered the city and made it a part of the Burgundian Empire. His name Philip “the good” rings highly ironic to me; especially for the people of Luxembourg City. Not so “good” for them, huh? Anyway, through inheritance, Luxembourg was passed from the Burgundians to the Habsburgs, and then it became Spanish until 1684.
16th century: there was a fire in Ville Haute that destroyed much of the area. The Ville Haute was/is an area in Luxembourg City that is still home to many of Luxembourg City’s historical sites (e.g., Notre-Dame Cathedral, Grand Ducal Palace) and one of its main downtown areas.
1563, La Fontaine Castle construction began. This was an important castle located near Luxembourg City and was home to the governor of Luxembourg; however, very little of the castle remains today.
Within a few short years, other important buildings were built as the city continued to grow. In 1572, City Hall was built, and in 1603, the College des Jesuits was founded; it originally serving as a Jesuit school and now acts as a local high school.
Three short years later, in 1606, the Neumunster Abbey was completed in an area known as the Grund. It was unfortunately destroyed several times between 1606 and 1720; however, it was rebuilt and remodeled and is still functioning today. Over time is has functioned as a police station and a state prison; it is now home of the European Institute of Cultural Routes, a non-profit organization that aims to assist the Council of Europe.
In 1613, the Church of Notre Dame’s cornerstone was laid. It originally served as a Jesuit church and now functions as a Roman Catholic Cathedral, the only cathedral in Luxembourg City.
Lots of building! Can you imagine how busy these people were during the 15 and 1600s? In 1623, they built the Capuchin monastery which is now used as a theatre. During this time, there were also a series of underground tunnels created under the city as a means of transportation and storage.
Ok, so we know that during this time, Luxembourg was owned by the Spanish. Then 1684 rolls around, and the French are in power. In 1685, the Lambert Fortress was built, yet again aiding in Luxembourg’s strength as a military area. This fortress was almost completely demolished in 1867. When it was intact, it was of great strategic importance for the control of the Left Bank of the Rhine and acted as the border between France and Germany. Luxembourg actually acted as a fortress city for nearly 1000 years until the wall was destroyed in 1867.
All’s good in the hood, right? Nope, at least not for the French. In 1697, the Spaniards gained power over Luxembourg City (again) per the Treaty of Ryswick. This treaty settled the Nine Years’ War which pitted France against the Grand Alliance of England, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, and the united provinces.
After this Treaty was signed, the Spanish thought things would go well, and they did, but only for a mere 17 years until 1714 when the Austrians gained power of the city.
Between 1714-1800, some more important stuff was built (e.g., Fort Thungen, Chateau de Septfontaines, library).
Between 1794-1795, the Siege of Luxembourg took place. This “siege” happened during the French Revolutionary Wars. The French attempted to breach Luxembourg’s strong walls for seven months. Although they were ultimately unsuccessful, the fortress was eventually forced to surrender, and Luxembourg was annexed once again by the French.
This brings us to the 19th century. In 1815, the Prussians gained power per the Treat of Paris. Luxembourg’s first newspaper began its publications in 1821. The Society of the Natural Sciences was established, and Luxembourg City’s population was a whopping 13, 129.
The railway station opened up in 1860.
*Yay* until 1867 when the Luxembourg crises ensued. What is this, you ask? It was essentially a confrontation between the French Empire and Prussia over the political status of Luxembourg. Because of their opposing views, there was almost a war started between France and Prussia, but luckily there was this treaty, “The Treaty of London”. This treaty essentially reiterated Luxembourg’s neutrality between the French and the Prussians. To ensure its neutrality, Luxembourg’s fortresses were destroyed. Luxembourg’s westward walls and underground fortifications were destroyed over the course of 16 years; however, there are many sections of the wall that still remain today.
It’s 1871 and the population is now up over 1500 people to 14, 634. There’s a casino that opens up, and some other museums *not my cup of tea*
In 1890, the city came a part of the independent Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (i.e., the country of Luxembourg).
In the 1900s, Luxembourg City, like many other European cities, suffered at the hands of the Germans. Its population was now up over 20, 000 people, and things were looking good until 1914 when the Germans moved in and occupied Luxembourg City until 1918. The Nazis resided in the area and attempted to suppress what they perceived as alien French language and cultural influences, officially annexing Luxembourg in 1918. In 1940, the Germans invaded again and stayed until September 10th, 1944. Until 1942, Luxembourgers were brought into the German military and nearly 3500 Luxembourgish Jews were killed during the Holocaust. Luxembourg was finally liberated once again in 1945 once being occupied and bombed by the Germans.
Lots of happy things happened after this, like establishing football clubs and erecting important memorials.
The war ended and Luxembourg was left to pick up the pieces. They did, and lots of happy things happened. They established football clubs and erected memorials, and they began to reconstruct and add to their city, building banks, a theatre, churches, and schools.
After World War II, Luxembourg ended its status as a neutral country. Since that time, Luxembourg has continued to grow and thrive and is a bustling banking and administrative city home to over 107, 000 residents.
Luxembourg City. Who goes there? Do you know anyone personally that has vacationed there? I can’t say I know many people who have sought out Luxembourg City as a holiday hot spot, despite it being located so perfectly near Germany, France, and Belgium. And let me tell you….
Luxembourg City was AWESOME! I highly recommend making the trip.
Obviously not knowing what to expect from Luxembourg, we (Ryan and I) were incredibly curious and excited to check out the underrated and seldomly talked-about Luxembourg City. We were on a two week holiday and our venture to Luxembourg was for a mere day trip; however, we had our walking shoes on; we were ready to take on the day and to explore as much as possible in a short amount of time.
We drove our car from Trier, Germany to Luxembourg City (approximately 40 minutes). Driving into the city, my first impression was that it felt much bigger than I had expected. We started our journey by parking in an area known as “The Gare”, one of Luxembourg City’s busier quarters (if not the busiest). With a ton of foot traffic as well as vehicle traffic, the city was buzzing with energy and well-dressed locals.
The buildings were all very close to being one color, either in shades of grey (because they were stone) or yellow. There was an air of wealth to this city with the many nice cars and people dressed in business attire. There were all sorts of people and vehicles, don’t get me wrong; it was just more obvious that this was more of an administrative/banking city than many others I have been to.
Because it was lunch time and we were getting hungry, we decided to make the journey for lunch to a restaurant that was recommended online. We were in search of traditional Luxembourgish cuisine, and so that’s what we would have.
We started our journey by walking away from The Gare, across the Adolphe bridge, over the meandering Alzette River, and to the opposite side of the water to get to the city center. This area was full of cobblestone pedestrian paths with shops and restaurants lining the streets. There was everything from Mango to Louis Vuitton; anything you could want, and more. There was also an abundance of delicious looking restaurants, all of which we would have loved to have dined at, if our hearts hadn’t been already set on a specific restaurant.
We slowly wandered around the streets, admiring the views and discussing our surprise at the busy, bustling, gem of a city.
We continued to walk around the city center, and eventually found ourselves on a path to our desired restaurant. We walked along the water for quite aways and certainly found ourselves well outside of the busting city center and pedestrian streets. Although our confidence for locating this restaurant was dwindling, our internet searches on google maps and trip advisor insisted we were on the right path.
Approximately 15 minutes walking outside of the city center, we found our destination: a restaurant called “Bei de Bouwan”. This unassuming, adorable, café-like restaurant with limited seating was instantly charming. It had a totally local feel and was located on a quiet stretch of road. Although it was (or at least was at the time of this point) the #1 rated restaurant in all of Luxembourg City (according to trip advisor), there were only locals and ourselves inside.
There were only two people working, one of which was the lady who owned the place. Her native tongue was French (or so I think, considering French, German, and Luxembourgish are all national languages); however, she knew enough English that we could communicate what we wanted to order.
Sadly, they were out of their daily special, which was going to be a local dish of goulash and spaetzle. Feeling determined for some local cuisine, we ordered off of the small menu and “settled” for some other delicious Luxembourgish cuisine.
Ryan had a three course meal consisting of a cream of broccoli soup (a-ma-zing – much more so than it sounds), traditional schnitzel with a side of bacon wrapped green beans, and a sweet caramel flan. The schnitzel was fried to perfection, resulting in a lovely light brown color and a nice crispy coating with juicy pork inside, served with a gooseberry gastrique. The green beans were cooked perfectly, still slightly crunchy and uber flavorful thanks to the salty bacon (mmmmm…. Bacon). The flan’s texture was creamy and custard-like with a not-too-sweet, rich, caramel sauce. Yum.
I decided to try a traditional Luxembourgish dumpling called “kniddelen”. The dense, somewhat dry, dumpling could be topped with any number of sauces or other toppings. With the help of google translate, I was able to pick out a kniddelen dish that was topped with a tomato/bacon sauce with peas and parmesan cheese. The salty, tangy, flavorful sauce complimented the relatively dry dumpling. Now, let me explain. These dumplings were meant to be dry, and they were PERFECT for being the base for a sauce-topped dish. Had they been too moist (ugh, I hate that word) or sticky, the dish wouldn’t have tasted right. It was absolutely perfect.
I took a picture of the menu, just in case you were interested (excuse the shadows):
Because we had just walked at least two or three miles to find this tasty little gem of a restaurant, we also decided to treat ourselves to a pint of local Luxembourgish beer.
Full and happy, we were ready to depart on the last bit of our journey in Luxembourg. Unfortunately for us, we had walked all downhill to arrive at Bei de Bouwan; that meant we had a decisively and unavoidably difficult uphill climb on our path back towards the city center. That being said, it probably wasn’t the worst thing considering our binge of dumplings, schnitzel, bacon sauce, and beer.
We trekked back up a relatively large hill for nearly 20 minutes before reaching the start of our next destination, Le Chemin de la Corniche. This was the starting point of a stunning walk overlooking the Grund, another picturesque quarter full of great walking areas and nightlife, stunning views of the castle, and the Alzette river.
Ryan wasn’t having the best time because of his love (not) of heights, but I was taking in the gorgeous views with ease, snapping pictures as I went. This was a walk I would highly recommend for you to do while in Luxembourg. It’s good for people of almost all abilities and allows you to admire what’s left of the fortresses in the city. You may start in front of the beautiful Notre Dame at the edge of the city center, or you can do like we did and start from the opposite end at a beautiful balcony overlooking the old city.
After enjoying our walk and scenic views, we headed back towards the Notre Dame Cathedral, then across the bridge back towards where our car was parked, in The Gare quarter.
Although I had thought we already saw the city center, The Gare was even busier with people and traffic than the old center was. The Gare was also where the train station was. There were TONS of different restaurants and shops we could look at. This area was more open to traffic, so it actually felt a bit hectic in comparison to the pedestrian streets of the city center. We were very surprised and impressed with Luxembourg’s diverse varietals of ethnic cuisines. We found a plethora of Japanese, Thai, Indian, and Mexican restaurants. I even had the chance to stop in at a well-stocked Asian market store. Who knew I’d go all the way to Luxembourg and the things I bought were Asian food products? I guess that’s not entirely surprising considering 67% of Luxembourg City’s population are from foreign countries.
It was now time to go. We got a little lost in the winding streets of The Gare, but we eventually found our way back to the car (thankfully Ryan had dropped a pin on his google maps).
Overall, I was incredibly impressed with the city and I was satisfied with how much we accomplished within only a few hours. I would love to go back and check out the Notre Dame Cathedral, the underground tunnels, and more of the Grund. I could have also been happy eating in that city for months with the number of restaurants and the variety available. Luxembourg City had a big city feel without feeling crowded. With a stable economy, wonderful food, a beautiful city, and kind locals, I can see why so many choose to reside in this hidden gem of a city! I would only hope more people would take the time to visit this surprisingly beautiful and bustling city full of diversity.
My favorite things about Luxembourg were:
- Big city feel, although easily walkable and not too crowded
- Two thriving city center areas with two completely different feels
- Le Chemin de la Corniche walk. Breathtaking views.
- Tasty Luxembourgish cuisine (e.g., Kniddelen)
- Diverse offerings of ethnic cuisines
- Cake and fruit pies
- Bretzel local pastry)
- Quetscheflued, a tart
- Verwurelter, sugar-coated doughnuts
- Cancoillotte, a soft cheese spread
- F’rel am Reisleck, trout in a Riesling sauce
- Hiecht mat Kraiderzooss, pike in green sauce
- Fritur, small fried fish
- Eisleker Ham, marinated and smoked ham
- Judd mat Gaardebounen, smoked collar of pork with broad beans
- Liver dumplings
- Traipen, black pudding
- Kniddelen, dumplings, usually served with bacon or cheese
- Famous for dry white wines and sparkling wines produced along the Moselle river (e.g., Riesling, Pinot blanc, Chardonnay, Auxerrois, Gewurztaminer, Elbling)
- Beer: Bofferding, Simon, Mousel, and Diekirch are popular breweries
- Luxembourg’s national languages are German, French, and Luxembourgish, and it may depend on where you are. Most have some English as well, so you will likely be safe trying to communicate in English along with gestures.
- The train station in The Gare quarter. This would be a great area to stay at a hotel. Lots going on.
- Easily accessible by plane, train, and car.
- Tourist website: http://www.visitluxembourg.com/en
- Although you can easily walk, public transportation is very inexpensive. 4 euro for a day pass.