Luxembourg: have fun, no fuss in the most secret European country – World Meanderings (n°11)
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, one of the smallest European state stuck between France, Belgium and Germany, is only one hour and ten minutes by plane from London and has much to offer for a long and entertaining weekend. Whether you stay in Luxembourg City or have enough time to discover its varied countryside you will have plenty to discover without having to drive for hours.
Originally created by the Romans at a crossroads of Eastern and Western Europe, Luxembourg City is a picturesque spot perched on top of high cliffs dug by two rivers, the Alzette and the Petrusse Rivers. These two deep valleys shape a multi-level city with many bridges that will take you up and down its twisting streets. The heart of the city beats on the Place d’Armes: this square is the meeting point for a leisurely drink on one of the terraces of the numerous cafés, for an open-air concert or to discover local producers on the Wednesday or Saturday lively and well-stocked markets.
One of the most unusual spot of town is the Casemates du Bock. These tunnels were dug during the 17th century by the Spanish who then ruled the Duchy. Cut straight into the rock the 23 km long casemates sheltered soldiers, food supplies, ammunition and arms in times of siege and also gave shelter to civilians during the two World Wars. With its fortress, its fortifications and its casemates the Old Town used to be called the Northern Gibraltar and still looks quite formidable.
The Grand-Duke’s palace is also located in the city centre. This beautiful 16th century Renaissance style building no longer is the Dukes’ residence but is still used for formal events. It is open to the public from mid-July till early September: a guided tour will allow you to see the impressive reception halls. (Note that the tickets are only on sale in the Tourist Office on the Guillaume II Square).
The capital city also hosts a number of EU institutions and over 200 financial and business companies. In order to welcome them a brand new district, the Kirchburg, was created during the 1980’s and contemporary architects have been hired to show the extent of their imagination and creative power. One after another would-be futuristic buildings draw the attention with their glass façades taking all kinds off geometric shapes. The philharmonic hall designed by Christian de Portzamparc probably is the most remarkable one. Set on a vast esplanade this building looks like a stranded vessel proudly pointing its prow. Once inside you will get struck by the amount of light entering the building through 823 columns erected outside and inside its glass façade, illuminating the huge foyer surrounding the concert room. With its great acoustic quality the philharmonic hall hosts 400 shows and concerts every year, attracting the inhabitants of Luxembourg as well as the innumerable people working for the European institutions: a tremendous success!
the Lower City from the Casemates
Also located in the Kirchburg district the Grand-Duke Museum of Modern Art, the Mudam, combine ancient and modern architecture. A fortress built by Vauban at the request of Louis XIV has been united to a new building designed by Leoh Ming Pei to create an unusual hybrid. As can be expected this union aroused a controversy between heritage proponents and the project promoters! In spite of this endless quarrel the museum is now open and European and international artists are exhibiting their work in its vast rooms. Among them a “chapel” created by the Belgian artist Wim Delvoye will either attract you or put you off: human X-ray scans have been used to fill gothic window frames in place of classic stained glass. Since you have to come close enough to realise that they are real X-ray scans you might like it at first, then feel taken aback when understanding that you’re watching human bones and guts! Provocation or sacrilege… you will make your own opinion but you will surely not remain indifferent!
In the lower part of town in place of what was once the big Mousel and Clausen brewery, now is a new nightlife spot in Luxembourg City. Bars and restaurants settled in the former buildings of the brewery but the brick walls and the old stills were preserved. Italian, Brazilian, exotic or local food… make your choice and let the music take you till the end of the night!
To easily visit Luxembourg you can get the Luxembourg Card that will give you free access to 70 museums and touristic sites and to public buses and trains all over Luxembourg for 1, 2 or 3 days. It costs from13 euro for on person for one day to 68 euro for 3 days for a whole family.
Luxembourg City is equipped with high-speed Internet throughout the city: the Hot City WiFi network allows you to be on line anywhere in town. For 4,90 euro a day or 12,90 euro for a week you can get to the Internet. You can get an access code on line or in one of the many K Kiosk selling points.
For general information: www.visitluxembourg.com
For more Luxembourg City information and to buy the Luxembourg card: www.lcto.lu/en
Text © Annick Dournes
Photos © Frederic de Poligny