Tucked away in the centre of Europe between Germany, Belgium, and France, the tiny nation of Luxembourg is rarely on Euro travellers itineraries. That’s a real shame, as they are missing out on a real hidden gem of Europe, a gorgeous nation of castles, valleys, wonderful countryside and one of the most unique capital cities on the continent.
For our weekend in the Grand Duchy, we drove down from our home in Brussels on Friday evening. One of the best things about living in central Europe is how accessible everything is, especially from Belgium, where you can be in France or the Netherlands in just over an hour by car, and Germany and Luxembourg in a little over two.
After resting up for the evening, we set out into Luxembourg city on Saturday morning. The first thing that strikes you is just how green the city is. It is surrounded by gorges which are used as parks, full of trees and places to sit down and take it easy. We’d get to that later…
Luxembourg is very much a city with two personalities. We started in the first, the old town, following the Chemin de la Corniche, a pedestrian walkway along the clifftop and often described as ‘Europe’s most beautiful balcony’ due to its wonderful views. We stopped off on the way to have lunch on the charming main square, Place Guillaume II, before heading on to the Casemates, 18th century fortifications carved into the cliffs.
We then made our way to the second, Kirchberg Plateau, an area of new buildings including art galleries, fancy hotels and European Parliament buildings. If you’re a fan of modern architecture, then this is the area for you. Highlights include the Philharmonie, home of the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra, the MUDAM Museum of Modern Art and the Melia Hotel. We then headed back to our hotel, via the beautiful, bustling parks. Luxembourg City isn’t particularly big, but we’d walked a fair few miles that day, so we rested in the evening before setting out on Sunday morning.
As we felt we’d pretty much seen the capital city, we decided to head into the countryside, choosing the places that weren’t too far off our route back to Belgium and that had the most positive descriptions in our guidebook!
First off, we headed to Vianden, one of Luxembourg’s most popular tourist attractions, with good reason. A quaint town with winding streets and pavement cafes, the main attraction is the Château that sits on the hill overlooking the town. It looks exactly the way you want a European castle to look, evoking fairy tales of yore with its towers and turrets. Built in the 11th century, it fell it into disrepair until its reconstruction in 1977 and they’ve done a wonderful job of restoring it to its former glory.
Next stop was the Chateau de Bourscheid, another 1000-year-old castle. Altogether more remote than the castle in Vianden, its position high on the hill gives spectacular views of the valleys that surround it. Not a complete castle by any means, it still offers a fascinating insight into the history of the area.
Our final destination was Esch-sur-Sure, a tiny village described in our guide as one of Europe’s prettiest. A beautifully scenic place, it sits on the bend in the river, and just like everywhere in Luxembourg it seems, has a castle up on the hill. This castle has been truly ravaged by time and while it isn’t in the best condition, I enjoyed clambering over the walls and ramparts, exploring what has been left behind.
It was the perfect place to finish our weekend in Luxembourg, as we sat by the river with a cup of tea before heading back onto the road, and home to Belgium. Luxembourg may be a tiny place, but it packs an awful lot in, and deserves higher profile for European holidaymakers.
Article and all photos taken by regular contributor James Taylor. Find more of his photos on Instagram @theteacherjames