The city of Luxembourg may be small but it is never boring. There are spectacular viewpoints and walks to enjoy even in the urban centre. There is a long history, an old town to explore, and museums for a wet day. But there are also modern shops, bars and restaurants. And day trips to rolling countryside, vineyards and historic towns. So what are the best things to see and do in Luxembourg?
Viewpoints And Walks
Luxembourg has an astounding topology, with steep cliffs rising from narrow gorges formed by two rivers. The valleys are crossed by a series of bridges and viaducts, creating a complex city layout set on several different levels. This creates a three-dimensional effect: wherever you are you will either be looking up, or down, or both. At times you are so far above the houses below that it feels like looking down on Toytown!
Not surprisingly, one of the most popular things to do in Luxembourg is to seek out the best viewpoints. These include the Place de la Constitution which overlooks the Pétrusse Valley and the massive Adolphe Bridge, and the Chemin de la Corniche. The latter is a path that connects the upper and lower towns, described as “the most beautiful balcony in Europe”. There is a map of viewpoints on the City Information site.
Luxembourg is very walkable (if you don’t mind the ups and downs!) and you are likely to get some great views wherever you go. You’ll also find riverside walks: the Pétrusse Valley in particular is easily accessible and has several hiking paths.
Explore The Different Areas Of Luxembourg
Each area of the city has something different to offer.
The Upper Town (or Ville Haute) is the lively centre of the city, and many tourists will choose to base themselves here. It is also known as the Old Town (although the Grund is actually older…). Notable buildings include the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Grand Ducal Palace, but even in the main shopping streets you can enjoy an eclectic mix of architecture.
Not to be missed is the National Museum of History and Art (MNHA). This is an impressive museum with an imaginative use of space. Five subterranean levels tell the story of the city, and the upper floors are devoted to art and crafts. Incorporating parts of the old city walls, the lower floors descend through time from the Roman era to the Stone Age. A centrepiece of the museum is a large Roman mosaic floor that was discovered nearby. (Displays are only in French but there are English language booklets in each room.)
The Bock is a rocky promontory that forms a natural fortress, and it is here that the city of Luxembourg was founded. You can walk across the Castle Bridge from the Upper Town to explore the ancient fortifications – read more about The Historic Fortifications Of Luxembourg: A World Heritage Site.
Apart from the fortress, the Grund is the oldest part of the city, and here you can enjoy wandering the small streets beside the river. You’ll find further fortifications, as well as the historic Neumünster Abbey, a former Benedictine monastery now used as a cultural centre.
Close to the Grund is the quiet Pfaffenthal area. Take a leisurely walk along the river and discover yet more defensive walls and towers.
If you cross the Adolphe Bridge across the Pétrusse Valley from the Upper Town you will come to the Gare district. This is the more modern area, based around the fashionable Avenue de la Liberté. Here you will find shops, hotels and the main railway station.
A word of warning: if you visit the Gare area on a Sunday – as I did – you may find that the shops and restaurants are closed and that the area is underwhelming!
Eating Out In Luxembourg
Because Luxembourg has a large expat population and many business visitors, there is no shortage of excellent places to eat. I enjoyed several excellent meals in the Upper Town – mostly French but other cuisines are available. I particularly recommend Bazaar, a Middle Eastern fusion restaurant close to the cathedral (booking is recommended).
Note that restaurants can get very busy on a Saturday night and you may need to book in advance. And some places will be closed on a Sunday.
Day Trips From Luxembourg City
Luxembourg is both a city and a country. The city is where the expats (around 47% of the total population) are mostly based, working in banking and the European institutions. On a short visit to the capital, this is the side of Luxembourg you will mostly see. From the tourist sites to the bars and restaurants you are likely to spend most of your time in places frequented by visitors and the expat population.
But there is a whole country outside of the city. I spent a day in Echternach, chosen partly because it was easy to get to by bus. Other possibilities include Vianden with its hilltop castle, or the “Little Switzerland” area of Mullerthal. There are hiking areas, and even a vineyard or two. If you want to pack as much into a day as possible you could also take an escorted trip exploring all the highlights of Luxembourg.
Unless you are here for a long time there is no need to leave the country. But Luxembourg is known as the crossroads of Europe: you are never more than a short train trip away from cities in Germany, France or Belgium.
Getting Around In Luxembourg
The first thing you need to know if that public transport is now free of charge (you only pay if you want a first class seat on the train). Not only is this good news for your pocket, and for the environment, but it also saves the hassle of working out how to buy tickets and whether you need to carry cash. This makes it very simple to take the bus from the airport to the centre of Luxembourg, travel around the city, and move around the country by bus or train. Just remember that you will need to pay for part of your journey if you cross an international border.
The centre of the city of Luxembourg is small and walkable, but there are buses and trams to get around if you prefer. And there are elevators in a couple of the steepest places! It is also possible to explore with a Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus (but this one will cost you, as it isn’t included in the free transport policy).
This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.