Friday, May 18, 2012

Grand Duchy of Luxembourg

At just under 1,000 square miles, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is ruled by a grand duke and the world's only remaining sovereign grand duchy. We arrived in Luxembourg from Dijon to overcast skies and cool weather, but nevertheless set out across a bridge to explore the capital and largest city which was given UNESCO World Heritage status in 1994.

"Site du Chateau de Sigefroi, origine de la ville de Luxembourg, 963"

Built on a sandstone bluff surrounded by the Alzette and Pétrusse rivers, the city and fortifications are perched high up and connected to the surrounding modern city with several bridges. I had my camera out from the moment we left the hotel as there were fabulous views of the old quarters and city defenses across the Pétrusse river the entire walk to the town.

Once reaching the old center we followed the deep gorge around to the Chemin de la Corniche, “the most beautiful balcony in Europe.” From the Plateau du St.-Esprit to Le Bock, views stretch across the two valleys and the city. Le Bock is a spur of rock that formed the foundations of the 10th century castle of which only one tower remains. In the rocks below are the Casemates du Bock, extensive defensive labyrinths that linked the various parts of the fortress and even served as a shelter during World War II.

"The most beautiful balcony in Europe"

According to the IMF, Luxembourg has the world's highest GDP per capita and this was somewhat evident in the car models with Luxembourg plates that lined up for entry into the car park in the center of town that evening. However, there were plenty of restaurants serving up delicious sounding fare, and between the pleasant outdoor atmosphere and the aromas in the air at dinnertime, I understand why residents choose to converge on old town to eat on a Saturday night. Place Guillaume II was also home to a carnival that evening, and the ice cream cones proved irresistible to two out of four in our party.

The view from Le Bock

In my opinion the two most impressive buildings are the Cathédrale Notre-Dame and the Palace Grand-Ducal. The 17th century cathedral was originally a Jesuit church and the delicate-looking spires were only added in the 20th century. There is a gallery especially reserved for the Grand Ducal family. And the palace, with its three wings; the left (formerly town hall) was built in the 16th century, the right was added in 1741 and the rear in 1891. It was interesting to wander the steep streets, but there is a lack of parks as the plazas aren’t very child-friendly and the green space is restricted to the gorges and the valleys which would take some serious leg muscle to return from. I was also in a bit of a snit as coincidentally the author of The Expats was in town to do a book signing and we arrived at the bookstore 15 minutes too late – I’ve been wanting to read the book and it would have been very cool to meet the author. To think we dawdled at the hotel for 20 minutes and spent another 15 in tiny little Clairefontaine Pl. just a hundred feet from the store that we spotted the posters advertising the event in! In any case I was most taken with the views, not just from the Chemin de la Corniche but as I mentioned earlier, from the bridge, the walk back, but most of all from the top floor of our hotel where I spent three hours the next morning having breakfast with a little 3 month old insomniac.

My three bed-heads
An interesting country, that’s for sure. I enjoyed hearing people speaking the national tongue, Luxembourgish, and although the other two official languages are German and French, most people spoke English as well. If we ever return to this part of the world, I would like to explore the northern part of the country, called Oesling (the Luxembourg Ardennes) with the higher altitudes and interesting geography. However that Sunday morning we were headed east along the North Luxembourg escarpment to Petite Suisse Luxembourgeoise, the little Switzerland of the lower altitudes in the southern Gutland region.


  1. An interesting post and lovely photos. I visited Luxembourg several years ago and remember its beautiful buildings. Thanks for your lovely comment. Bon week-end!

  2. Chère Liene!

    Merci beaucoup pour être venue chez moi voir la FÊTE DE PARIS! Vous êtes bienvenue!!! Oh quel joli pays ici; je voudrais y aller.

    BISES! Anita

  3. Paldies Liene...this looks the history of it all!

  4. This is on my list of places to visit! I hope we can get there this summer.


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