Luxembourg - The Middle Ages in Europe
Luxembourg is one of the oldest countries in Europe and the last Grand Duchy on earth. Beautiful rock castles and charming wine hills complete the medieval atmosphere. However, it is also a country of contrasts because you see the modern glass buildings of the European Union between the magnificent ruins.
Geography - The small Grand Duchy
In the heart of West Central Europe, you find the small Grand Duchy of Luxembourg - one of the smallest countries on earth. It borders on France, Belgium and Germany and is divided into the three districts of Grevenmacher, Luxembourg and Diekirch. These districts are again divided into several cantons. There is only one city with more than 100,000 inhabitants, the capital of Luxembourg. Besides Luxembourg City, the country has only twelve other cities which are big enough to call them that. The most important ones are Esch-sur-Alzette, Differdange, Dudelange and Nordstad. There is temperate Central European climate in the whole of Luxembourg with mild winters and pleasantly warm summers.
Nature - Smooth hills and fertile vineyards
Luxembourg's Ardennes - called "Ösling" by the locals - cross the country's north and are densely forested. The country is generally smooth and hilly with many European beeches, oaks and maple trees. Between them you see lush river valleys and a vast valley floor. In the south, you find the fertile Gutland. The most beautiful lakes are Echternach Lake (35 ha) and Upper Sûre Lake (380 ha). Luxembourg is crossed by the Moselle, the Sauer (French: Sûre), the Our and the Alzette. The rivers are rich in fish such as trout, zander and pikes. The highest peak is Kneiff with a height of 560 metres. Travellers should not miss out on the impressive landscape of the wine-growing regions at the Moselle.
Natural sights - At the Schiessentümpel Waterfall
Drinking wine in the Moselle valley, strolling along the wine route and marvelling at the 2,000-year-old vines - this is how most visitors imagine their holidays in Luxembourg. However, travellers do not only enjoy the small wine-growing villages along the vineyards. The region of the Mullerthal is also worth seeing. It is often called "Little Switzerland" and is characterised by a fascinating landscape. One special destination the Schiessentümpel Waterfall over three cascades. Not far from it, you find Echtenach Lake in the relaxation centre of the same name. In addition, there is a number of parks and gardens. Examples are the Three Acorns Park, the Mediterranean gardens in Schwebsange, the spa town of Mondorf-les-Bains from the 19th century and the Erpeldange Castle grounds. One last attraction which needs to be mentioned is the Jardin des Papillons ("garden of butterflies") in Grevenmacher, which accommodates a palm house with over 40 butterfly species.
Culture - A country of contrasts
Luxembourg is full of variety. On the one hand, it is a green, dreamy fairy-tale country and Europe's last Grand Duchy. On the other, it is one of the most important financial centres and seats of government with the Council of Europe. Historical heritage and futuristic design go hand in hand here. In the capital, bankers, Eurocrats and EU employees hurry past immigrant families from Turkey and Portugal, while the native Luxembourgers assert their position in the cafes. 135,000 commuters flood the small country every day but the inhabitants do not change their ways. Their motto is: "Mir welle bleiwe, wat mir sin" ("We will stay the way we are.") The Luxembourgish language (Lëtzebuergesch) is one of the most important representatives for the country's independence. About 91 percent of the population live in the cities and towns but these are usually rural and small towns.
Cultural sights - Castles and Pacino
Despite the country's small size, Luxembourg offers an abundance of fantastic cultural sites. The capital's old town was built on a sandstone rock, which is why it is often referred to as "Europe's most beautiful balcony". The fish market, the half-timbered houses in the winding alleys and the terraced gardens make this old city a unique place. In the district of Grund, you can go on historical tours, which bring Luxembourg's medieval charm back to life. Other worthwhile destinations are Vianden with the castle and the foundation walls from the 10th and 11th century, the village of Schengen at the Moselle with the castle grounds and the herb garden as well as the Abbey Museum in Echternach. The city of Esch-sur-Alzette was the shooting location of the "The Merchant of Venice" starring Al Pacino.
Experience - The Umbrella Invasion
Over one thousand shops invite visitors to long shopping tours in the capital. These alternate with creative and practical art projects such as the "Umbrella Invasion" in the Rue Philippe II. Next to modern fashion and electronics shops, you find speciality shops which sell the typical souvenirs such as the ceramic pipes péckvillchen or the delicious Ardenne ham. It is generally worth one's while to explore Luxembourg's cuisine, which is a harmonious mix of German plain cooking and the French Haute cuisine. Traditional dishes are Judd mat Gaardebounen (smoked pork with beans) and Kachkéis (cooked cheese). Travellers are advised to try the white wine from the Moselle region. Visitors who want to know more about Luxembourg's wines should go to Wormeldange, the centre of wine-growing. Walking along the educational wine-growing trail, you have a wonderful view of the Moselle and the opportunity to taste the exquisite wine from the region. The nightlife mainly takes place in Luxembourg City and offers theatre, opera and ballet as well as night clubs, bars and discos.
Activities - Out and about in nature
Typical summer sports such as canoeing, water skiing and riding a pedalo are very popular in Luxembourg. The great reservoirs offer great conditions and facilities for these activities. In the north of the country, you find a great number of circular routes with different levels of difficulty. Some of them have specific themes. Of course, you can also explore Luxembourg by bike. The network of cycling trails is over 600 kilometres long and is being expanded constantly.
Luxembourg is not a typical holiday country and is mostly visited by people who are passing through or are on business trips. This is of advantage as it means that the sights, especially the natural ones, are not overcrowded, so that visitors can enjoy them in their own time. Nevertheless, the capital is well-frequented from May to September. The best time for travelling Luxembourg is between July and August when it is pleasant 25 °C warm.
Discovering Luxembourg means diving into European history as well as taking a look at the future. The country is a must for culture enthusiasts as well as a highlight for every connoisseur and wine lover.