It's easy to overlook the Grand Duchy of Luxembourgwhen planning a tour of Europe, dwarfed as it is by its neighboursFrance, Germany, and Belgium. In the global imagination, Luxembourgfeatures as a country known for important banking institutions andEuropean Union bureaucrats.
However, this little country is located at thecrossroads of several major European highways, and if you havereason to travel through it, don't hesitate to stop awhile andprobe behind the glass office blocks and official buildings to finda land of fascinating medieval fortresses, rolling woodlands,sun-drenched castles, and quaint villages.
The entire country is only 51 miles (85km) long and32 miles (52km) wide, but there is a lot in this small package. TheArdennes region is hilly, densely forested and dotted with medievalcastles, best known for being the site of the World War II Battleof the Bulge.
The Mullerthal area is great for hiking, with alandscape of curious sandstone rock formations, waterfalls andforest. The Moselle wine-growing region is picturesque and famedfor its white wines while Luxembourg City has grown up around anancient fortified citadel in a setting that's unique and strangelybeautiful.
The Grand Duchy also has a booming fine-dining scene,including a number of prestigious Michelin-starred restaurants.Luxembourg's long history is concerned mainly with warding off andwithstanding invasion, occupation and siege, which is perhaps whyits people seem a little more conservative than theirneighbours.
This is no more evident in the national motto thatreads: 'We want to remain what we are'. For travellers, theadvantage of this stoic traditionalism is the country's dedicationto preserving history and culture, and the many traditional paradesand festivals to attend.
The mighty fortress established by Count Siegfried atop the Rockof Bock in 963 eventually became a citadel with three girdles ofbattlements, the inner one fortified with bastions, and the othertwo containing a total of 24 forts along their length.
As the centuries passed, the stone cliff foundations underneaththe castle were excavated to form a network of 14 miles (23km) ofunderground tunnels, called casemates, where thousands of soldierscould shelter and workshops for artillery and arms, kitchens,bakeries and slaughter-houses could be housed.
In 1867, the Treaty of London declared that it be demolishedafter centuries of sieges and battles. Despite this, severalsections of the fortress still remain, and the subterraneancasements are open for viewing. Visitors can also enjoy a sound andlight tour on the history of the castle.
The best way to view the remaining parts of the fortificationsis on foot, strolling through the cobbled streets of the old town.Visitors can get a map from the tourist office (on the Placed'Armes). Although the casements officially open in March, theysometimes open later in the year without any warning. Visitorsshould check whether they are open before visiting.
The city residence of the Grand Ducal family is rightin the heart of the old town, and is surprisingly unpretentious,recognisable more by the fact that there are sentry boxes anddetermined looking guards outside, than for any other feature.
The building is, however, quite aestheticallypleasing with its Italian Renaissance facade. Built of ochre yellowstones, it overlooks a paved pedestrian square and features spiresand railings. It was originally the site of a medieval town hallthat was destroyed by a gunpowder explosion in 1554, and rebuilt 20years later.
Those with an eye for architecture will be able totell that the palace was built over various periods. Much of thestructure dates back to the 16th century, although an annex to thebuilding, constructed in 1859, is now the seat of the Chamber ofDeputies.
Guided tours are usually available in the peak summermonths, by arrangement with the Luxembourg City Tourist Office. Butfor the majority of the year, visitors can't explore the castle andit's simply an interesting landmark to pass by and photograph.
The National Museum for History and Art was recentlysubstantially refurbished and contains some major archaeologicalfinds from Luxembourg which include artefacts from the Gallo-Romanperiod and the Middle Ages, displayed in underground galleries.
The collection covers the history of Luxembourg since the firstevidence of human habitation, and it is vast, covering a wide arrayof topics. Exhibitions of fine arts, modern art, medievalartefacts, coins, medals and arms are all on display.
The collection also includes exhibits on local culture andfolklore, and interesting photographs demonstrating how the cityhas changed through the decades. The museum regularly hostsworkshops and temporary exhibitions covering a wide range oftopics.
There is a cafe at the museum for refreshments and during summerit has a sunny terrace for guests to enjoy. There is also a smallgift shop for mementoes and souvenirs.
Nestling behind the barrier of the Ardennes Mountains,Luxembourg City is protected from the cold North Sea winds andenjoys temperate maritime climate. Summers are mild and pleasant,and winters cool to cold.
The warmest months of the year are between May and September,but even at the height of summer Luxembourg City is seldom hot,with temperatures averaging 74°F (24°C). Visitors in the summershould anticipate a noticeable drop in temperature at night.
In winter (November to February) temperatures average 32°F(0°C), with more extreme winter weather in the northern reaches ofthe country, which also receive more rain. Spring (March to May) isa beautiful season in Luxembourg City as the mountains and valleyscome alive with wild flowers.
The best time of year to visit Luxembourg City is in the springand summer, between May and September, when the weather is pleasantand outdoor activities are plentiful and popular. Touristsgenerally avoid winter, which can be dismal, but the country doeshave some lovely Christmas markets over December.
The currency in Luxembourg is the Euro (EUR), which is dividedinto 100 cents. Foreign currency can be exchanged at all Luxembourgbanks and bureaux de change, as well as the airport and postoffice. Major hotels will also exchange currency, though rates arehigh. Major credit cards are widely accepted.
The official language in Luxembourg is Luxembourgish, aconglomerate German/French dialect. French and German are commonlyused, and English is widely spoken.
230 volts, 50Hz. European-style two-pin plugs areused.
US citizens must have a passport that is valid for at leastthree months beyond the period of intended stay in Luxembourg. Novisa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 dayperiod.
British passports endorsed 'British Citizen', 'British Subject'(containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abodeissued by the United Kingdom), and 'British Overseas TerritoriesCitizen' issued by Gibraltar, only need to be valid for period ofintended stay in Luxembourg. All other endorsements require atleast three months validity beyond the period of intended stay inLuxembourg.
A visa is not required for passports endorsed 'British Citizen','British Subject' (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to theRight of Abode issued by the United Kingdom), and 'British OverseasTerritories Citizen' issued by Gibraltar. No visa is required forstays of up to 90 days in a 180 day period for holders of passportswith any other endorsement.
Holders of identity cards issued by Gibraltar authories, andendorsed 'Validated for EU travel purposes under the authority ofthe United Kingdom', do not require a visa to visit Luxembourg.
Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for atleast three months beyond the period of intended stay inLuxembourg. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a180 day period.
Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for atleast three months beyond the period of intended stay inLuxembourg. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a180 day period.
South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for atleast three months beyond the period of intended stay inLuxembourg. A visa is required.
Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid upon theirarrival in Luxembourg. No visa is required.
US citizens must have a passport that is valid for at leastthree months beyond the period of intended stay in Luxembourg. Novisa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 dayperiod.
New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for atleast three months beyond the period of intended stay inLuxembourg. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a180 day period.
The borderless region known as the Schengen Area includes thefollowing countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark,Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy,Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway,Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden andSwitzerland. All these countries issue a standard Schengen visathat has a multiple entry option, and which allows the holder totravel freely within the borders of all the aforementionedcountries. Additionally, passengers not having visible means ofsupport, and those who are suspected of being a danger to publicsecurity, tranquillity or order may be refused entry to Luxembourg.Moreover, it is advised that non-EEA passengers hold return oronward tickets, and the necessary travel documentation for theirnext destination, as refusal of entry upon arrival can lead toserious difficulties and costs for passengers and transportingairlines.
NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at leastsix months validity remaining after your intended date of departurefrom your travel destination. Immigration officials often applydifferent rules to those stated by travel agents and officialsources.
No vaccination certificates are required for entry toLuxembourg, and there are no health risks associated with travel tothe country. Medical facilities are of a high standard in citiesbut may be limited outside of urban areas.
British citizens should carry a European HealthInsurance Card (EHIC) in order to qualify for free emergencymedical treatment. Travellers should have medical insurance whengoing to Luxembourg.
If you require certain medications during your trip,it's best to bring them with you in their original packaging with asigned and dated letter from your doctor detailing what themedication is and why you need it.
Hotel and restaurant bills generally include a service charge inLuxembourg. Porters and doormen in upmarket hotels appreciate smalltips and taxi drivers expect a tip of around 10 percent.
Travel to and around Luxembourg is very safe and the country haslow crime rates. Visitors should take normal precautions againstpick-pockets and petty theft, but trips are likely to be troublefree.
Luxembourg is a proud and stable country, with a culturesurprisingly closed off to foreign influences and marked by formal,even ceremonial, social interactions. European visitors will findLuxembourg's social milieu to be very similar to that of France orGermany, although perhaps slightly more conservative.
Be sure not to put your feet up on tables or chairs, or to pointyour finger when referring to someone, as this is rude. Bodylanguage is quite muted in Luxembourg, and it's considered impoliteto inquire about someone's private affairs unless you know themwell.
French is the language of business in Luxembourg, though someGerman and English is also used. Translators are readily availablebut some effort at speaking French will be appreciated. Businessexchanges are quite formal, beginning with a handshake and anexchange of business cards.
Punctuality is essential and dress is formal, with a suit andtie the norm. Surnames and titles are usually used. Luxembourgersare polite and cautious, and it's important to build personalrelationships. Business hours are usually 8.30am to 5.30pm Mondayto Friday, often closing for an hour at lunch.
The country code for Luxembourg is +352. Free wifi is widelyavailable at hotels, cafes and restaurants in tourist areas.
Travellers over 17 years arriving from non-EU countries do nothave to pay duty on 200 cigarettes, or 100 cigarillos, or 50cigars, or 250g tobacco, or a proportional mix of these; 1 litrespirits with alcohol content higher than 22%, 2 litres of spiritswith alcohol content below 22%, 4 litres of wine, 16 litres ofbeer, or a proportional mix of these.
Other goods allowed include gift items and souvenirs to thevalue of €430 per adult travelling by sea or air, €300 per adulttravelling overland, and €150 for children below 15 years.Providing goods are bought for personal use, there are norestrictions on carrying tobacco and alcohol between the 15original countries of the EU (including the UK).
Luxembourg Tourism Website: www.ont.lu
Luxembourg Embassy, Washington DC, United States (alsoresponsible for Canada): +1 202 265 4171.
Luxembourg Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 72356963.
Honorary Consulate of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg,Johannesburg, South Africa: +27 (0)11 463 1744.
Netherlands Embassy (responsible for representing Luxembourg),Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6220 9400.
Honourary Consulate of Luxembourg, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1286 7285.
United States Embassy, Luxembourg: +352 460 123.
British Embassy, Luxembourg: +352 229 864.
Canadian Embassy, Brussels (also responsible for Luxembourg):+32 (0)2 741 0611.
South African Embassy, Brussels (also responsible forLuxembourg): +32 (0)2 285 4492/64/53.
Australian Embassy, Brussels (also responsible for Luxembourg):+32 (0)2 286 0500.
Irish Embassy, Luxembourg: +352 450 6101.
New Zealand Embassy, Brussels, Belgium (also responsible forLuxembourg): +32 (0)2 512 1040.
Luxembourg is a tiny country, and it's possible to getessentially anywhere in less than an hour. Bus services areexcellent within Luxembourg City, and most routes pass through thecentral bus station, making it easy to get to most places. Astandard ticket is €2, while a day pass is €4. The buses alsotravel out to villages like Junglinster, Mersch, Trier, andWasserbillig.
Bus tickets are valid on the train network, which is relativelycomprehensive throughout the country and connects to destinationsin Germany and Belgium. Renting a car in Luxembourg is also anoption as local drivers are polite and the road system iswell-developed. Parking can be difficult to find on weekends inLuxembourg City.
Luxembourg-Ville, or Luxembourg City as it is often called, hasa UNESCO-listed Old Town and a fairytale, medieval charm whichdraws visitors. The main attractions in Luxembourg include theremains of the Bock Fortress, particularly the subterraneancasements, the Grand Ducal Palace, the Philharmonie Luxembourg,which offers a wonderful selection of concerts and performances,the National Museum for History and Art, and the Passerelle orLuxembourg Viaduct, a bridge built in 1861 which affords incredibleviews of the city. The smallness of the country is an advantage fortravellers because almost all places of interest to sightseers arewithin reach from the capital, allowing for a variety of funexcursions. It takes no more than a quick drive or train trip toreach any number of picturesque ancient villages nestled amongLuxembourg's lovely countryside. Some of the most popular daytripdestinations are Clervaux, Echternach, Mondorf-Les-Bains, Vianden,Remich and Grevenmacher. Another well-known attraction near thecity is the American Cemetery and Memorial which commemorates thesoldiers killed during World War II and is a moving site.
The best time to visit the city, and indeed the rest of thecountry, is in the sunny, comparatively warm months between May andAugust (spring and summer), as Luxembourg-Ville can get a bit bleakand cold during winter.
In a silent forest clearing near the village of Hamm,a few miles east of Luxembourg City, lie the graves of more than5,000 American soldiers killed during World War II, when the GrandDuchy of Luxembourg became a battleground in the Allies' last bidfor victory on the Western Front.
One of the graves is that of the legendary commander,General George Patton, who died in a traffic accident just afterthe war. There is a striking central monument to the dead, and somemaps detailing the Allied progress through Europe. There are alsolists of those who went missing during the war and never found.
The cemetery has become a place of pilgrimage andhomage, maintained immaculately by members of the American BattleMonuments' Commission. The lines of white crosses are a soberingand moving sight and the cemetery will be of interest to patrioticAmericans and anybody with an appreciation for militaryhistory.
Unlike many cemeteries the world over, the LuxembourgAmerican Cemetery closes each day at 5pm. Not far away, at thevillage of Sandwieler, is a German war cemetery with some 10,000graves. While the American Cemetery glorifies the sacrifice of itssoldiers, the German equivalent gives more of a sense of the horrorand futility of war.
The picturesque village of Vianden, situated on the banks of theOur River and guarded by a magnificent restored medieval castle,makes a pleasant day trip as it is conveniently only 25 miles(40km) north of the city of Luxembourg.
The castle dates back to the 9th century and was originally thehome of the counts of Vianden, powerful nobles until the 13thcentury. The ruined castle was restored in the 1980s and now housesa museum that recaptures life in the Middle Ages and recounts thearea's troubled history.
In the small town below, visitors can sip tangy Moselle winesbeside the stream while enjoying the views of the green hills. Thevillage has been delighting tourists for more than a century, andstrolling around the narrow cobbled streets beneath towers andmedieval ramparts feels like stepping back through time.
The surroundings of the town are magnificent and there are manypretty walking trails to be explored using Vianden as a base.Indian Forest also offers fun and thrilling high rope and zip-linecourses for the whole family, which allow visitors to traverse theforest canopies. There is plenty of quality accommodation and somelovely restaurants to enjoy in town.
A 12th-century castle overlooks the village ofClervaux, located in the heart of the Ardennes Mountain region 30miles (50km) north of Luxembourg City. A Romanesque church withtwin spires and a large Benedictine monastery completes thisidyllic setting.
The castle houses three small museums, including onethat features a collection of World War II memorabilia from theBattle of the Bulge. Another room is dedicated to the LuxembourgHolocaust victims, its walls lined with mementoes of Luxembourgerswho died in concentration camps. The castle often closes withoutnotice so it is best to confirm before making the trip.
Behind the castle a road leads uphill to the StMaurice Abbey, built in 1910, where the Benedictine monks sometimeshold Gregorian chant concerts. There is a church service everymorning at 10.30am at the abbey.
The town is picturesque and has numerous appealingrestaurants and cafes, as well as good hotels. It also has acharming little shopping district. Clervaux is easily accessible bytrain and is a popular excursion from the capital. Two days will bemore than enough to explore the little town and itsattractions.
The beautiful town of Echternach lies on the borderbetween Germany and Luxembourg on the banks of the Sûre River, andis widely acknowledged as the oldest town in the country. It boastsa famed abbey, founded in the 7th-century by St Willibrord, whoseremains are contained in a magnificent white marble sarcophagus inthe crypt of the Basilica.
There are also three museums in the town, onededicated to the history of the abbey, another showcasing ancientartefacts, and a third detailing rural architecture. Echternachalso boasts the remains of an ancient Roman villa, thought to havebeen the largest of its kind north of the Alps.
Apart from these attractions, Echternach is perhapsbest known for its unique annual event: a centuries' oldtraditional dancing procession takes place each Whit Tuesday,attracting thousands of pilgrims and spectators.
Although the charms of the town itself areundeniable, Echternach also attracts visitors because of itsstunning natural surroundings. The town is a base for hikers andnature lovers wishing to explore the area known as theMullerthal.
The Mullerthal is a fascinating landscape of curioussandstone rock formations, waterfalls, creeks, springs and forests.Also known as 'Little Switzerland', this region is criss-crossedwith hiking trails and dotted with picturesque villages.
The Moselle Valley is a region in eastern Luxembourg,promoted as a wine-growing region since the 19th century. It hasdeveloped into an important tourist industry thanks to its ruralidyllic atmosphere and environment.
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg shares with Germany thewide, navigable Moselle River, tributary of the Rhine. Along theriverbanks are vineyards that produce a wine which connoisseursrate as among the best in Europe.
A wine tour through the quiet villages and winecellars of the region proves a scenic and relaxing experience. Theprincipal town of Luxembourg's Moselle wine growing region,Grevenmacher, has links to the German bank of the river by abridge.
Grevenmacher is an old town with narrow streets, theremains of medieval fortifications, and a 13th-century belfry. Thetown's claim to fame is the wine cellars of Caves Bernard-Massard,housing internationally-acclaimed sparkling wines.
The cellars are open daily for tastings from April toOctober. There is a small museum in the town, and an exoticbutterfly garden. Grevenmacher is also an embarkation point forregular scenic river cruises on the Moselle, which call at otherquaint villages in the region.
In the Moselle region in the southeast of Luxembourg,nestling in the hills, lies the spa town of Mondorf-les-Bains.Thousands come on holiday every year to enjoy the verdantsurroundings and thermal springs of one of the most modernbalneotherapy centres in Europe.
The town is actually very old, established by theCelts and conquered by the Romans in about 65 BC. The settlementhas frequently been attacked and destroyed in its long history, buthas nonetheless endured.
The Mondorf-les-Bains holiday resort consists of athermal park set in 50 hectares of parkland, offering a variety ofsports facilities and a balneotherapy pavilion with saunas,swimming pools, waterfalls, whirlpools and geysers. The hot springsare said to be particularly good for the treatment of liver,gastric and respiratory ailments, with visitors also pampered bymassages and mud baths.
There is a casino in the town and historical andarchitectural attractions include some interesting frescoedchurches, a Roman fortress and some Art Nouveau-style houses tovisit while on holiday. The spa town has plenty of luxuryaccommodation, great shopping opportunities and some excellentrestaurants.