Submitted by Claire Autruong on December 12, 2015
Tucked among some of the giants of Western Europe, beautiful Luxembourg is one of the smallest sovereign states on the continent. Don’t let its diminutive nature fool you, however—Luxembourg packs a punch as a day or multi-day trip destination, and makes an excellent stop on a European adventure.
Bordered by France to the south, Germany to the east, and Belgium to the west and north, Luxembourg features the stunning and historical Luxembourg City as its capital and a number of smaller towns. With a population of around 525,000, it is the eighth least-populous state in Europe, but its strong economy gives it the distinction of the highest per capita GDP in the world. Its people also rank highly in enjoyment and consumption of wine, and are more than happy to let tourists join this fine tradition.
Tourists can enjoy the beauty of Luxembourg City and all its historical and metropolitan offerings, as well as taking side trips to visit the picturesque villages nearby, where a vista of rolling hills, winding rivers, vine-covered hillsides awaits, along with a view of Luxembourg city’s almost fairytale-like towers in the distance. Luxembourg is a wonderful destination for those interested in a quieter pace, gorgeous historic castles and churches, enjoying an outdoor stroll through a cobbled city center, and leisurely bike rides or mountain bike trips to some of the most beautiful spots in the country.
When to Travel – Weather
Luxembourg’s climate is temperate and similar to its neighbors France, Germany and Belgium. The weather tends to be mild year-round, without large swings in temperature. Luxembourg will not be as crowded a destination as other European countries regardless of the time of year.
Tourists should keep in mind that summer is the most popular time to visit Luxembourg, with the warmest weather and the best chance to take advantage of outdoor activities. Spring offers cooler but still very pleasant temperatures, and December brings Christmas markets and dazzling lights in Luxembourg City. Wine enthusiasts will want to visit in early fall when the grapes are harvested. In November, January and February, the weather tends to be less welcoming and some venues around the country could be closed.
Food and Drink
Luxembourg food and drink shows its dual German and French heritage, featuring enormous portion sizes from the hearty German tradition combined with the refinement and culinary flair typical of the French school of cooking. Local specialties include freshwater fish, pike and crayfish that should not be missed, as well as cakes and pastries prepared with local kirsch liqueur. In the northern areas of the country, tourists can find plenty of schnitzel and other German-based cuisines, as many establishments in that region cater to predominantly German tourists.
One of the most traditional Luxembourg specialties is judd mat gaardebounen, a dish of smoked pork collar and broad beans, and classically enjoyed with a glass of Moselle wine or local beer. This delicious dish is usually served in enormous portion sizes, so be prepared to share or arrive with a hearty appetite.
On the sweet side, classic Luxembourgish pastries include the bretzel, a Luxembourgish take on the Germanic pretzel; the quetschentaart, an open fruit tart made with zwetschegen (damsons); and the äppelklatzen, a dish of apples in pastry crust. Travelers can also enjoy plenty of deliciously executed traditional French pastries.
Luxembourgers love for wine reflects the tradition of both the neighboring German Mosel region and the French Alsace region. Luxembourg wines usually come from single grape varieties, including pinots (both blanc and gris) and Riesling. While both larger neighbors receive more plaudits for their wine tradition, Luxembourg wines are quickly gaining a deservedly excellent reputation on the international scene. Tourists can also enjoy local crémants, very high quality white sparkling wines often served as a pre-dinner aperitif.
Luxembourgish wine features heavily in many local dishes, including Hiecht mat Kraiderzoooss, pike in a green sauce; F’rell am Rèisleck, or trout in Riesling sauce, and Kriibsen (trout) in Reisling sauce. Trout, pike and crayfish often come from local rivers and provide a local flair not found in dishes from other cuisines that travelers can also find in Luxembourg.
Popular Vacation Spots
Moselle Valley – The heart of Luxembourg’s wine country, the Moselle River Valley is famous for picturesque medieval towns, wonderful wineries, beautiful hiking trails and water skiing destinations. Known affectionately as “D’Musel” by its inhabitants, the Moselle Valley also features the annual Grevenmacher grape and wine festival and small cruises along the Moselle River year-round. Travelers should enjoy the abundance of charming hotels and outdoor attractions.
American Cemetery and Memorial – In Luxembourg City, tourists can visit the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial to pay respects to 5,076 U.S. service members. Established on Dec. 29, 1944, most of the interred fought and died in the Battle of the Bulge, fought in the nearby densely forested Ardennes in the winter of 1944. U.S. General George S. Patton Jr. is also buried here.
Luxembourg City History Museum – Housed in four 17th to 19th century restored houses that make for a pleasant historical site by themselves, the Luxembourg City History Museum tells the thousand-year history of Luxembourg City through a mixture of permanent and rotating exhibits. Despite the historic location, the museum is surprisingly modern, outfitted with a huge glass elevator and a large floating glass façade providing panoramic views of the city as well as the rock foundations of the museum. Multimedia features also illustrate the city’s rich cultural, political and social history throughout the museum.
Diekirch – Meaning “people’s church,” the city of Diekirch is nestled among green rolling hills and forests along the banks of the Sauer River. Well worth a trip, the city of 6,000 features an eponymous brewery and the National Museum of Military History. The museum tells the story of Diekirch’s key involvement in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. Founded in the 8th century by Saxons resettled by Charlemagne, many of Diekirch’s buildings date back centuries, including mosaics and wall ruins from Roman times. Also consider touring nearby Esch-sur-Sûre while in the area.
Esch-sur-Sûre – For tourists who enjoy picturesque European towns, castles and abbeys, Esch-sur-Sûre is an excellent Luxembourgish destination, and not far from Diekirch. Featuring a striking and beautiful Romanesque and Gothic style castle with rounded towers and battlements straight out of a fairytale, the town sits on the river Sauer and just downstream of Upper Sûre Lake.
Vianden Castle – Located not far north of Luxembourg City, Vianden Castle is an impressive sight and certainly worth the detour for enthusiasts or anyone who would like to visit a beautifully restored castle. Dating from the 10th century and built originally in Romanesque style between the 11th and 14th centuries, Vianden Castle is one of the largest fortified castles on the western side of the Rhine. It overlooks the town of Vianden and the River Our from an imposing height, and is open to visitors every day throughout the year, though hours may vary during different seasons.
Larochette – In central Luxembourg, Larochette is another historic town featuring a large castle. Larochette’s castle is privately owned, the views are well worth a visit, and the area itself features one of the best mountain biking trails in Luxembourg. An ambitious path with plenty of landscape changes, castle views, technical challenges, short climbs and tricky sections, the Larochette trail is an excellent destination for the athletic mountain biker.
Luxembourg uses the Euro. It’s always a good idea to check the exchange rates frequently when planning a vacation to Europe and convert amounts back to your native currency mentally as you travel to give you a better sense of your expenses. For travelers interested in collecting different Euro coins, Luxembourgish designs all feature Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg along with the twelve stars of the European Union’s flag.
Most major credit cards and traveler’s cheques will be accepted everywhere, perhaps with the exception of smaller establishments in smaller towns that may be cash-only. Luxembourg City especially is as metropolitan as any European capital.
The country features a very efficient rail and road transportation network, including a TGV high-speed train line to Paris. For about five Euros, travelers can purchase a day pass to ride trains or buses throughout Luxembourg City, making transportation relatively efficient.
Most people in Luxembourg will speak English. The three official languages are French, German and Luxembourgish (the native language with Franco-Germanic origins), and the education system is trilingual, but all Luxembourgers are also taught English in school.
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