Luxembourg city represents the old and the new in Europe. Storyteller of the past and maker of the future, the capital of Luxembourg is not like any other European city.
This guide lists all the things that you can do when in Luxembourg city, and it shall inspire you to visit this marvelous city at the European crossroads.
Table of Contents
📕 Luxembourg Essential Things to Know
Luxembourg is a small landlocked country located in Western Europe. It borders France to the south, Belgium to the west and Germany to the east.
The capital is simply known as Luxembourg city, which can add to the confusion because of the country’s size. The Luxembourg is also one of the smallest countries in the world, it is known as the Grand Duchery of Luxembourg.
Luxembourg has a long tumultuous history. Having been around since roman times, it only came to be called an independent entity in the year 936.
European countries and their history are always intertwined, and it’s not any different with this particular small country. Luxembourg changed hands between the rulers of Burgundy, the Habsburg monarchy, revolutionary France and Germany.
Residents speak Luxembourgish, a language which sounds like a mix between Dutch, French, and German. German and French are also used everywhere. English is a fourth common language due to the large immigrant population.
The state of Luxembourg blossomed after World War II, thanks to its political status in the Euro zone and its financial sector. It is now one of the richest countries in the world. Wages are higher in this small country than in any of the other neighboring countries.
Many administrative buildings of the EU are located on the Kirchberg plateau, an area just outside the city center. This includes the Court of Justice, Parliament, and the European investment bank. Luxembourg, Strasbourg in France and Brussels in Belgium are the three official EU capitals.
The state is known as a corporate tax-haven, and private banking heaven. People from all over the world either come for that, for the nightlife or to go shopping because some things are cheaper due to lower VAT (Value added tax). It’s also called the little Switzerland of the EU.
When walking down the roads of the city you get a general feeling of old meets the new. The place is clean, modern and definitely different compared to other cities in Europe.
It lacks the usual European soulful old world feel, but it has its flair. Here are some of the must-see tourist attractions highlights on your first time to Luxembourg.
⛪️ Old Town Quarters
The old town quarters consist of the Ville Basse (lower town) and the Ville Haute (elevated town). Most of the main sites are located in the Haut Ville such as the palace, the cathedral, and large town squares.
Grand Ducal Palace
The palace is the official residence of Henri the grand duke of Luxembourg, and his family, which consists of the duchess Maria Teresa and their 5 children, the princes, and princesses.
The current duke has been ruling the constitutional grand duchy of Luxembourg monarchy since 2000. He is the first cousin of the king of Belgium.
Visitors get to have a peak into the royal family’s life during the summer months, when the palace opens its doors to the public.
Opening dates are published on the palace’s website a few months in advance. Entry fee is €15 per adult and €7.50 for kids.
You can watch the marching grand ducal guard ceremony in front of the palace change every 30 minutes. Free of course. 🙂
Notre Dame Cathedral and Place Guillaume II
A late gothic cathedral with Renaissance and baroque elements, the Notre Dame cathedral of Luxembourg is the religious hub of the country.
The roman catholic cathedral offers a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of life in the city center. It’s not that crowded, and it’s nice cool in the hotter summer months.
The building was originally a Jesuit church who had settled in Luxembourg and fought the reformation boom with a college.
Colored stained windows and decorated pillars and the crypt make a visit to the Cathedral worthwhile.
Just outside the cathedral is the large 13th century city square place Guillaume II, named after king William II. (Guillaume is the French version of William or Wilhelm).
Unfortunately, the square has been a huge construction site for years now. In normal times, you will find markets, concerts held on this square and in winter, you will find an ice rink in its place.
The Neumünster Abbey is a Benedictine abbey located in the suburbs of the city in the so-called Ville Basse also known as Grund.
This is the area of the city that is located at a lower altitude, and you can see the abbey and neighboring buildings from the corniche and bock casemates view points. You can take the best picture here!
The abbey was rebuilt at that location in 1542 with the Church of Saint John in Grund. Later in the 18th century, the abbey complex served as a military hospital and even as a prison up to 1980.
Today you can go down and visit the church or take a walk along the river. Special events, concerts, and exhibitions are held in the abbey all year round.
More smaller sites
Look out for the following sites:
- Constitution Square – Memorial dedicated to fallen WWII soldiers.
- Pont Adolphe – Spectacularly high stone arch bridge from the early 1900.
- Statue of Charlotte, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg
- Monument to Dicks and Lentz – Meeting point for a free walking tour
- Hammelsmarsch Fountain – A statue representing a march band with sheep at the Roude Pëtz Square. A band and sheep procession traditionally start the yearly fair.
- Street Art – Spread out across the city but most are found near the palace
Once upon a time, the city of Luxembourg was known as one of the most fortified cities in Europe. It was sometimes called the Gibraltar of the north.
It started with a simple fortification in the Middle Ages and moved into a grand century long project.
The Spanish rulers started to build a tunnel system into the fortification walls and rocks in 1644. These are known as Bock Case mates, and they are protected by the UNESCO World Heritage Site tag.
The Austrians enlarged the 23 kilometer long tunnel system at a later stage, adding to this various levels and depths to the military defense tunnel system.
After having received perpetual assured neutrality in 1867, Luxembourg had to dismantle the massive fortress complex. It took them over 18 years to do so but they left a small part of this once unbelievable fortification and this is what visitors get to see today.
The Bock Casemates tunnel system, also called Casemates du Bock, can be visited during the summer months. The entrance is on the bridge near the chemin de la corniche where you can overlook to the abbey. It is advised to get a guide to understand the history and use of the underground tunnels.
On the Rocher du Bock, near the Casemates du Bock, you get to stand on a piece of the former fortification, and they have a useful circular map there.
Chemin de la Corniche
Walking to Chemin de la Corniche, a pathway along the edge of the cliff, you get a free explanation on large boards telling the story of the fortification and the city. From here you can see the rocher du bock and the former city walls.
The Chemins de la Corniche is a popular place for everyone to hangout because it gives you a breathtaking view of the abbey and old town buildings. It’s also in the shade in the afternoon/evening hours. This area was once called the most beautiful balcony in Europe.
Thüngen, Obergrünewald, Niedergrünewald Forts
You can also visit three former forts, which are located about 20 minutes from the Bock Casemates on the other side of the hill. That’s the fort Thüngen, fort Obergrünewald and fort Niedergrünewald.
Fort Obergrünewald and Niedergrünewald are freely accessible 24/7. Fort Thüngen houses an exhibition, known as Musée Dräi Eechelen, which is free, but the opening times are from 10 am to 6 pm.
Fort Thüngen is located right next to the Mudam Modern Art museum where the entry is €8.
Panoramic Elevator of the Pfaffenthal
A stone’s throw away is the panoramic elevator of the Pfaffenthal. A glass elevator lifts you up over the city walls and you get a fantastic view of the old quarters, fortress and the Pfaffenthal below you.
This ride is completely free, and a must-do for all age groups.
Fun fact Pfaffenthal means valley of the clergyman in German. Thal is spelled Tal today and means valley. A Pfaffe is a cleric such as a priest.
🎭 Museums & Art
- National History and Art Museum (MNHA) – Vast archeological, fine and decorative art exhibition spread out on 8 to 10 floors. The main, exhibitions are free of charge and temporary exhibitions fees are €7.
- Luxembourg National Museum of History (MNHN) – Children-friendly interactive museum with exhibitions ranging from stuffed animals, fossils, and minerals. Moreover, adults will love it. Free entry for kids and adults pay €5 only. It’s located next to the abbey in the Ville Basse.
- Lëtzebuerg City Museum – Luxembourg City History Museum showing the heritage and telling the tale. Every adult pays €5 to see the exhibition.
- Grand Duke Jean Museum of Modern Art (MUDAM) – Contemporary art collections from Luxembourg and international artists. Entry is about €8 and on Wednesdays it’s freely accessible.
- Muerbelsmillen Mustard Factory – a cute children-friendly mustard factory turned into a museum. They are open on weekends only between 2 and 6 pm and the entry is free.
- Philharmonie Luxembourg – Acoustically perfected concert hall and venue for various performances and plays.
🎉 Outdoor Festivals & Traditions
Liichtmëssdag – Held every year on the 2nd February, children walk the neighborhoods in the evenings with handmade candlelight lanterns singing a traditional song in the hope of getting some sweets.
Buergbrennen – Gigantic bonfires are lit across the country on the first Sunday after carnival (February) to usher in spring and warmer days. Every village has its own Buergbrennen bonfire and locals come together to watch it burn down.
Octave – A religious celebration held every year since the 17th century, from the 3rd to the 5th Sunday after Easter in honor of the Virgin Mary. Devout followers from around the country come during that period to see the statue of Mary in the cathedral Notre Dame de Luxembourg and a market is held just outside on the place Guillaume II.
National Holiday – Held on the 23rd June in honor of the Grand Duke’s birthday, this is the countries biggest celebration. From a torchlight processions to grand fireworks and countless open air festivities celebrated on the roads of the capital, the city doesn’t sleep on that day.
The Schueberfouer Fair – This traditional fair has been around for almost 700 years, and it takes place every year from end of August to mid-September just near the city center. For two weeks you can have boundless fun on the many rides, eat the best cotton candy and try to score a teddy bear for your beloved.
Christmas Market – Christmas stalls lighten up the city from the end of November to the 1st of January every year. This classic Christmas market definitely rivals Christmas markets in Germany. In fact, it’s one of the few Christmas markets that takes places after Christmas day.
The Grand Rue, and adjoining roads such as the Rue Philippe II, at the city center located in the Haute Ville are known as the upscale shopping area. Here you will find Louis Vuitton and Chanel.
Regular stores such as Only and H&M can be found scattered around this area as well. Furthermore, the French department store Gallery Lafayette can be found in the vicinity.
Luxembourg city is also known as the Sin City of Europe or the equivalent to Bangkok. This isn’t surprising if you take a candid look at the city, as it is where money moves in and out.
The Netflix serial “Capitani” gives you a peak at the darker underbelly of Luxembourg city. Most of these special establishments, such as strip bars and escort services, are located near the main train station.
That said, Luxembourg is fortunately so much more than just that and the nightlife is vivid and a fun experience for every one!
The streets come to live once it gets dark, and you will find many cute outdoor bars and restaurants with live music in the ville haute near the palace.
If you are looking for unforgettable views while sipping on a tasty cocktail, then the “L’Observatoire” sky bar in the Sofitel Luxembourg Le Grand Ducal is your choice.
So, is your team playing today? Head to the “Game Sportsbar & Steakhouse” located in Kirchberg near the city center. They have buffalo wings, tacos, and burgers, and you can watch your football game on a large screen in a great atmosphere.
If you are looking for a real techno clubbing experience, go to the Ground club. It might be smaller than expected, but the sound is top, and the ambiance won’t disappoint.
✨ Other fun things to do:
- Escape game room – Crocus escape offers one of the best escape room experiences in the world.
- Thermal Baths and Saunas – Les Thermes near the city center are an aqua park for families, and they also have a separate thermal water spa with a sauna village nude section. Another top thermal spa is located on the border of France in mondorf-les-bains.
- Cycle – Hire a cycle or E-Bike and discover the city and its green outskirts.
Can I visit Luxembourg on a Schengen Visa?
Yes, Luxembourg is an EU Schengen country, and therefore you can visit the city and country with a Schengen visa.
How many days should I stay in Luxembourg?
Luxembourg city is a popular day trip stopover. Most visitors tend to spend 1, 2 or 3 days in Luxembourg city. If you want to just take a stroll through the city and visit a few UNESCO world heritage sites, then 1 day will be enough. If you want to spend a say shopping, moreover, then you should stay about 2–3 days in the city.
Can you do Luxembourg on a weekend?
Yes, the city is small and a great place to hang out on weekends because it’s not overcrowded with tourists. The choice of nightlife activities is top too.
How to get around in Luxembourg city?
Public transport is free for 2nd class passengers in the whole country. That means you can use the tram and bus service in the city free of charge and without tickets. Tram connections are frequent and run through the city all day long and up to 3 am. They have the newest tram connections, so taking the tram is a must when in Luxembourg city and adds to the experience of being in this rich city.
Where to go out for food, and what’s a local food specialty?
Locals love their meats, potatoes, and beans. This includes Bouneschlupp (bean, potato, and bacon soup), Friture de la Moselle (fried fish coated by a flour batter), Judd mat Gaardebounen (smoked pork collar and broad beans), Paschtéit or Bouchée à la Reine (vol-au-vents) and Quetschentaart (plum tart) to just name a few. You will find all the Luxembourg delicacies prepared in the Café-Restaurant Um Dierfgen located in the Ville Haute. The city is known for its multicultural environment, and you will find countless excellent food establishments serving cuisines from all over the world in the city center.
Is Luxembourg worth seeing?
This is an eternal question. The city is worth seeing if you are in the neighborhood (i.e Strasbourg, Metz, Bonn, Brussels). We just came from Amiens in France and Mons in Belgium that day and moved on to Strasbourg in France after that. Most visitors to Luxembourg combine a trip to Luxembourg city with a business activity, a shopping trip or a night out to make it worthwhile. If you have only 10 days in Europe, I recommend to travel to other places in Europe. This country is also expensive, so you can expect to shell out more for food and room.