As the fourth-smallest country in Europe, Luxembourg may seem like an unlikely destination for most of us. But after seeing that Ryanair has announced a new direct route between Dublin and Luxembourg this year I thought I’d take a closer look. You’ll be amazed to see what’s waiting to be discovered here!
It’s hard to find a country that embodies that Europe atmosphere more than Luxembourg. Wedged in tightly between the borders of France, Germany and Belgium, its inhabitants grow up speaking a mix of French, German and Luxembourgish, and you’ll see a huge mix of cultures reflected in both its architecture and cuisine.
Up until now, Luxembourg has been a bit of an unlikely candidate as a holiday destination in Europe. Flights from Ireland to Luxembourg have been terribly expensive, or you’d have to drive across from a neighbouring country – unless the country was a firm stop during a road trip, it seems we mostly gave it a pass! But now things are set to change big time. Ryanair have just announced a new route starting in the winter schedule, giving us new (and cheap!) direct flights between Dublin and Luxembourg. That’s why I thought I’d take a closer look myself and see what lovely experiences await us there. I think you’ll quickly see that this tiny country definitely deserves to be on your to-do list!
Before you go – useful things to know about Luxembourg
Since Luxembourg isn’t entirely well-known as a destination, I thought I’d compile a few handy facts and tidbits of information to help you in planning a little holiday here!
Currency: Luxembourg is part of the Eurozone, so you won’t have to go about changing currency. You’ll find loads of ATMs everywhere, and card payments are the norm here (but check with your bank of course!).
Entry requirements: The country is also part of the Schengen Zone, so as Irish nations you won’t need any additional visas, just a valid passport.
Language: It’s estimated that just over 60% of the population speak fluent English. If you don’t speak any other languages you’ll definitely get by, with most of Luxembourg’s English speakers are concentrated in the city of Luxembourg. Road signs are in French, while German is used in the press. Luxembourgers place a lot of importance on respect for their culture, so any attempt from you to speak a bit of Luxembourgish will be much appreciated. Be sure to greet people with “Moien!” whenever you have the chance!
Getting around Luxembourg
From the 28th October 2018 onwards, Ryanair will be flying to Luxembourg Airport (LUX), the country’s only international airport. Situated just a few miles east of the city, you can use public transport as a quick and easy way to get you around. And it’s cheap too! Singles are about €2, and you can take the number 16 or 29 bus to get to the city centre.
Public transport in Luxembourg is cheap, punctual, and of great quality. Since Luxembourg is more expensive than its neighbours, I’d actually really recommend this as a great way to save money during your travels. You can buy day tickets for €4, which are also valid for buses too, but even single tickets (€2) will get you unlimited transfers for 2 hours. I definitely recommend taking the line 10 train north at some point during your stay as the countryside in Luxembourg is extremely picturesque and lush! It leads past plenty of the country’s main sights as well.
As soon as you arrive in Luxembourg, you’ll realise just how multicultural this place is. You’ll hear a whole wealth of different languages being spoken despite the tiny population of just over 111,287 people. The city’s status as one of the ‘capitals’ of the European Union and a centre of finance draws people from all over the continent.
Luxembourg City is built atop sheer cliffs and gorges carved out by the Alzette and Pétrusse rivers that flow through them. The result is a city that appears to be built across several levels – and you’ve got more gorgeous vantage points than you can shake a stick at. This coupled with the fact that the city is really compact makes it a delightful little place for an afternoon stroll! The Ville Haute (upper city) and Ville Basse (lower city) make up the oldest and most picturesque parts of the city, but I’d also recommend checking out the Gare Quartier for some fantastic restaurants, and also the neighbourhood of Clausen for its bars and nightlife.
Get out there and soak up the amazing atmosphere – and of course don’t miss out on all these fantastic recommendations I’ve got in store for you! ;)
One of the main landmarks of the city is the Grand Ducal Palace of Luxembourg. Luxembourg is actually the only remaining grand duchy in the world (their monarch holds the title of grand duke), so as you’d expect the grand duke would of course have a residence befitting of their royalty! The palace actually used to serve as the city hall when it was originally built, but has since been used by the royal family since the 1890s. You can’t miss it – it’s situated just up from Place Guillaum II right in the centre of the Old Town.
Ville Haute and Ville Basse
The upper and lower towns are by far the prettiest neighbourhoods in the city. You’ll find wonderful architecture, winding streets and plenty of beautiful vantage points across the rivers Alzette and Pétrusse. Seeing the lovely Neumünster Abbey from above or even just admiring the pastel-coloured houses huddled up by the banks of the river are views you’ll never get enough of!
Head underground and explore the subterranean fortifications of the Casemates Bock, remnants of the mighty city defences that led to the city being nicknamed the Gilbraltar of the North. These tunnels and passageways were built into the Bock cliff in the 18th Century and have served multiple purposes during their use, even being fashioned into war-time shelters for the local populace. Costing just a few Euros for admission, it’s well worth taking a little look around and soaking up the atmosphere!
Notre Dame Cathedral
The only cathedral in the Grand Duchy, the Notre Dame Cathedral dates back to the 17th Century and features a beautiful, understated nave that’s well worth having a little look at. There are organ concerts from 11:00 – 11:30am on most Saturdays, and it’s a great place to take a break from the hustle and bustle outside. The crypt also serves as the resting ground of the Ducal family.
The best museums in Luxembourg
As you’d expect from a city with this much history in it, you’ve got a fantastic choice of museums to get stuck into should you fancy getting an insight into local Luxembourgish history and culture. Perhaps the best museum I can recommend in Luxembourg is the Musée National d’Histoire et d’Art. Situated in a modern building on Rue Wiltheim (you can’t miss it!), the museum features fantastic architectural design and loads of interesting exhibits – and you’ll find its a lot larger on the inside than appearances might suggest. Entry is free, so there’s really no reason not to check this place out! Perfect for a rainy afternoon.
For an extra dose of contemporary culture, the MUDAM – or Modern Art Museum – has some great pieces from the local cultural scene in Luxembourg. The building itself was designed by architect Ming Pei, the mastermind behind the Louvre’s pyramid. As such the building is lovely and bright in the inside and I could easily spend a whole afternoon in the café. Once you’re done checking out the exhibits, you can always go for a stroll around the park outside as well!
I know we’re a long way off Christmas, but since the Ryanair flights coincide with the winter schedule I think it’s worth taking a look at what festive treats Luxembourg has in store for us! The Luxembourg Christmas markets play out in the Place ‘dArmes, Place de la Constitution and Place de Paris. While the market won’t be the biggest one you’ll ever see, but you’ll absolutely love it. You’ll find cosy little wooden huts selling everything from local handicrafts and souvenirs to mulled wine (Glühwäin) and sweet treats! It’s a great chance to try out some delicious Luxembourgish delicacies – my absolute favourites have to be the potato pancakes, or Gromperekichelcher. The name looks like a bit of a mouthful if you’ll pardon the pun, but they are insanely moreish!
The Old Town will be filled with beautiful lights and there’s just no denying that the atmosphere is just ridiculously cosy and snug. Admittedly it can actually be quite a quiet time to be in the city, but it’s well worth checking out. Why not pair it up with a visit to the Christmas Markets in the nearby city of Trier too?
More beautiful places in Luxembourg
From Luxembourg city we now continue into the Grand Duchy as a whole! I’ve scouted out some of the most beautiful places in Luxembourg that all deserve a place on your to-do list. You’ll find that the country is small in size, but its countryside and landscapes are unbelievably picturesque. Forests, valleys and cliffs mean that there’s never a dull view to be had!
Echternach | Vianden | Remich | Mullerthal
As the oldest city in Luxembourg, Echternach is just filled to the brim with charm. The city grew up around the walls of the abby and today still retains its maze-like town layout, city walls and old squares lined with trees. This is a city that’s just made for those lazy afternoon strolls spent soaking up the views and chilling out in one of the many cafés and restaurants. I recommend stopping off for a coffee at either the Eisecafe Venezia or Le Petit Poete – and for a larger bite to eat, the Pizzeria du Passage would have to be my top choice. Delicious food, fantastic service and some of the fanciest gin cocktails you’ll ever see!
You’ll find some of Luxembourg’s most beautiful vistas in Vianden. With a gorgeous feudal castle perched high above the city, you’d feel like you’ve stumbled into some sort of real-life fairy tale. The Our River snakes its way through the deep valley, and the hills are covered in lush forests that offer fantastic walks and hikes. Lovers of all things literature should visit Victor Hugo’s house, which has since been turned into a museum. Enjoy picturesque strolls along the river, or take the chairlift up to the top of the valley for panoramic views (this only operates during the summer).
Remich may be a small town, but it still features a picturesque town centre and a lovely riverside setting. But that’s not what draws people here. As part of the Moselle wine-growing region, Remich is a capital of wine in Luxembourg, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take part in tastings and even bring back a bottle or two to enjoy back at home. Scheierbierg and Primerbierg are two popular vineyards that are situated close by, but I also recommend booking a tour of the Caves St. Martin to see the expansive systems of wine cellars and see their production methods up close. Afterwards you can enjoy a lovely dinner at their restaurant – and of course a few glasses of wine to go with it!
Lovers of the outdoors should plan a day in Mullerthal. Nicknamed “The Little Switzerland of Luxembourg”, Mullerthal features everything you could ever need for a stunning day out in the great outdoors. Admire the beautiful Schiessentümpel waterfall with its idyllic stone arch bridge covered in moss, or plan a big adventure on the Mulerthal Trail, 112km of fantastic routes that snake their way through lush forests, steep valleys and picturesque countryside. You’ll come across loads of incredible rock formations along the way as well.
Cuisine in Luxembourg – wining and dining
When it comes to food and drink, the Luxembourgers have it good! Their historical position as a crossroads between French and German cultures means that they’ve absorbed and adopted influences from their neighbours. Here are some famous and common dishes served in Luxembourg that you should definitely try out!
Judd mat Gaardebounen: Quite a hefty dish, so it’s even better once the colder winter weather has set in. This is pork collar that’s been smoked and served with broad beans and potatoes. The village of Gostingen is said to do the absolute best!
Bouneschlupp: Another typically Luxembourgish dish, this time a green bean soup with potatoes, carrots, leeks, bacon and onion. Another perfect treat to keep you warm on a winter’s day!
Sweet treats: French cuisine has also made its mark on the country. You’ll find lots of typically French patisseries all across the country serving lovely little cakes and slices. You should definitely try some Verwurelter, which are like small sugar-coated doughnuts, and if you visit towards the autumn time keep your eyes peeled for Quetschentaart, a tart that’s topped with damson plums.
Seafood: In a landlocked country? Sure! In the region surrounding the Moselle river, keep your eyes out for Friture de la Moselle, which are fried small fish that you can eat with your hands, or treat yourself to some pike or trout served in a Riesling sauce (F’rell Am Rèisleck) which is said to be the region’s greatest speciality. You’ll even find fantastic mussels as well.
Visit Luxembourg – planning your holiday
So, what do you think? Probably didn’t expect all of that from such a small country! The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg truly is a hidden gem and I’m delighted to see Ryanair opening up this fantastic route for us. Definitely look into booking yourself a flight, or even stopping off here during an adventure in Europe. Ryanair’s Dublin – Luxembourg flights officially start on the 28th October and operate thrice weekly (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays). An alternative route is also operated by Luxair but you’ll find that these are a lot more expensive.
Use the buttons below to plan your holiday to Luxembourg – and find some great deals along the way!
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