Luxembourg City, the capital of Luxembourg, is a truly remarkable city in which you can see wonderful architecture, picturesque views and astonishing places. It holds the world’s top spot for personal safety and ranks high for quality of life; Luxembourg the country has the second-highest GDP in the world! If you are looking to move to a new place, this might be it!
Luxembourg City sits on two rivers, the Alzette and the Pétrusse. They converge in deep, narrow valleys. The city centre sits above overlooking this convergence, creating a multitiered city on both sides of both valleys.
Because of its location at the convergence of two rivers, Luxembourg City has been of strategic importance. A Roman tower fortification guarded the crossing of two roads that met at the convergence of the rivers. The first permanent fortification was a medieval stone castle from 963; a town quickly grew up afterwards. The fortifications expanded over the years: first under the original Luxembourgers, then the Burgundians, Spanish and Austrians who ruled the city. By the 16th century, it was one of the most heavily fortified cities in Europe. The French, Prussians and Austrians also constructed and augmented the casemates (fortified gun emplacements). The treaty of London in 1867 reversed all of this; it required the dismantling of the fortifications, which was a monumental task that took nearly two decades and tonnes of money.
Today, Luxembourg plays host to many EU institutions and is one of the capitals of Europe. It is also quite accessible to many major cities, including Cologne (Köln), Brussels and Paris, all within a few hours by car.
Adolphe Bridge in Luxembourg City
The first stop on our small tour of Luxembourg is the Adolphe Bridge, which spans 153 metres and crosses the Pétrusse River, linking the two halves of the city (the northern city centre with the southern ‘Gare’ district, named after the train station). The bridge dates back to 1900. The Treaty of London in 1867 led to its construction; the destruction of the fortifications allowed the city to expand like it was not able to in the past and the old bridges could not cope with the traffic.
The Bridge shared the name of the first Grand Duke of Luxembourg, the first independent ruler of an independent Luxembourg (1890-1905). He had an absentee approach to ruling which became the tradition for the Grand Dukes of Luxembourg.
The Adolphe Bridge was originally made completely of stone. However in 1990, after a government investigation found extensive damage to the bridge, it reinforced with steel. In 2017, authorities widened the bridge and added cycle and pedestrian paths under the bridge. This has become a major tourist attraction as well as an unofficial symbol of Luxembourg’s independence and modernity.
From the Bridge (as well as the suspension under it), you have great views of the valley and parts of the city centre, including the Cathedral of Notre Dame. I would recommend it, especially if you are accessing the city from the south, mostly for the great views.
In 1848, Luxembourg’s new constitution created a Chamber of Deputies to run the country. However, they did not meet in one place until 1860; this was rectified with the creation of the building known as the Hôtel de la Chambre des Députés.
The building is quite an impressive one. It combines the architecture found within the rest of the City Centre with modern architecture brought in during the renovation during the mid-1990s. For example, a glass-covered bridge spans between the main building and others to expand capacity and access to the building by Deputies.
Grand Ducal Palace
The Grand Ducal Palace has a long history before becoming a Palace. It served as a city hall from 1572 up until 1817, when it became the residence of the representatives of the Dutch crown (at this time, it was in a Personal Union with the Netherlands). During this time until the First World War, it received several expansions to its current size. The Nazis used the Palace as their headquarters, ruining much of its contents, including paintings and frescos on the walls.
The modern-day Palace serves mostly as a tourist attraction. Part of the building still serves as the official place of business of the Grand Duke, although the Ducal family does not live in the palace but rather in Colmar-Berg. Heads of state (presidents, royalty, etc.) may receive accommodation in the Palace if they are on an official visit to Luxembourg, but no one else may sleep there.
Unfortunately, it is forbidden to take pictures within the Grand Ducal Palace.
Note: Make sure to book tickets in advance (usually a few days in advance is sufficient). There probably won’t be any same-day tickets. Tickets include an hour-long tour. Possible tour languages include English, Dutch, French, Luxembourgish and German.
Cathedral of Notre Dame and Religion in Luxembourg City
Throughout its history, Luxembourg has been a Catholic country. As a side note, this caused many problems under the Personal Union with the Netherlands, which was a Reformed country at the time.
The Cathedral of Notre Dame is the only Cathedral in Luxembourg. Construction began in 1613 and combines late Gothic architecture with Renaissance aspects, elements and adornments. Some famous people are buried here, including several Grand Duchesses as well as Consorts of Grand Dukes.
When Luxembourg was under Dutch rule, there were many problems with their protestant overlords. For that reason, they made an agreement; the male children of William IV would be Protestant and the female children would be Catholic (after their mother, Marie Anne of Portugal). At this time, many daughters were born and their descendants have ruled Luxembourg ever since.
Neumünster Abbey was built in 1606 on the site of an abbey destroyed by a fire in 1542 (hence the name (Neumünster – ‘neu’ = new). A fire in 1684 destroyed the still relatively new Abbey; it was rebuilt in 1688. During the French Revolution, the police turned it into their headquarters and a prison. The Prussians used it afterwards in 1815 before it again became a prison in 1867.
Since 2004, the Abbey acts as a cultural centre, housing the European Institute of Cultural Routes. Most important in recent history is that Bulgaria and Romania signed their treaty of Accession to the EU in 2005 in the Neumünster.
Fort Thüngen was part of the fortifications of Luxembourg City before the Treaty of London in 1867 required its destruction. The fort protected the city from across the Alzette river to the north of the City Centre. Today, the fortress holds two museums. The first is the Musée Dräi Eechelen. Its name means Three Acorns (due to the three gold acorns that rest atop the towers at the former entrance of to the fort). The second is the Mudam (museum of modern art), which was constructed on top of the fortification while preserving its foundations. The Musée Dräi Eechelen traces Luxembourg’s history from the mid 15th century until the beginning of the 20th century.
I was really impressed by Luxembourg City. The first thing that I noticed (besides the valley and the few defences that remain) was the cleanliness. The buildings are white and or light, pastel well-maintained colours (with exceptions). I also noticed the multi-tiered nature of the city straight away. You can see it immediately from Adolphe Bridge – my first thought was ‘well, biking in this city will be difficult’.
I liked the unplanned nature of the streets in Luxembourg city as well. While the new parts of the city have larger streets that follow a somewhat more grid-like system, the old city has many small, winding streets which had to utilise space right up to the edge of the valley walls. Due to the steepness as well, there are lifts that take pedestrians up and down from quarters on higher levels to those on lower ones and vice versa.
When I visit a place, one of the things I like to think about is whether I would like to live in such a place (I am a digital nomad, after all). While the City and also Luxembourg is small, I think I would enjoy living in the city (prices of everything aside), just due to the atmosphere that we experienced. I really felt comfortable in the city and wanted to explore all the nooks and crannies. Even in the newer parts of the city, which were really no different from other modern cities, it felt as though I would like to spend a lot more time getting to know what is behind each door. Who knows? Maybe Luxembourg City will be a place that I call a temporary home in the future.
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