The small yet mighty nation of Luxembourg sits between Belgium, Germany, and France in Central Europe. And while it may not be the place you’ve envisioned for your next getaway, this Grand Duchy offers plenty for visitors.
On a recent press trip to the area, I was able to experience much of Luxembourg’s magic for myself. From a venerated wine scene to natural wonders to historic sites and more, here are some reasons to add Luxembourg to your bucket list right now.
1. It’s Home To Three UNESCO World Heritage Sites
The nation of Luxembourg and its capital, Luxembourg City, are well known for their history. Numerous areas within Luxembourg have been designated as culturally and historically significant by the United Nations. UNESCO World Heritage sites are places “that are of outstanding universal value to humanity and as such, have been inscribed on the World Heritage List to be protected for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.”
Luxembourg’s most popular UNESCO World Heritage site is its famed fortification system; it protected the city so well that Luxembourg was called the Gibraltar of the North. The fortifications include a massive sprawl of underground tunnels known as casemates.
UNESCO designations have also been bestowed upon The Family of Man photography installation at Clervaux Castle as well as Echternach’s unique Hopping Procession.
2. It’s Easy To Get To
With its convenient location between three popular European nations, Luxembourg is very easy to access by train, plane, and automobile.
Its national airline, Luxair, flies to and from Vienna, Prague, Barcelona, Madrid, Berlin, Dublin, Hamburg, Munich, London, Copenhagen, Rome, Geneva, Lisbon, Porto, Venice, Florence, and more. A full list of destinations can be found here. This makes Luxembourg a perfect addition to any European trip, especially since it’s part of the Benelux Union of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.
Additionally, since there are so many flights from North America to the French capital of Paris, a longtime most-visited international city, travelers can consider the upscale TGV France train; Luxembourg is just a 2-hour trip from Paris, and the train boasts speedy Wi-Fi and pretty countryside views.
Visitors could also rent a car and explore on their own, though it should be noted that cars aren’t generally allowed in Luxembourg’s capital city. Luxembourg is part of the Schengen Zone, 26 countries that have abolished international borders to make it easier to travel between European nations.
3. The Public Transit Is Free
Luxembourg made history on March 1, 2020, when it became the first country on Earth to offer free nationwide public transit to all citizens and visitors. This is a huge step forward in sustainability and an excellent example to other nations. Trains, buses, and trams are all free for everyone to access, which makes it easy to explore Luxembourg without a car. There are even hiking and walking paths that connect public transit stations, making the city even more accessible. This system helps to keep costs down, since transportation is a key part of any trip budget.
The capital city is very walkable when the weather permits, which makes it even easier to navigate.
4. The Hiking Is World Class
Adventure travelers have long been aware of Luxembourg’s phenomenal hiking trails. But others can certainly appreciate the beautiful, mountainous terrain of this area. There are hiking options in all five of Luxembourg’s regions: the capital and surrounding area, the Ardennes, the Land of the Red Rocks, the Moselle Valley, and the Mullerthal Region.
Some of the best hiking to be had is in the Mullerthal Region, known as Luxembourg’s Little Switzerland. The Mullerthal Trail winds around the Alps and boasts pretty rivers, picturesque villages, and dense forests. The trail is roughly 70 miles long with three main loops (1, 2, and 3) and four additional routes (A, B, C, and D). According to Visit Luxembourg, visitors “will be impressed by magnificent views over the River Sure and by beautiful woodlands with rare sandstone rock formations and enchanted castles.”
Be sure to add a hike to your Luxembourg travel plans!
5. It’s A Hidden Gem
The top 10 most-visited nations in Europe are France, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Germany, Austria, Greece, Russia, and Portugal. You’ll notice that Luxembourg isn’t on that list; it’s actually one of the least-visited countries on the continent. This means that it still has a hidden-gem vibe. It’s certainly not the place that all of your friends have already been to twice! This makes for less hassle overall, since you won’t have to battle crowds or fight for dinner reservations.
As travel becomes more and more affordable and accessible, there will be fewer and fewer of these quiet areas, so enjoy Luxembourg while you still can!
6. It’s Got Its Own Wine Region
The aforementioned Moselle Valley, to the southeast of the capital city and named for the beautiful Moselle River, is a designated wine cultivation area with years of history and tradition. In fact, it’s one of the few places that produces true ice wine, a rare dessert wine that is high in sugar from grapes frozen on the vine. Nine grape varieties are grown in the area, including Rivaner, riesling, pinot noir, pinot blanc, elbling, chardonnay, pinot gris, gewurztraminer, and Auxerrois. Many of these are also grown in Germany’s famous Mosel Region (same river, different spelling).
When it comes to winemaking, however, Luxembourg is perhaps best known for its excellent cremants; look for the Cremant de Luxembourg label. A cremant is a sparkling wine created just like champagne in France, but since it isn’t from that specialized region, it cannot be labeled as champagne. Like champagne, cremant is a result of secondary bottle fermentation. It can only be found in France and Luxembourg.
Luxembourg hosts four major wine festivals each year. One is the Hunnefeier, held to celebrate the end of the harvest season in the fall. There’s also a Riesling Open, Grape and Wine Festival, and Schweidsbenger Wine Fair.
7. The Museums Are Fascinating
Luxembourg City is home to a number of fascinating museums.
Art aficionados should head to the Villa Vauban, a fine art museum featuring paintings, photographs, sculptures, and more from the 18th and 19th centuries; there’s even a virtual tour available.
One of the largest elevators in Europe can be found at the Letzebuerg City Museum. Pay extra attention to the permanent exhibit, The Luxembourg Story, which details the last 1,000 years of the area’s history.
Architecture buffs may recognize the Grand Duke Jean Museum of Modern Art, or MUDAM, which rests on a hill overlooking the Old City. Designed by the world-renowned Chinese-American architect I. M. Pei of Louvre pyramid fame, this contemporary art museum boasts an outdoor sculpture park, a gift shop, and walking trails.
Right next door is the Museum Drai Eechelen, housed in an ancient fort, that shares the history of Luxembourg’s fortress city.
Other area museums of note include the National Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of History and Art, and the Casino Luxembourg, another contemporary art hub in a beautiful old building.
The city’s tourism board has created a Museumsmile map to help visitors navigate these sites.
The rest of Luxembourg also has numerous museums for visitors to experience. Some highlights include the Battle of the Bulge Museum in Wiltz, which covers the key World War II conflict, as well as a restored ancient cloth factory in Esch-sur-Sure.
Pro Tip: To save money, consider purchasing a Luxembourg Card online or at one of several locations around Luxembourg City. You can purchase a one-, two-, or three-day pass for individual or group use. The pass allows access to more than 60 museums and attractions across the country.
There are plenty of reasons to consider visiting Luxembourg on your next European vacation, from its lovely wine region to its fortress capital to its famous Mullerthal Trail. This small nation truly deserves more attention from international visitors.