Published by Suitcase Magazine, October 2017
The Grand Duchy’s lofty capital is a multi-storey city of high culture, hybrid dining and a festive, royal mood.
If your preconceptions of Luxembourg are of a pint-sized country of wealthy financial institutions, rolexes and suits, then you will be surprised by the allure of its quaint capital of the same name; its romantic cobbled streets, green parks and world-class museums occupy one of the most unique urban settings in Europe. Luxembourg City is built upon a rocky plateau adjoined by many bridges and viaducts: a perilous topography that has served it well over the centuries as a natural fortress.
The staggered vertical layers of the UNESCO-protected old town are divided into two distinct areas. The lofty Ville Haute is home to the city’s high street and main sights, and Ville Basse, or Grund, is a leafy, picturesque neighbourhood down in the gorge. The two are connected by elevators (including a glass elevator with a skywalk-style floor) and a steep, hair-pin road. There’s also the bustling Gare district around the train station, and Kirchberg – perhaps better known as Luxembourg’s European headquarters being home to the European Commission, the European Court of Auditors and the European Court of Justice. Sandwiched between Belgium, France and Germany, the petite country is smaller than most of our British home counties yet embodies the spirit and ideals of the EU. Indeed, the Schengen agreement was signed here; the tiny wine- making village in southeastern Luxembourg is synonymous with open borders and mobility, chosen for its ideal location at the intersection of three borders.
Take note of the erudite locals flowing seamlessly between French, German, English and Luxembourgish (a hybrid of German and French) and adopt their enviable ‘joie de vivre’ lifestyle – let’s not forget, this is Europe’s wealthiest nation where luxury goods jostle with michelin stars and the locals certainly know how to live well.
A dream destination for aesthetes, gourmands, instagrammers, linguists and history buffs alike, Luxembourg is an enriching and enchanting place that will take you pleasantly by surprise. Air Luxembourg flies direct from London City, so go see for yourself.
Luxembourg has more Michelin starred restaurants per capita than any other European country, and is home to the only two star Italian restaurant outside of Italy. Located in the Grund district, Mosconi offers exquisite Italian dining in an elegant setting overlooking the Alzette river. Perfect for a special occasion – be sure to book.
13 Rue Munster, mosconi.lu
Bistro de la Presse is an unpretentious and affordable restaurant that serves regional classics. Try the Bouneschlupp, a green bean soup with sausage.
24 Rue de Marché aux Herbes, bistrodelapresse.lu
Chocolate House is an indulgent spot for brunch – the continental breakfast of croissants, ham and cheese comes with a glass of champagne – or for an afternoon pick-me-up at the chocolatier downstairs, where the hot chocolate is famous among locals.
20 Rue du Marché aux Herbes, chocobonn.lu
Brasserie Guillaume is a French restaurant popular with both locals and and tourists for its incredible selection of carpaccio dishes, oyster bar and sea food platters. The terrace is a place to see and be seen.
12-14 Place Guillaume, brasserieguillaume.lu
Ca(fé)sino is a cafe/restaurant inside the Casino Forum of Contemporary Art with simple French and Luxembourgish dishes and excellent Sunday brunch.
41 rue Notre-Dame, casino-luxembourg.lu
Brasserie Schuman is a modern brasserie on the terrace of the Grand Theatre with a menu of French classics and an extensive wine list. It’s the obvious place for pre/post theatre dining, but there’s also a lively after-work crowd.
1 Rond-Point Schuman, brasserieschuman.pro
For the city’s best nightlife, head to industrial area of Clausen on the Alzette river. It’s one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city, and its 12th century breweries and vast warehouses have been transformed into eclectic bars, restaurant and clubs. One of the nicest drinking spots is Um Plateau, set in a townhouse with a heated terrace.
6, Plateau Altmünster, umplateau.lu
Cafe Vis-à-Vis is an old-school bar with cheap drinks and a laid-back crowd – a great spot for people watching.
2 Rue Beaumont
Kaale Kaffi is an eclectic vintage shop and bar popular with young, creative Luxembourgers. The sofas are squishy, the coffee is excellent and the vibe is perfect for late night drinks.
9, rue de la Boucherie
It might seem trite to visit an Irish bar in Luxembourg, but Scott’s Pub occupies a really pretty spot in Grund with tables on the riverside.
Cafe des Capucins is great for an early-evening drink on the terrace hidden away in a leafy courtyard.
13 Place Du Théatre
Many of Luxembourg’s oldest establishments bear the royal mark on the door, indicating that it serves the court. Patisserie Namur is a 6th generation chocolatier open since 1863, and one of the city’s ‘fournisseurs de la cour’. A box of chocolates will cost anywhere between €8 and €80 here, but they are the best.
27 Rue des Capucins, namur.lu
Léa Linster Delicatessen is a gourmet shop of Luxembourg’s most famous female chef. People come here for her melt-in-the-mouth madeleines.
4 Rue de l’Eau, lealinster.lu
Oberweis is a family-owned delicatessen with modern and minimalist decor and an incredible display of Parisian-style cakes and pastries. It is also a ‘fournisseur de la cour’.
16 Grand Rue, oberweis.lu
Another purveyor to the court, Kaempff-Kohler is a more traditional patisserie and longstanding Luxembourgish institution.
18 Place Guillaume, kaempff-kohler.lu
Honey/Mustard is a Scandinavian-inspired boutique stocking both mens and women wear with Nordic brands such as Filippa K, Tiger of Sweden, Norse Projects and Samsoe Samsoe.
11 Rue du Marché aux Herbes, honeymustard.eu
To learn more about city’s history, visit the quirky Musée d’Histoire de la Ville de Luxembourg. It’s worth a visit simply for the glass lift up to the terrace with its panoramic views.
14 Rue du St-Esprit, mhvl.lu
The awe-inspiring glass structure of the Musée d’Art Moderne, built within the walls of an old fortress, was designed by I.M. Pei of the Louvre extension in Paris and the German Historical Museum in Berlin.
3 Park Dräi Eechelen, mudam.lu
The National Museum of History and Art caters for more traditional tastes, with works by Cézanne, Picasso, Turner and Magritte.
One of the city’s main attractions is the Bock Casemates: a maze of defensive tunnels carved out under the old city in 1745. It can be slippery and very dark in places with lots of dead ends, but it’s fun to explore and openings along the front face of the rock overlook the lower town.
Montée de Clausen, lcto.lu
There are lots of great day trips from Luxembourg city, but the town of Vianden is particularly pretty. Take a cable car up the hillside to the 11th century castle, then wander back down the hillside and through the quaint town for a bite to eat by the river.
Montée du Château, 9408 Vianden, castle-vianden.lu
Le Place d’Armes is a five-star hotel with a sophisticated mood and refined blend of regency style and contemporary design. Once a row of 18th-century townhouses, the luxury hotel is part of the Relais & Chateaux collection, and has a popular French brasserie.
18 Place d’Armes, hotel-leplacedarmes.com
l’Hôtel de l’Abbay is a boutique hotel housed in a 19th century convent, 5 minutes from the centre of town. There are beautiful gardens with a pretty terrace for breakfast, luxurious rooms and a wellness area.
8 Avenue Marie-Adélaïde, hoteldelabbay.lu
Hotel Simoncini is a modern hotel and art gallery which hosts cultural events and poetry nights. It’s right in the centre of town, near the cathedral.
6, rue de Notre Dame, hotelsimoncini.lu
The city’s Youth Hostel occupies a picturesque riverside spot, just a short walk from the city centre but surrounded by woods and fields. An excellent low-cost option.
2 Rue du Fort Olisy, youthhostels.lu