Luxembourg City may not be the first destination to come to mind when you’re planning a European vacation, but it definitely deserves a spot on your itinerary. The city has a fascinating history as a strategic medieval fortress fought over and often invaded by neighboring countries such as France and Germany. It’s also one of Europe’s richest countries and the birthplace of the European Union.
I didn’t know what to expect when I spent two days in Luxembourg City recently, but I fell in love with it. In fact—and I know this is heresy in some circles—I actually liked it better than Paris. Luxembourg City is friendly, charming and full of wow moments. Here are my top 10 wow moments when you visit Luxembourg City.
If you see one thing in Luxembourg City, make it the Bock Casemates, the remnants of the city’s fortifications, which were torn down as a condition of the 1867 Treaty of London. Admittedly, there isn’t much in the maze of subterranean tunnels except a few canons, but the views from the openings where soldiers would have stood watch are amazing.
Before you visit the Bock Casemates, you might want to visit the Museum Dräi Eechelen, located in the restored keep of Fort Thüngen, or the City Museum to learn more about the city and its role in European history.
Grand Ducal Palace
Luxembourg is a grand duchy, meaning it is ruled by monarch bearing the title Grand Duke or Grand Duchess. Today, Grand Duke Henri’s role is largely ceremonial as the country is governed by a prime minister and parliament.
But, the monarchy still has a palace in Luxembourg City (even though the royal family actually lives 20 miles away). Like Buckingham Palace in London, the Grand Ducal Palace is guarded by stoic soldiers. You can watch them, and if the Luxembourgish flag is flying overhead, you might glimpse the grand duke inside.
Chocolate House of Luxembourg
Directly across the street from the Grand Ducal Palace, the Chocolate House makes truffles and towering cakes. But, it’s famous for its hot chocolate, which you essentially make yourself. Start by selecting a spoon embedded in a block of flavored chocolate. It won’t be easy—the flavors range from traditional dark chocolate to more outlandish flavors like pistachio.
Then, head upstairs and find a table, if you can. You’ll be brought a mug of hot milk to stir your chocolate into along with a handmade marshmallow. It may not sound like a big deal, but trust me, it’s easily the most Instagrammable moment you’ll have in Luxembourg City.
Place de Constitution
Located in Old Town, Place de Constitution is a public square famous for its city views and for Gëlle Fra, the Golden Lady. Erected in 1923 as a memorial to the Luxembourgers who died in World War I, this statue today also honors those who died in World War II and the Korean War.
What makes Gëlle Fra so interesting, though, is the story behind it. During World War II, the Nazis who occupied Luxembourg didn’t like the statue and had it removed. Locals assumed they destroyed it, but in 1981, it was discovered under the bleachers of Stade Josy Barthel, the national stadium.
Wenzel Circular Trail
Although Luxembourg has an amazing public transportation system that will be free in 2020, it’s a very walkable city with the occasional cobblestone street and trails through forested areas. You can even walk to what’s been called Europe’s most beautiful balcony, Le Chemin de la Corniche, in Luxembourg City.
The best way to explore by foot, though, is on the Wenzel Circular Trail, which begins at the Luxembourg City Tourist Office in Old Town. From there, it loops down into the ravine and back out with signs in English highlighting points of interest. If you complete the entire route, it will take you two and a half hours, but it’s time well spent.
You don’t have to be a fan of modern art to be wowed by MUDAM. Opened in 2006, it was designed by I.M. Pei, the same architect responsible for the pyramid entrance at the Louvre, and it shows. If you’ve visited the Louvre, you’ll easily recognize the building’s glass and steel elements.
Ironically, the modern art museum is next door to Fort Thüngen, now Museum Dräi Eechelen. This isn’t by chance. Pei loved the idea of combining the old (the fort) and the new (the museum). Even if you don’t go inside MUDAM (and, of course, you really should), you’ll want to see its exterior.
American Military Cemetery
Believe it or not, General George S. Patton isn’t buried on U.S. soil; he’s buried at the American Military Cemetery in Luxembourg, the final resting place for 5,075 soldiers who died during World War II. Although Patton survived the war, he died in Germany shortly after, and his wife wanted him to be buried next to his troops.
You can visit his grave, but since it’s in the suburb of Hamm, you’ll either have to drive, hire a taxi, or take bus 15 or 70 to the Rue Haute stop. (Rideshare services like Uber are not permitted in Luxembourg.) From Rue Haute, you’ll have to use your phone’s map to guide you to the cemetery on foot.
Known as “the Parlor of Luxembourg,” Pace d’Armes is a public square in Old Town ringed with restaurants and full of activity, especially during the summer when musicians play in its bandstand. Grab a seat on a bench, and spend some time people watching. Or, pick a restaurant for lunch.
Some of the city’s best restaurants surround Place d’Armes. Le Grand Café serves French bistro items like carpaccio and beef tartare as well as burgers and chicken wings while Brasserie de Cercle offers more upscale fare like salmon and pasta. For dinner, consider La Cristallerie, the Michelin-starred restaurant inside Le Place d’Armes Hotel.
You won’t find many Luxembourgish dishes on the menu at city restaurants, but if you want to try local cuisine, Am Tiirmschen is the place to go. Its menu features traditional entrées, including several kniddelen (noodle) dishes and Judden mat Gardebounen, smoked pork with broad beans and bacon.
The ambiance only enhances your meal. Am Tiirmschen is located inside a medieval building with stone walls, wood beams, and a fireplace. It’s intimate and elegant with windows overlooking the cobblestone street below. Sip a glass of Luxembourgish wine and enjoy!
Hotel Sofitel Luxembourg Le Grand Ducal
It takes a lot for a hotel to wow me, but Hotel Sofitel Luxembourg Le Grand Ducal did just that. My room was exceptionally clean and comfortable, and every staff member, from the front desk to housekeeping, was amazing. Not to mention, it is located roughly equidistance from the train station and Old Town.
What wowed me, though, was the view from its eighth-floor restaurant and bar. From my table at breakfast every morning, I could look out across the ravine to Old Town. I’m told the views are even more spectacular at night, something I plan to see for myself the next time I visit.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations, meals and other compensation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.