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Pea-sized it may be, but Luxembourg's size belies its importance in European history. Luxembourg City originated as a fortress in 963 AD; so the nation was birthed. At one time, Luxembourg City was considered the second strongest fortress in Europe. More recently, Luxembourg has taken the lead in international politics by being one of six states to establish the European Union.
Modern-day Luxembourg is an exemplary nation-state, boasting low levels of unemployment and superb standards of living for its 400,000-plus citizens. For visitors, too, Luxembourg packs a delightful punch, especially considering its size. The Ardennes, complete with castles and river valleys, and marking the site of the Battle of the Bulge, is one of Luxembourg's more popular attractions. So is the region commonly referred to as Little Switzerland, where opportunities for cycling, hiking and rock climbing are equally successful at drawing the crowds.
For a small country Luxembourg has had a turbulent history. The Grand Duches of Luxembourg was many occupied by the big neighbours: France and Germany. The country has its origines in 963 when Duke Suegfried traded the abbey in Trier for the castle of Lucilinburhuc and its surroundings. From time to time if fell under the control of foreign rulers, like France, Prussia, the Netherlands, Spain and the Habsburg Empire. After the occupacion by Napoleon, the country of Luxembourg was formed in 1815, with the Dutch king Willem I, becoming the Grand duke of Luxembourg. The Duches lost parts of what is now nothern France, and parts of the Eifel region in Germany. After the independence of Belgium it also lost, what is now the Belgian province of Luxembourg, reducing Luxembourg to its present size. The union with the Netherlands was desolved in 1890 with the dead of Willem III, and Luxembourg got its own Grand duke.
At the end of the 19th century the economy of Luxembourg got a huge boost, and it became a big steel manufacturer. In the first part of the 20th century Luxembourgs was involved in two world wars, when it was invaded by Germany. After World War II, Luxembourg was one of the original six countries to found, what would become the European Union. It also was one of the five members of the EU to sign the treaty to allow free passage of persons and trade between members. This treaty was signed in the town of Schengen in Luxembourg. in 1999 it also became part of the eurozone, replacing the Frank, with the euro in 2002.
Luxembourg shares international borders with Germany, France and Belgium. The border between Luxembourg and Germany is formed by three rivers: the Moselle, the Sauer, and the Our. Other major rivers are the Alzette, the Attert, the Clerve, and the Wiltz. The valleys of the mid-Sauer and Attert form the border between the Gutland and the Oesling.
Luxembourg is one of the smallest countries in Europe; the country is about 2,586 square kilometres big, and measures 82 kilometres long and 57 kilometres wide. It lies between latitudes 49° and 51° N, and longitudes 5° and 7° E. To the east, Luxembourg borders the German Bundesländer of Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland, and, to the south, it borders the French région of Lorraine. The Grand Duchy borders the Belgian Walloon Region. The northern third of the country is known as the 'Oesling', and forms part of the Ardennes. It is dominated by hills and low mountains, including the Kneiff near Wilwerdange, which is the highest point, at 560 metres (1,837 ft). The region is sparsely populated, with only one town (Wiltz) with a population of more than four thousand people. The southern two-thirds of the country is called the "Gutland", and is more densely populated than the Oesling. It is also more diverse, and can be divided into five geographic sub-regions. The Luxembourg plateau, in south-central Luxembourg, is a large, flat, sandstone formation, and the site of the city of Luxembourg. Little Switzerland, in the east of Luxembourg, has craggy terrain and thick forests. The Moselle valley is the lowest-lying region, running along the southeastern border. The Red Lands, in the far south and southwest, are Luxembourg's industrial heartland and home to many of Luxembourg's largest towns.
Luxembourg is divided into three administrative districts:
Notre-Dame Cathedral, located in the capital of Luxembourg, is a magnificent Cathedral. The Jesuits placed the first cornerstone in 1613, which began the construction of this cathedral. The church is a good example of late Gothic architecture. Interestingly there are also many Renaissance elements and decorations. This is a great sight to visit while in the capital.
Fort Thüngen is an historic fortification located in the capital. The fort was dismantled after the 1867 Treaty of London, which ordered the destruction of most of the capitals many fortifications. In the 1990s the fort was reconstructed as part of the new modern art museum the Mudam.
The Grand Ducal Palace was originally built in 1572 and was used as a town hall. During the 18th century it was expanded twice to become the French government building. In 1817 the palace became the residence of the Governor. Then in 1890 it was reserved for use only by the Grand Duke and his family. The palace was heavily damaged during the Second World War and was restored in the 1960s. Today it is the current residence of the Grand Duke and is a great building to see from the outside.
Similar to Christmas caroling, on February 2 young children go door to door singing the song of St Blasius, usually carrying a liichtebengelcher (a wooden rod tipped with a small light). Although the custom began as the poor begging for food, kids are greeted with candy or money.
Held on the Sunday after Shrove Tuesday, burning the Buerg is another traditional Luxembourgish custom which has been maintained over the years. The Buerg is a huge bonfire, comprising hay, logs, and brushwood topped with a crucifix. Not unlike Guy Fawks in the UK, it tends to be a community event, complete with tasty servings of mulled wine and barbecued meats.
The most revered religious event on the calendar, Octave is an age-old pilgrimage to Luxembourg Cathedral, dating back to 1666. Over the final two weeks of April, people from all over Luxembourg and regions of Belgium and Germany flock to the capital to honor a wooden statue of the country’s patron saint, St Maria. As the fortnight celebration comes to a close, a procession is held through the streets with the statue.
Local village wine festivals are a great way to get a feel for the real, rural Luxembourg. Usually taking place in the spring, the festivities are centered around music, food, and of course, wine. The whole community comes together for this light-hearted social gathering, tasting the fruits of labor of the local wine makers and gearing up for the summer months.
The recently launched Discovery Zone Film Festival is an exciting celebration of unique and original flicks and documentaries. In its first year in 2011, more than 4,500 visitors attended the event which showcased the region’s best new films. Located across the capital’s movie theaters and an exhibition space in Ratskeller, the week-long festival held in March is expected to keep attracting more people and garner more prestige.
Although the country’s history as an independent state is relatively short, Luxembourg National Holiday celebrates the rich past of this charming nation. The holiday was officially created in the 19th century on the Dutch king’s birthday; however, upon independence, the event was moved to June 23 by Grand Duchess Charlotte to take advantage of the good weather. The festival traditionally begins with a torch-lit parade past the royal palace in Luxembourg City followed by an impressive fireworks display. The city then transforms into a huge street party with food stalls, bands, and many other forms of jovial entertainment.
The Summer in the City festival has been running for more 15 years and encompasses a wide-ranging collection of events and concerts. Starting in June and running until September, the festivities are free and include open-air concerts, art exhibitions, music festivals, and street performances. Each year around 1.5 million visitors experience the exhilarating and diverse events from the Blues’n Jazz Rallye to Art Exposition.
This enthralling amusement fair which started as a traditional cattle and flea market is held at the height of summer on August 23. Taking place in Luxembourg City’s Limpertsberg district, the festival is now full of roller coasters, Ferris wheels, and rides to suit all ages. Authentic stalls still remain, selling an array of goods from sweet nougat to household appliances. The closing night also symbolizes the end of summer and is celebrated with an extravagant fireworks display.
Marking the start of the holiday season, Luxembourg City is lit up with a series of colorful and bright decorations covering trees, buildings, and plazas throughout the romantic capital. Switched on at the end of November, the lights bring the city to life with Christmas markets selling traditional handicrafts, sumptuous winter foods like pancakes and soups, and Christmas decorations in squares around the city. This is a brilliant time to visit Luxembourg and immerse yourself in the fun and festivities.
Luxembourg has a mild climate with almost no extremes. Summers are relatively cool with average daytime temperatures around 20 °C, although temperatures of 35 °C are not impossible on some days. Winters, on the other hand, are mild, and temperatures below 0 °C during the day do not occur that often. Luxembourg doesn't have that much of snow, but still some more compared to for example the Netherlands or the west of Belgium. The best months to travel around Luxembourg are probably May and June, when days are long and apart from occasional showers, rainfall is lowest. September is fairly good as well, although days are shorter. July and August can be good, if it weren't for the crowds on some places.
Luxembourg-Findel International Airport (LUX) is located 6 kilometres outside of Luxembourg City. Luxair, the national airline flies to numerous European countries, including Barcelona, Berlin, Djerba, Dublin, Frankfurt, Fuerteventura, Geneva, Gran Canaria, Hamburg, Heraklion, Ibiza, Kos, Lanzarote, Lisbon, London, Madeira, Madrid, Malaga, Marrakech, Milan, Monastir, Munich, Nice, Palma de Mallorca, Paris, Porto, Prague, Rome, Saarbrucken, Split, Tenerife, Turin and Vienna. The also have some seasonal flights, mainly during the summer season from April to October to Agadir, Ajaccio, Almeria, Antalya, Bastia, Bodrum, Burgas, Cagliari, Catania, Chania, Corfu, Dakar, Dubrovnik, Faro, Jerez de la Frontera, Malta, Naples, Palermo, Paphos, Rhodes, Rimini, Tunis andVarna.
Other carriers frequenting the airport include KLM Cityhopper (Amsterdam), Swiss (Zürich), Iceland Express (Reykjavik), Scandinavian Airlines (Copenhagen), TAP Portugal (Lisbon and Porto) and British Airways (London).
A new terminal is currently under construction.
There are international train services to and from Luxembourg city. Destinations include Brussels (3 hours), Amsterdam (5 hours), Paris (4 hours) and Trier in Germany (40 minutes). Most services are hourly, except the trains to Paris (about 6 a day).
You can travel by car to Luxembourg easily along the following roads:
There are dozens of smaller border crossings from the three neighbouring countries though, which usually are quite scenic routes. Don't forget to fill up on fuel as Luxembourg has one of the lowest prices in this part of Europe.
Eurolines has buses to several main cities in the west of Europe, including Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and London. Note that trains are usually faster and more frequent, though generally more expensive, unless you have a Eurail pass or comparable.
Allthough several rivers form the border with Luxembourg, there is no public transport bringing you into or out of the country.
CFL is the national railway company. Trains travel north from Luxembourg City to Mersch, Ettelbrück, Wilwerwiltz and Clervaux. From Ettelbrück you can go to Diekirch as well. Other destinations include Wiltz and Kautenbach. Going south, you can go to Bettembourg and Esch-sur-Alzette. There is at least one train an hour to every city and in every direction.
Roads in Luxemburg are very good and major highways run towards Germany, Belgium and France. Petrol is among the cheapest in Western Europe, car rental prices are relatively high though. Rental cars are available at the international airport or in most major cities and towns. Traffic drives on the right and your national driver's licence or international driving permit will be sufficient.
Comfortable and punctual bus travel is possible between all major cities and towns. Most lines have at least one hourly bus, but Sunday services are less frequent.
If you are a European Union (EU) citizen, you may enter without any restriction as per your EU citizenship rights. If you are not an EU citizen, you will need to obtain a Schengen Visa. This visa is valid for any country in the Schengen zone.
See also: Money Matters
Luxembourg has adopted the Euro (ISO code: EUR, symbol: €) as its official currency. One Euro is divided into 100 cents, which is sometimes referred to as eurocents, especially when distinguishing them with the US cents.
Euro banknotes come in denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500. The highest three denominations are rarely used in everyday transactions. All Euro banknotes have a common design for each denomination on both sides throughout the Eurozone.
The Euro coins are 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, €1 and €2. Some countries in the Eurozone have law which requires cash transactions to be rounded to the nearest 5 cents. All Euro coins have a common design on the denomination (value) side, while the opposite side may have a different image from one country to another. Although the image side may be different, all Euro coins remain legal tender throughout the Eurozone.
Luxembourg is a major player in the financial service sector. Many thousands of people commute from neighbouring Belgium, France (Les frontaliers) and Germany (Die Grenzgänger) on weekdays, considerably swelling the population of the capital city. The majority work in the numerous financial institutions based in and around the capital (particularly in the Kirchberg district) and are drawn across the borders by the excellent salaries on offer. Luxembourg City has a very international flavour as in addition to les frontaliers, it attracts young professionals from all over the globe. In this area, business is done predominantly in English, French or German and it is necessary to be fluent in one of these at a minimum, although many jobs will demand proficiency in at least two.
Luxembourgish ("Lëtzebuergesch") is the national language, while French is the administrative language. German is also widely used and almost universally understood. Luxembourgish is a separate and unique language, having previously evolved from a German dialect ("Moselfränkisch"). German (Hochdeutsch) enjoys official status and appears in some media, is used in the court system and is taught in schools. However, everything from road signs to menus to information in stores will appear in French. French therefore is clearly the most useful of the three languages to know, essentially making Luxembourg a Francophone country for the visitor with the exception of places close to the German border such as Diekirch or Echternach.
Over one third of Luxembourg's overall population is made up of foreigners, and this figure rises to around 50% in the cities. Hence, again knowing French is your best bet if you want to converse with most people, especially as people working in shops and bars usually come from France or Belgium and don't bother to learn the local native language. English is widely understood by such personnel as bus drivers, but many shop assistants will only respond if addressed in French or German. Educated Luxembourgers are fluent in all four of the above languages; it is the "frontaliers" (workers who live across one of the borders) who may not speak English well or at all. Apart from the more elderly inhabitants, virtually every Luxembourger understands and speaks fluent standard German and French. Luxembourgers are the polyglots of Europe, perhaps making even the Swiss jealous!
Traditional dishes are largely based on pork and potatoes and the influence of German and central European cooking is undeniable. The unofficial national dish is judd mat gaardebounen, or smoked neck of pork served with boiled broad beans. A must to try if you do get the opportunity are gromperekichelchen (literally, potato biscuits) which are a type of fried shredded potato cake containing onions, shallots and parsley. Typically found served at outdoor events such as markets or funfairs they are absolutely delicious and a particularly nice snack on a cold winter's day.
In most restaurants, however, the typical local food would be French cuisine coming in bigger portions. Italian food has been popular since the 1960s. Home cooking has been greatly influenced by the recipes of Ketty Thull, apparently the best-selling cooking and baking book in Luxembourg since WW II.
You can also taste the "Bamkuch" (literally tree cake), which is eaten mainly during celebrations such as weddings and baptisms. This cake is traditionally made on a spit and presented as a tree trunk composed of several layers, visible when it is cut, and that represent the tree rings.
Due to the heavy banking and EU presence in the city, hotels in central Luxembourg are quite expensive, although there is a good youth hostel. It may be more cost-effective to stay across the border in e.g. Trier and "commute" into Luxembourg.
The Association of Independent Hotels in Luxembourg operates a booking service at hotels.lu for a number of smaller hotels, mostly in the countryside, but a few in the city.
The Luxembourg white wines from the Moselle valley to the east of Luxembourg include Riesling, Auxerrois, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Rivaner and Elbling to name just a few, and are good. In autumn, many villages along the Moselle river organise wine-tasting village festivals.
Young people tend to drink local or imported beer. Luxembourg has a number of breweries, with Diekirch, from the village of the same name, Bofferding, Battin, Simon and Mousel being the most popular. Despite the fact that you would be hard pushed to find any of these outside of the country, all are excellent lagers.
As an after dinner digestive, Luxembourgers like to drink an eau-de-vie . The most commonly available are Mirabelle and Quetsch. Both are made from plums and are extremely strong! Sometimes these are taken in coffee which may be a little more palatable for some.
See also: Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Luxembourg.
See also: Travel Safety
In many surveys, Luxembourg has been named "safest country in the world"; if you follow usual precautions, you should be fine. The area around the city centre's railway station is a little dubious; you will encounter people panhandling. There are also some dubious nightclubs in this area that visitors should stay clear of.
See also: International Telephone Calls
Ask victorian67 a question about Luxembourg
I am currently living & travelling extensively throughout Luxembourg and I will be happy to help you with any query you may have about Luxembourg travelling tips. Do feel free to check my blog Escapades around the 3 borders Country which will already provide you with some interesting informations about many places around Luxembourg
Ask stevieh a question about Luxembourg
Buy your fuel here!!!
It's 20% cheaper than the rest of Europe.
Ask Mo Goes a question about Luxembourg
I live in the Netherlands and travel extensively throughout the Benelux countries. I can help you find information about accomodations, restaurants, shopping and travelling with kids.
Ask daak a question about Luxembourg
Just ask me, will try to help you :) (if I dunno, will ask somebody else ;) ), I have been staying here since 2006.
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