Luxembourg City is a place that simply oozes charm.
A tidy jumble of maze-like laneways that conceal hip cafes, lavish dessert houses and airy plazas before tumbling down the steep gorge walls to the serpentine thread of the Alzette River. Waterside, the wonderfully peaceful corner of Grund meanders through the valley toward the glassy spires that mark the Museumsmile, home to some fantastic collections of modern art and history.
Despite being a city of commuters whose numbers swell as the clock ticks closer to 9 a.m. and English and French are more widely heard on the streets than Luxembourgish, the country’s native tongue, this UNESCO-listed city manages to retain a distinct identity all of its own. Its compact size also makes it a perfect place to visit when you’re short on time.
These are the very best things to do in Luxembourg City in just one day.
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As soft morning light washes over the city, wander downhill on Rue Sigefroi toward the bridge where you’ll find the start of the Chemin de la Corniche, a pretty walkway that hugs the cliff’s edge high above the curves of the Alzette and the picturesque pastel facades of Grund.
Make a stop at ‘Europe’s most beautiful balcony’ before taking the stairs that lead to Rue Large and the narrow path that winds down to Rue Sousthene Weis and the tight pocket of Barrio Grund.
This delightfully peaceful part of town, the oldest in the city, is a beautiful place for a morning stroll along the twisting laneways, beside the willow-draped river and over the arched bridges that have stood here for centuries. The enormous Neumünster Abbey and Eglise Saint-Jean-de-Grund dominate the riverside and are iconic of this part of town.
When you’re finished exploring, head across the bridge opposite the church and take the stairs and path back to Rue Sousthene Weis. Either walk back up the way you came or take the elevator straight through the cliff from the start of Rue Münster which emerges at a plaza off Plateau du Saint-Espirit.
Interlaced through the impenetrable rock of the Bock promontory that juts out from the old town plateau lies a curious network of tunnels – some 17-kilometres, and that’s just what survives today.
Introduced to reinforce protection for the clifftop castle and what would become the Fortress of Luxembourg, among numerous other fortifications, as a means of fending off the onslaught of Europe’s armies, this dense web of passageways which pierce some 40 metres into the cliff face is an incredibly impressive feat of engineering and one of Luxembourg City’s unique places to visit.
When Luxembourg was declared a neutral country in 1839, almost all these fortifications were demolished, however, as the Bock Casemates’ standing in the rock foundations of the city meant almost certain damage to the historical centre, the majority of the tunnels were allowed to remain intact.
If you can’t get enough of this intriguing underground world, you’ll find another extensive tunnel system at the Petrusse Casemates which lie beneath the city’s sprawling park that was once completely fortified. This site is temporarily closed but ordinarily is best visited on a guided tour.
Opening Hours | 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (February, March, October) or 8:30 p.m. (April through September). Closed November to early February.
Price | €6 or free with the Luxembourg Card.
If there’s one thing we learnt during our short say in the city, it’s that Luxembourgers love their food and you’ll find everything from charming cafes through to Michelin-starred restaurants right here in the old town.
We ate at Ca(fe)Sino set in a beautiful, bright salon of the restored Luxembourg Casino which has been converted into a space for contemporary art. The room retains the original 18th-century decor and serves an excellent weekend brunch (€26.50) or Monday buffet (€15).
The small adjoining rooms house several art collections which can be browsed for free with your meal.
For something sweet, The Chocolate House is famed for its chocolatey treats, particularly its hot chocolate which comes in a variety of creative flavours.
Otherwise, in a city obsessed with delicious cuisine, you’ll find a number of great lunch spots hidden in the depths of the old town.
Exploring the old town is an essential thing to do in Luxembourg City.
Between the rambling laneways, funky cafes, sun-drenched plazas and cheerful bars that spill onto the sandstone streets, you can easily lose hours exploring. You’ll also find a surprisingly high concentration of delectable dessert houses sprinkled through the tiny streets so be sure to leave some space after lunch.
Keep an eye out for the Grand Ducal Court’s coat of arms which is displayed in storefronts that hold the title of ‘fournisseurs de la cour‘ – those who serve the court.
Longtime readers of The Sandy Feet may have noticed that we don’t visit an awful lot of museums when we’re exploring a new city, but Luxembourg’s Museumsmile has some great options to check out.
Our pick is the Museum of Modern Art (or MUDAM as it is more often referred to) which stands perched amidst the ruins of Fort Thüngen across the bridge from the old town. This angular glass-roofed building which creates some beautiful shadows within the galleries is intriguing in itself, but the museum also houses a number of interesting works which are charged regularly.
To reach MUDAM, you can either take a bus from the old town which stops just outside the museum, or there is a more adventurous walking trail which leads across the bridge at Montee de Clausen, down a path to Rue de Fort Olisey and finally onto Rue des Trois Glands. In this last stretch, there’s a pleasant dirt trail which winds through the forest to the fortress ruins.
Opening Hours | 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday to Monday, or 9 p.m. on Wednesday.
Price | €8 or free with the Luxembourg Card. Discounts and free hours available for those under 26.
Away from the mile, you’ll also find Leit An Der Stat, a beautiful black and white street photography exhibition housed in the City Museum which gives a glimpse of everyday life in Luxembourg City between 1950 and 1970. The collection is set to remain open until March 2019.
Opening Hours | 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (8 p.m. on Thursday). Closed Monday.
Price | €5 or free with Luxembourg Card. Discounts available for those under 26 and free entry for all on Thursdays from 6 to 8 p.m.
If you’ve got some time before dinner, settle into a slower pace with a stroll through the sprawling city park, an oasis of calm and lush greenery in the city centre. The park extends north from Avenue Marie Therese and provides a far more pleasant route than simply following the main road.
Brasserie Siegfried | This lively pub just outside the old town has a friendly, laidback atmosphere where you’ll find huge portions of hearty Luxembourgish staples such as Bouchée a la Reine/Paschtéit and Kniddeln – the delectably creamy bacon variety had us diving in for more. Menus are in French and Luxembourgish only but the staff all spoke excellent English and prices were fairly reasonable for Luxembourg. You’ll also find a selection of locally produced wine, cremant and gin.
Brasserie Mansfield | For something a bit fancier, Brasserie Mansfield is a great choice with beautifully prepared and simply mouthwatering plates of food and a beautiful location right in Barrio Grund. It’s not the cheapest place in town but the food and service are simply excellent and the 3-course menu a great value option for those looking to have a special meal in the city.
Whether you’re just spending the day in town or taking the time to escape to the countryside, Luxembourg City makes a great base from which to explore.
Budget | For budget-minded travellers, Luxembourg City Youth Hostel is a great option and boasts spacious, modern rooms, an onsite restaurant, bicycle rental and a great location beside the river. Check here for rates and availability.
Mid-Range | For our long weekend in Luxembourg, we stayed at the pleasant Hotel Parc Belle Vue, situated on the fringe of the historic centre between the beautiful park and Peitruss Valley. Rooms are comfortable with views toward the Adolphe Bridge and lie within easy walking distance of the lovely Grund area and the historic centre as well as access to transport for travelling further afield. Check here for rates and availability.
Airbnb | For a more homey experience, Airbnb is an excellent option and you’ll be glad to know Luxembourg has plenty of great apartments available right in the city. Check rates and availability here.
New to Airbnb? Sign up here and receive up to $30 off when you make your first booking.
Using The Luxembourg Card | If you plan to travel in Luxembourg City on public transport, escape to the countryside, or are keen to tick off a number of museums and historic sites during your stay, then the Luxembourg Card is a fantastic way to save money. For just €13/€20/€28 per person for one/two/three days, you can travel on any public transport within the Grand Duchy and visit most attractions countrywide free of charge. For more information on what attractions are included, check here.
Public Transport | Within Luxembourg City, bus and tram travel is a breeze – especially with the Luxembourg Card as you don’t need to worry about payment – and runs to all noteworthy sites within the city, including around the historic centre, to Museumsmile and toward the modern Kirchberg district. For heading into the countryside, trains are a much better option and leave regularly from the Central Station. For more remote countryside destinations, you’ll most likely need to change trains along the way.
To And From Luxembourg Airport | Bus 16 runs every 10 minutes or so from in front of the airport terminal to the central train station via the historic centre and takes between 15 and 30 minutes depending on traffic. Sunday services are less frequent so plan accordingly.
To And From The Central Train Station | Bus 16 (and several others) head straight to the old town in around 10 minutes. For onward travel, both Paris and Brussels can be reached in 2 to 3 hours by train.
Rental Car | If you’ll simply be staying in the city, you definitely won’t need a car, but if you plan to visit elsewhere in the country, a rental car is the best way to go. Just 15 minutes from the city centre, Luxembourg Airport has all the major rental agencies on offer, or you’ll find one office located downtown. Interrent, part of the Europcar Group, tends to have the most competitive rates. Search for the best deals on car rental here.