City of Luxembourg
City of Luxembourg: Old Quarters and Fortifications includes the remains of a fortified city that played an important role in European history for centuries.
The rocky environment provides a natural fortress, which has been further fortified over the centuries by Spanish, Austrian, French, and Prussian rulers. Although Luxembourg City has its origins in the 10th century, the inscription focuses on the Old Town and some surviving fortifications from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.
Map of City of LuxembourgLoad map
Generally, I find it hard to prepare for sites within my own region with the same level of detail as I do for more exotic WHS. For example the City of Luxembourg: I had been there in 1984 and 2001, but couldn’t tell you more than I liked the panoramas. Most of the other reviews to date are also fairly superficial. A breakthrough in the knowledge of this WHS came when Jurre recently suggested some 25 new connections for it. During a 3 night revisit right after Christmas 2021, I further discovered that from a WH perspective it has at least 3 remarkable features: its boundaries, a list of 20 notable monuments, and controversy before inscription.
Although Luxemburg’s city centre is only small already, the core zone of this WHS covers an even smaller part. There is a hugely detailed official map available, but on the ground, the borders between core and buffer zones are hard to distinguish. Unfortunately, not everything that looks like an old rampart is included, neither is every 19th-century public building. Previous reviewers mentioned Fort Thüngen, Place Guillaume, and Place d'Armes but these are all outside of the core zone, as are most of the bridges and parts of the Wenzel Circular Walk.
I found the WH plaque at a viewpoint in the Chemin de la Corniche, directly below St. Michael’s Church. The WH certificate is in a drawer in the City Museum. The museum includes a "UNESCO visitor center" too, but in the brochures on offer, the boundaries of the WHS core zone are also not strictly followed.
20 notable monuments
The best guidance for a thorough visit is the map mentioned above: it shows 20 numbered places of interest. These 20 are detailed in the AB evaluation too, in a descriptive manner that is uncommon nowadays. On foot, I tracked down all 20 within an hour or 2. The most interesting ones were the two-story Castle bridge (#2), the fine residence Maison de Bourgogne (#14), and the Tree Towers (#7).
Along the way, helped by the information panels that are omnipresent in the city center, I even found us some more connections: there are 17th-century man-made terraces below the Bock-rock, the Tutesall used to be horse stables, the Ecluse du Grund was a sluice consisting of "a massive masonry dam" (irrigation and drainage), and Renaissance sculptures are prominent in the Notre Dame cathedral.
This is the first evaluation document that I know of with evidence of a dispute within the evaluating party (ICOMOS). “A distinguished French expert in the field of military structures”, Dr. Nicolas Faucherre, opposed inscription as in his opinion, not enough was left after the dismantling of Luxembourg’s fortifications in the late 19th century as a result of the Treaty of London. The expert mission, however, resulted in positive advice, because of its historical significance and “remarkable harmony between the city and its landscape”. I found it strange to see that no further comparative analysis was executed, and I doubt that the City of Luxembourg would get inscribed nowadays as the historic city center is unremarkable and the fortifications are mostly gone.
Luxembourg was never really on our radar until we had a chance to visit in 2017 and then a second trip in 2018 for Christmas. Luxembourg is the 28th smallest country in the world packs a big punch!
The highlight is the old city of Luxembourg. We fell in love with this city from the first moment of our visit. Built on bluffs above a river, the military fortifications are over 1,000 years old and offer impressive views. There are nearly 20km of underground tunnels, catacombs, and subterranean storage, making this a city within a city. Luxembourg was the greatest fortified city in Europe. We loved walking along the walls and imaging what this city was like hundreds of years ago.
But Luxembourg city is really two cities in one: the stoic upper city of culture and government, and the lower city of restaurants and nightlife. We loved both! They are connected by an elevator and a network of paths.
Our second trip to Luxembourg City came the week before Christmas in 2018. We spent a week enjoying the Luxembourg Christmas markets and holiday festivities. The Christmas markets are incorporated within the military vestiges and highlight the beauty of the old quarters.
We used Luxembourg City as a base to explore the rest of the country. One of the coolest things to discover in the country of Luxembourg was the castle Clervaux. Here, is the permanent home of the “Family of Man” exhibition – a UNESCO Memory of the World designee. We grew up studying this art exhibit in school, so it was amazing to see it in person. The town of Clervaux is also pretty interesting and was the scene of major fighting during World War II.
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August 2018 - after visiting the Saarland we made another small loop, to visit the smallest EU country and another WHS. Luxembourg was never on my favourite list, but why not take the chance.
The fortress and placement of the city is quite interesting, however the old city is quite boring and only some houses in between are remarkable and add to the justification of the whs status. Of course every member state somehow deserves to have a whs. And there are way less significant cities in europe that would not deserve the status.
We had our folded bikes with us, parked outside the core city and drove around the city visiting the cathedral, the palace and some old building. When it started raining we continued our journey back to Germany, not without filling the car with cheap gas.
Although Luxembourg is considered to be a somewhat dull city in Belgium, we visited the city center (Oberstadt) a couple of years ago and found it quite nice.
So a few weeks ago we drove to Luxembourg again, this time to do the Wenzel walk. This approx. 5km circular walk mainly leads you through the Grund quarter, along the city's fortifications / old city walls and also includes a number of good viewpoints.
With some time left, we also visited the Grand-Ducal's palace which is possible by guided tour in the summer months (but no pictures allowed inside).
Luxembourg is not a big city but certainly worth a one or two day visit.
My best friend lived in Luxembourg for a year and a half, and I went over to visit him on three occasions: in October 2013, April 2014 & November 2014.
There is a municipal lift that takes you from the upper levels to the lower levels. This is necessary because of the rocky promontories on which the city was built. We found it rather hard to track down, but got there in the end.
The grandest building in Luxembourg is the Notre-Dame Cathedral, which is just impossible to photograph in its entirety because of the number of large buildings that have since sprung up around it.
On my second visit we went to Fort Thüngen, which is pretty much a reconstruction. The original fort was destroyed after the 1867 Treaty of London, which required Luxembourg’s fortifications to be torn down. Across the valley you can see the Bock casements. These were tunnels built into the cliff by the Austrians, with openings every so often for cannon emplacements.
On my final trip we had a good old fashioned WHS drinking session on the cobbled streets of Luxembourg’s Grund area. A highlight of the city is the Luxembourg National Museum of History and Art. The next morning we took a train out into the countryside with the intent being to visit Vianden Castle (on the Luxembourg T-list), close to the German border.
I visited this WHS in June 2010. The highlight of my trip was the meandering river close to the fortifications of the city. I visited several other times but it is quite rare to enjoy a warm sunny day here!
March 2003: I visited Luxembourg by train from Brussels and spent two days wandering the city. One of the main things you will notice about LUX is how exceptionally clean and tidy it is and every morning (at around dawn) street sweepers will be out in full-force. The city itself is rather bland, as far as entertainment goes, but it's worth at least a day to walk around the different city sections (which is easily manageable on foot) and which are separated by a short, but prominent bridge (below the bridge is an area called "The Grund" which houses the majority of the nightlife). I left the country by train again to Munich.
I made it there in September 2009.
I had decided to make Luxembourg the last stop on my trip. The stop before this was Trier. And I will always remember what I saw just after the train left Luxembourg station. What I saw was like something from a fairy tale. It was all misty looking (it was in fact raining) and then there were all these gorgeous historical buildings all around the valley.
My favourite spot was at this lookout point from which I got a fantastic view of the Grund and the buildings along the Chemin de la Corniche.
I found this city simply beautiful.
This has to be one of the most congested cities in Europe, and finding parking is a nightmare. On my first visit the only parking we could find was at the Hamm military cemetery several km from the centre.
So last year I went by train and found the Wenzel Circular Walk which made seeing the city on foot so much easier. Another advantage of travelling by train was the cheaper hotels were across from the station in rue Strasbourg.
I used Luxembourg as a base for visiting Trier, Volklingen, Nancy and Longwy.
The view from the old city wall is beautiful and you can easily spent some time hanging around there. When you get up early and go to the city wall the city looks beautiful in the foggy morning light. Visit the Casemates (the fortified wall) where you can actually walk inside the wall since it used to be a castle.
Downtown, the Place d'Armes and the Place Guillaume are interesting and a place where lots of people gather. The city is beautiful, with nice little streets and squares, beautiful buildings and parks. It really shows the people have a lot of money, you hardly see any small cars and I didn't see any homeless people at all.
I only saw Luxembourg on a daytrip from Brussels, but it was a very nice experience. On the one hand, Luxembourg is a European capital with lots of banks and office buildings in a multi-cultural and multi-lingual environment, on the other hand its old town is very well preserved and interesting, especially the cathedral and all the fortifications. Luxembourg was once the most heavily fortified place in Europe, and it shows. Not all remains, but what you can still see gives you a great impression of military architecture, of forts and castles, ramparts, walls, cannon, etc. A worthwhile trip not only for history buffs.
Luxembourg is a real treat. I was not expecting much of it but it turned out to be one of my favourite European capitals so good I decided to go back! The setting is almost perfect with the historic centre surrounded by a valley which has some nice bridges and parks at the bottom all of which are lit up spectacularly at night. It is also one of the cleanest places I have ever been to and whilst the centre is not stocked with monumental buildings there are lots of nice little places (the smallest parliament building I have ever come across) and the square in centre seems to have lots going on there! I have seen two classical concerts and a Brazilian dance troupe and I have only spent two nights here!
I have still to see the tunnels and casemates properly which are one of the main reasons for its inclusion on the list as the tours have seemed to be sporadic whilst I have been there.
If you want to add another UNESCO site and country then it is about 30 minutes by train to Trier in Germany, a lovely ride through the vineyard lined Mossel Valley resulting in some very good wines especially the dry Rieslings!
The one problem is that there is very little budget accommodation, one hostel and the hotels are catering for business travellers mostly so you will have to book in advance or go for a bit of a trip up country! But even so Luxembourg is one of my favourite UNESCO sites.
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