I'm about 3 months behind at finishing my three-part "Side Trip: Luxembourg" series. Whoops. I've been a little sidetracked; with a couple months of back-to-back deadlines, the holidays, and a bit of the winter blues, I seemed to let the most important part of my trip to Luxembourg slip right through the cracks.
This is the 3rd and final component in my Luxembourg travels, which covers the capital of this perplexing and enchanted country, Luxembourg City. And it's a long one. Better late than never, right?
After our 2 day stay in Vianden, and our day trip to Echternach, my dad and I spent the remainder of our Luxembourg journey in the country's capital, Luxembourg City. Living here for a summer when he was (roughly) my age, it had been 40+ years since my dad had been back. I could tell he was excited as ever. I've heard countless stories of how he lived above a bar, coming home from work with a baguette tucked underneath his arm and a string of sausages flung over his shoulder... How he navigated his way down treacherous basement openings delivering armfuls of Coca-Cola, the stair treads almost completely worn away from decades of use. The thing I loved most was how he described the city, a seemingly fairytale description that you had to see to believe.
River-cut gorges and food lover's dream gardens...
Streets so narrow you could stand in the middle and touch the buildings on either side.
Buildings that looked like castles, and castles that looked like, well, castles... stone bridges spanning the valley... and some of the most breathtaking views imaginable.
He wasn't exaggerating.
The easiest way to get to Luxembourg City from Paris is by train. With the lightning fast speed of the TGV, you can make it in under 2 1/2 hours. The train station drops you in the center of the city, where you can easily get your bearings and start exploring.
Know before you go: Luxembourg City is a town on two levels. Be prepared to do some serious up and down hiking. I am 26, and have never felt pain in my knees (going downhill, mind you) like I did on that trip. Comfy shoes (and stretching) are a must.
We stayed at the Hostelling International Youth Hostel, which is located in the Pfaffenthal/Clausen quarter of the city. Having a very positive experience with the HI Youth Hostel in Vianden, we thought we would give the Lux City hostel a shot. Getting to the hostel from the train station can be achieved (inexpensively) in one of two ways; by bus or by foot. Going to the hostel is easy on foot, as it is all downhill. You can get a city map from the information office at the train station to make sure you don't get lost along the way. Coming back though, I would 100% recommend taking the bus. Trudging uphill with heavy luggage and a deadline to catch the train can make for an uncomfortably sweaty ride back home.
The hostel was warm and welcoming. Fully equipped, this place has a bar, restaurant, free wi-fi, ping-pong tables, free breakfast, and very helpful staff. For the money and the ambiance, it is worth the tiresome morning hikes up to the Ville-Haute (high-city). After a full day of walking we spent the early afternoons lounging outside on the deck, watching other backpackers playing ping-pong. We ended most of our nights with a cold pint of beer and some delicious grub from the hostel bar.
Here are a few of the places we went (all easily walkable, just make sure you have a map that distinguishes the different levels of the city):
MUDAM (Musée d'art moderne Grand-Duc Jean) - Located in the Kirchberg quarter in the north-east, the modern art museum sits high upon a plateau overlooking the city. The modern building, designed by I.M. Pei (the architect who designed the Pyramids at the Louvre) is intertwined with historical Fort Thüngen. It is a beautiful contrast between old and new, stone and metal.
From the interior, the building itself is almost more impressive than the art collection. The stone-relief handrails were pretty freakin' sexy (if I do say so myself), and the windows seemed to be placed in such a way that you would think they were framing a piece of art.
Place Guillaume II - The town square in the heart of the Ville-Haute quarter. The center of town, and where you can find good shopping, the tourist information office, and really clean public restrooms!
Palais Grand-Ducal (Grand-Ducal Palace) - The official residence of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and a pretty impressive building. Also located in the Ville-Haute quarter, it's amusing to watch the tourists taking pictures with the on-duty Palace Guard, making his rounds and never once cracking a smile.
The Grund - Literally translated, "The Ground", this quarter of the city is quite a romantic area of town. Ivy-coated houses line the river's edge as it winds through the lower level of the city. It's a great place to spend the day weaving through the narrow streets and picturesque parks. I also heard there's some great nightlife once the sun goes down.
A few of the things we wanted to do were closed for the cooler months, like walking through the casements, a network of underground tunnels spanning 23 kilometers throughout the city. What we did get to see was wonderful, and with the lack of tourists, made walking through the other parts of town much more enjoyable.