Since moving to Luxembourg in January, we've devoted so much time to exploring neighboring European destinations that we've neglected our new home city. This weekend, we decided to delve into Luxembourg and its historic surroundings.
We live in the capital of Luxembourg - Luxembourg City - in a neighboorhood called Limpertsberg. Our realtor described it to us as "the Beverly Hills" of Luxembourg City. We live on a square block with a small park and fountain in the center. We're surrounded by grade schools and universities, so the square is filled with students throughout the day. From our flat, we can walk to yoga, quaint restaurants and local corner stores. It's a quick 15 minute walk on the cobbles into city center to reach the train station, haute shopping and bustling pedestrian streets typical in other European capitals we've visited.
We started our weekend Saturday morning with a 5 mile "urban hike" around Luxembourg City. Even though we've already lived here a few months, we haven't explored the city by foot beyond the daily commute route. We walked from our apartment through downtown by winding along cobblestone streets. We passed churches, government buildings, sidewalk cafes and luxury shopping (Gucci, Chanel, D&G, etc. all have presences in Luxembourg City). We headed through the two main squares in town. The first hosted an outdoor market complete with food trucks selling homemade cheeses, cured meats and rotisserie chicken. Vendors sold locally grown fruits and vegetables as well as bushels of spring flowers.
We continued on from the town center toward the Grund - a sunken river valley circumventing the city center. The Alzette river flows languidly through soaring stone viaduct arches. To reach the Grund from the rest of Luxembourg City, you can navigate through centuries-old fortress ruins. The Grund is surrounded by Boch Casemates, which are remnants of fortified city walls dating from the 700s AD. These stone escarpments include tunnels, towers, spires and caves that are open to the public. They protected the old city from outside invaders throughout multiple raiding periods including the French Revolution. Today, they ring around the Grund and are fully integrated into the city. The interplay of modern city, river valley and middle-age fortifications makes Luxembourg a perfect place to wander.
We spent the morning climbing on the ancient city walls and walking a full ring around the Grund to the last major fort before looping back around to Limpertsberg. The whole country of Luxembourg is less than 1000 square miles, most of it uninhabited forests and countryside. Taking the time to orient ourselves by foot makes this place feel more like home.
On Sunday, we drove about 30 minutes north into the forest. Surprisingly, we shared the road with only a few cars (and some joyriding motorcyclists). We careened through Luxembourg's national park to an area with hiking trails. We came across a waterfall bridge straight out of Game of Thrones. We enjoyed climbing around the gorgeous arched bridge, long-jumping underneath the falls and scrambling up the hillside.
After our hike, we headed further north toward a small castle town called Vianden. On the way, we spotted hawks and a wild fox surveying the fairytale woods.
Vianden is one of the northernmost towns in Luxembourg and stretches to the German border. When heading there from the waterfall hike spot, we had the choice of two routes and decided to take the route through Germany to get there. Growing up, our "tri-state area" was Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. Now, it feels surreal to meander through three or four countries in a day. There aren't any immigration checks or border signs on some routes. We get a kick out of switching between French and German greetings whilst running our weekend errands.
To access the road to Vianden via Germany, we crossed over the Alzette river on a one lane stone bridge. All of the street signs transferred from French to German and we drove through German dairy farms and small towns for about 20 minutes until we reached Vianden. Vianden is a Luxembourgish commune with only 1800 residents, but it boasts a castle with origins from Roman times perched high atop the Oar valley floor. We parked along the main street, where locals were enjoying Sunday brunch al fresco, and walked up the cobblestone street all the way up to the castle. The current iteration of the castle was built between the 11th and 14th centuries. We enjoyed the views from the top and also exploring the various cellars, state rooms, kitchens and bedrooms. After snooping around the castle, we headed back into Luxembourg City via the Luxembourg route through farmlands extending to the horizon.
We're excited to catch our first glimpse of Luxembourg in full bloom as summer rolls in. Up next, Champagne, France.
Expat Adventure Blog