Bonjour, à tous!
*This post was scheduled to post before Xmas but just getting around to posting it now!!*
Can you believe that Christmas is almost upon us? To be honest, this year I am quite slow getting ready for it – Which seems kind of crazy, considering I’m in a city that is renowned for the amount of Christmas markets it has. I can say that so far, my favourite part of the season so far has been sipping lovely Glühwein / Mulled Wine at the various markets, wrapped up in my winter coat and being surrounded by the festivities! I’m looking forward to also getting back to Ireland for the holidays and recharging the batteries a little bit… and also see my fur babies!
However, I’ll definitely be returning to Ireland lighter in the pockets 🤣 As, given I had a few days off together from work, I squeezed in a little trip to neighboring Luxembourg – A country I haven’t been to and have been dying to mark off my bucket list! The decision to go to Luxembourg boiled down to the cheapest train tickets for the period of time – A few locations were considered; Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris but to be honest, a trip to Luxembourg seemed just perfect for a 3 day trip in December!
So let me tell you how I got on:
Traveling to Luxembourg from the likes of Cologne or Bonn or anywhere in North Rhine-Westphalia? Your best option, if you’re not driving, is to take a train. Through the Trainline website, I managed to score roundtrip tickets with 1 change in Koblenz for €50 – if you’re traveling from Köln Deutz/Messe, you’re looking at a near 3 hour journey on a comfy train for that price. To note for this journey, if it is one you are considering, when you arrive at Koblenz, you’ll be looking for the train to Luxembourg but it will be paired with the train traveling to Trier Hauptbahnhof, which can be slightly misleading but follow the signs and also information on your ticket, it is generally correct.
The German ICE system and the French TGV provide connections to Luxembourg, so by rail, the country is quite
By air, Luxembourg is served by Luxembourg Airport which provides services via airlines like Luxair, Ryanair, Easyjet, Lufthansa and Wizz Air to name a few and have numerous destinations to and from Luxembourg, so it is quite well connected. For those traveling from Ireland, Ryanair and Luxair provide flights from Dublin direct, which is real nice!
What is nice about Luxembourg being a geographically small country and situated on mainland Europe is that you can drive, pretty much, 20 to 30 minutes in any direction from Luxembourg City and you will be in a different country – Luxembourg is surrounded by Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and France – so getting to Luxembourg with a car is definitely doable and if you just consider “passing through”, I’d recommend giving it a second thought and spending a day there!
When you do get to Luxembourg, you’ll notice at the tram or bus stop that there is no ticket machines to purchase tickets. Why is that? Public transport in Luxembourg City is FREE. Yes, that’s right. Because the country of Luxembourg is wealthy, they can cover the costs of public transport which allows anyone who wishes to use it, to be able to, free of cost!
The tram runs from LuxExpo to Lyceé Bouneweg, with further expansion underway to connect to the airport. The tram itself is like, fresh out of the box, brand new. I have never seen something so pretty and clean. They have different coloured windows also, so your view of the city as you take the tram is either orange, blue, green or purple. Sometimes too, the intercom plays classical music. I mean, talk about luxurious traveling, eh?
Besides the tram, the city has multiple bus routes which are also free to avail of. They manouvre all through the city and are incredibly frequent. Within the city, you’ll find a lot of buses overlap to the same areas – if you’re looking to get to the Hamilius/Centre area, a lot of buses stop off there. I would recommend walking around a bit, and if you’re exploring the Grund area or the Kirchberg area, take the bus back into town.
Honestly, the best way of taking in as much of the city as possible, is by walking. It’s not an overly big city, so you will for sure find yourself walking in circles. But every time you walk the streets, you will see something new or find a new place to eat etc. Because the city isn’t so big, walking is super convenient, but just be sure that you bring comfortable shoes as there is a lot of steps and steep inclines!
Things to Do
As mentioned, Luxembourg is not the biggest country and does not have a whole lot of things to do. I’d recommend, in terms of time to visit, maximum 3 days, unless you intend to go to rural Luxembourg and explore further. For the city, 3 days is plenty to get familiar with the city, see the few things the city has to offer and maybe get drunk. To be quite fair also, I did not to extensive research into the things to do in Luxembourg and just looked at a couple of Instagram videos to see what people were doing, besides eating and shopping (which are great as well). Based on some of the things I did on the trip and suggestions from others, I can recommend the following things to do:
- Walking Tour: You guys know I fricken love a walking tour. I do a walking tour practically everywhere I go. Most walking tours are a mere 2 hours and allow you to understand the rich history of cities and the reasoning for their existence. You’ll see in my previous blogs that the few walking tours I’ve been on, like Edinburgh for example, the tour guides have been doing the tours for a while and are so knowledgeable with local insights. The TwentyTour Walking Tour of Luxembourg is one of the more popular walking tours in Luxembourg which begins on the “Kneudler” or Place Guillaume II. This tour, with its informative tour guide, brings you through the main city and gives insight into the foundations of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and it’s placement during different key events in history.
- Walk the Fortifications: It’s hard to miss the many castle ruins or the various parts of fortification structures as you walk around the city. These fortifications offer you a real insight into the importance many nations placed on Luxembourg due to these structures. It is very cool to walk through or alongside these buildings and gate towers to, in a way, walk through history.
- Museums: Luxembourg has a number of museums worth taking a look at – the National Museum of History & Art provides a look at artistic culture in Luxembourg through classical art. There is also museums like the Luxembourg City Museum, the Grand Duke Jean Museum of Modern Art and the National Museum of Natural History. So for those who love to traipse through museums and take in some beautiful art, there are options for you.
- Visit the Grand Ducal Palace: For those who don’t know, Luxembourg has a monarchy! The head of state for Luxembourg is currently Grand Duke Henri. In the center of Luxembourg City is the Grand Ducal Palace, which is the official residence of the Grand Duke and where he performs his duties. The palace looks really pretty, especially when adorned with garlands for Christmas. From July to September, the general public can take a tour of the palace! This would be an ideal activity to do and you’ll get to see the splendor of the Luxembourgish Monarchy! I love visiting royal palaces and residences, it’s just so cool to see how style differs from one to the other. For example, the Palacio Real in Madrid (official residence of the Spanish Monarchy) has a complete different style than Holyrood House in Edinburgh.
- Wine + Beer Tasting: Luxembourg has a pretty small but unique beer and wine industry. You’ll find bars selling the likes of Boufferding and Diekirch beers, which are local to the country. You can find these items retailing in most gastro bars and restaurants. Wine lovers have the opportunity to try some locally produced wines at the few wineries in the area like the St. Martin Winery and the Domaine L&R Kox Winery. It’s definitely something I’d like to try when I return to Luxembourg.
Food & Drink
It’s always exciting when visiting a new place to find out some of the best spots to eat but also to find the hidden gems. One thing I tend to do, which I should really get out of, is finding a nice cafe, bar or restaurant and revisiting the place multiple times instead of trying out new places. One thing which is really nice is, when you do a walking tour, the tour guide will most likely offer you many recommendations for places to eat, drink and club. Unfortunately, the tour I took on Luxembourg was on the last full day of the trip, so it wasn’t possible to try out the many places our guide, Carolina, recommended.
Luxembourg, however small, has quite a nice selection of coffee shops, eateries and bars for you to explore. I can recommend the following places for you to try out!
- Golden Bean Café: Located directly across the street from the Luxembourg Gare Station, this café is a nice place to begin and finish your trip through Luxembourg. Their coffees are delicious (albeit a bit pricey) and their pastries are fresh as well. It’s also a decent place to sit and wait for your train journey, as it is literally just a two minute walk to the station, door to door.
- Café Bar Conter: Located in the middle of Grand-Rue (and 2 doors down from the Louis Vuitton store 🤑). This café is pretty chill and not a bad place to start off your morning. The coffee served is a blend from Lavazza, which is a pretty average and commercial coffee brand. The cakes they served here are really nice – they do a pretty nice looking cherry bake which looks pretty delicious. I didn’t try it as my first coffee in the morning sometimes needs to be just pure coffee. I’d check this place out and it’s just across the street from Cinnamood – a Cinnamon Bun shop which have legit every flavour of cinnamon bun 😋)
- Konrad Café & Bar: Located just off of Grand-Rue, this little alley-way coffee shop and bar is a hip place that seems to be a chill working space for students, which gives it a nice atmosphere. The vibe is a bit dark and intimate too with nice couches and just very chill energy from the staff. One thing about Konrad Café is that they have, what many people consider, the best carrot cake in town. Having tried a bit of the carrot cake, I can say it is top tier! The café au lait and latte they make tastes pretty fricken good as well!
- Piccolo Come: Looking for a bit of Italian cuisine on your trip? Fancy a tasty pizza? Piccolo Comme is the place for you. Not only does this place have delicious pizza and what looks like delicious pastas, but the place is so nicely decorated and feels very fancy! Also located in the city centre, off of Grand-Rue, this place offers many pizza varieties with incredibly tasty and fresh dough. I had my favorite pizza there, the Quattro Formaggi, and it was top notch. I still think about it fondly…
- Urban: If you’re entering the old city from the Clausen area or from the fortifications, Urban may be one of the few restaurants you’ll pass/stumble upon and is just around the corner from the Grand Ducal Palace (I wonder if the Duke and Duchess eat there…?). This place came recommended when searching for a food place on the first evening in Luxembourg. The decor and staff in this restaurant feels very upscale, with open booths and large tables etc. I was thrown off a bit when reading the menu – firstly by the Luxembourgish dining prices (😶) but the menu featured quite a few items that read as Irish! Eventually, I settled for the “Sam’s Roasted Chicken” and it was DIVINE. Worth the €24 I paid for it. They have a large selection of cocktails and drinks also – the Chardonnay is delicious.
- vis-à-vis: This lovely local café-bar is, like most places listed here, just off of the Grand-Rue and is a real gem of a place. We graced this bar twice. The first occasion was just after eating in Urban. After coaxing a conversation out of the bartenders, they were very kind to offer some recommendations on places to drink in the city. The blond Leffe beer and the Diekirch are very tasty and not overly expensive. On the second occasion, the bartenders whipped up a tasty Bloody Mary and the recommended Beaujolais was tasted. Both very tasty, and I’m not a red wine person. They also offer a small menu of sandwiches, if you’re feeling peckish. Also at vis-a-vis, I got the chance to spot a famous Irish actor having a beer outside!
- The Pyg: An Irishman goes abroad and goes to the closest Irish Pub… It’s a stereotype I do my best to avoid but when the Irish pub is just down the hill from your accommodation and also serves some of the best Guinness outside of the Emerald Isle, you’re going to want to go back every day. Not only do they have incredible Guinness BUT they also have TAYTO!! I can’t even express the utter joy I experienced when I saw the glistening packs of Cheese & Onion, Salt & Vinegar and Prawn Cocktail. The patrons of The Pyg and the bar staff are lovely people and are very chatty! The bar also hosts bi-weekly Pub Quizzes, which I had the pleasure of participating in (unsuccessfully) and may be hosting in the near future (stay tuned on that…)
Where to Stay
Finding decent train prices for Luxembourg was the easiest part, to be fair. The next challenge was to try and find budget-friendly accommodation in one of the most expensive countries in Europe and also doing it a few days before traveling. With enough forethought towards your trip, you can most likely secure affordable accommodation as there are plenty of hotels within the area. The cheapest accommodation to be found last minute was at Youth Hostel close to the fortifications and Clausen. This hostel was one of the nicer hostels I’ve stayed in, to be fair, and I’ve had the misfortune of staying in some dicey hostels… The Youth Hostel in Luxembourg is basic, comfortable and easily accessible from the Luxembourg Gare Station – with a bus stop just up the hill. The beds for 3 nights in a shared dorm was approximately €35 per night. One thing I’d recommend is to bring your own towel, if this is where you’re staying (€10 upfront charge for towels and €5 back when it’s returned… a bit steep).
There are numerous accommodation options in Luxembourg which can facilitate many budgets. The city, as mentioned throughout, is not massive, so even if you’re staying in the outskirts, you’ll be able to walk to town or take the free public transport to get to the center. Some options to check out for your travel plans:
- Cowo City Centre
- Hôtel le Châtelet
- ibis Styles Luxembourg Centre Gare
Luxembourg is a stunning city. When you’re in the old town and your looking down into the valleys and lower city areas like Grund, it just feels very magical. You can see yourself living your best “Princess Life” 😂 But the city is fairly expensive and doesn’t have the largest amount of activities to do. I would recommend visiting the city but perhaps for 2-3 days and continue your journey elsewhere. I’d highly recommend visiting The Pyg for a creamy pint when you’re in the city. If you read my Browsing Brussels post, you’ll see I recommend a 3 days in Brussels, so it could be a neat little itinerary to couple these countries up together and make a wonderful trip and perhaps include the Netherlands – take in all the Kingdoms!
For another trip to Luxembourg, I’d surely check out the wineries and explore the Kirchberg area a bit too. It’d be nice to do a tour of the Grand Ducal Palace and see how they Royal Family in Luxembourg live. I’ll also surely be getting another chicken dinner in Urban!
So I think this post will nicely wrap up my posts for 2023 – I intend to head home to Ireland for Christmas and don’t plan on opening my computer during that time, and may not even touch my phone until I necessarily have to. I’ve so many trips though to write about and I have a few trips already semi – mapped out for 2024, including my SUPER EXCITING Eurovision Journey, which I’m excited to get started on.
2024 will, all going well, see this blog get a lot more content and perhaps over the little break, I’ll do some updates and make it a little fresher!
I’ll see you guys then!
PS HAPPY NEW YEAR!