Fairytale castles, adorable villages and a language no one has ever heard of; this tiny country – the world’s second-richest* – should be on your travel hitlist.
“Dicker,” the guy behind the reception desk uttered as he cocked his head up. A confused frown crossed my face. Either he was having one hell of a morning or that was where I had to change buses.
“Do you want to just write that down for me, please?” I asked. “As it’s definitely not going to be how I spell it!” He burst out laughing and picked up his pen. D-I-E-K-I-R-C-H. “Yeah, like I said, definitely not how I’d spell it!”
I was learning that words here were pronounced like Double Dutch.
“Moyen!” the men doddering past with wooden sticks beamed. I smiled back, unable to respond any other way as I’d totally forgotten what they’d just said.
It didn’t take a genius to work out the M-word was hello but my limited foreign linguistic brain went into meltdown. It wasn’t French. Or German. Or Dutch. My eyes suddenly lit up as I realised it was, in fact, one of Europe’s little known national languages spoken by only 390,000 people.
Luxembourgish. Or Lëtzebuergesch.
A hodgepodge of German, Dutch and French, and possibly something else thrown in for good measure, it’s spoken by two thirds of the population in adorable Luxembourg. It became the country’s national language in 1984 and the small nation, sandwiched between France, Belgium and Germany, might just be home to Europe’s best polyglots.
Many switch effortlessly between four languages like human versions of Google Translate, and some Luxembourgers speak five (Luxembourish, French, German, English and Dutch) which puts mono-linguists to shame, yet makes travelling here super easy.
There’s a mini-guide to Luxembourgish at the bottom of this post.
So, just where are the best places to visit in Luxembourg? Ah, well, that’s where I was travelling to via Dicker, sorry, I mean Diekirch.
A Guide to Europe’s Cutest Country. (Probably.)
Cities & Towns
If quaint streets, ultra-adorable houses, grand buildings and high arched bridges float your boat, Luxembourg City won’t disappoint. Head to the UNESCO-listed old quarter where, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be constantly cooing and arring as you wander through the narrow lanes. Every turn you make you’ll be awarded with another fabulous view of pastel-hued houses straight out of a storybook. Walk along the river, head to the free History and Art museum, enjoy a huge pastry from a patisserie, watch the guards outside the palace, take yourself on a walking tour (get a map with the best places to visit in Luxembourg City from the tourist information office) and breathe in the cuteness of this capital.
Time needed at this Luxembourg tourist attraction: half a day to a full day
Sitting on the riverside in this pretty eastern town, you can take in its much larger neighbour, Germany, across the fast-flowing Sauer. Echternach is a charming regional town with traditional restaurants and pubs running off its main street. You can wander round the nearby lake, about a 20-minute walk from the centre of the town, walk up the nearby woodland trails, sip a coffee in a local cafe or stroll along the river. Hop over into Germany for the day or simply chill out in beautiful Echternach.
Time needed at this Luxembourg tourist attraction: half a day to a full day
OK, so this isn’t actually a Luxembourg tourist attraction, but it’s just a quick hop over the border from Echternach and well worth the visit. Potter around the main square with its camera-friendly buildings. View one of Europe’s biggest standing Roman city gates (Porta Nigra). Go to the Roman spa. Check out the stunning cathedral. Walk along the river. Visit the Karl Marx museum where he was born (don’t expect home furnishings, it has white walls with painted text and photos but worth going if you’re not too clued up on Marx, probably not worth it if you are).
Time needed in Trier: a full day
If you’re a fan of castles, Rapunzel-esque towers and ruins, you can go wild and let your hair down in Luxembourg. There are more than 50 to visit, their history often dating back to Medieval times.
Vianden is the country’s most well-known fortress, perched over the Our River, with its fairytale turrets standing high above the scenic town. The original castle was built from the 11th to 14th centuries and was home to the powerful Count of Vianden. Yet by 1820 the castle had been sold piece by piece by the then ruling power, King William I of Holland. What was left was a crumbling ruin and not one of the most impressive Luxembourg tourist attractions you see today. It was handed over to the Luxembourg government in 1977 when a mighty restoration project went ahead.
What you see now is a castle built only a few decades ago. Still, it is one of the best places to visit in Luxembourg for its cute factor. It’s built on the original site with its design taken from a 17th century sketch and is still defintiely worth the visit. Get an audio guide if possible and don’t miss the museum attached to the cafe. You can also potter around the stunning little town of Vianden (which the locals call a city) with its quaint cafes and restaurants and stoll along the riverbank. It’s a fabulously scenic trip.
Price: 8 euros
Open: year-round,10am-4pm, 7 days a week. Busy in summer, wasn’t busy when I visited in February
Luxembourg tourist attractions – time needed: 2 hours, plus an hour at least in the town
Set on a hill fort below modern-day Bourscheid village, this dramatic Medieval castle overlooks the picturesque hairpin bend of the Sauer River (Sûre in French). Its crumbling walls tell a tale of more than six centuries dating back to the 11th century, available to listen via an audio guide. Its inner walls and belfry are the original while other sections have been partly restored. Watch your step as you walk through the unlit and uneven stone rooms (pack a torch if you’re unsteady on your feet). If you’re a fan of old Welsh castles, this might be one of the best places to visit in Luxembourg, although it’s much smaller than Conwy and Caernarfon. There’s a little museum about the country and WWII as well, but you’ll have to brush up on your Luxembourgish to follow it!
Price: 7 euros; 5 euros after 2.30pm
Open: year round, 11am-4pm 16 Oct-31 Mar; 9.30am-6pm 1 Apr-15 Oct
Luxembourg tourist attractions – time needed: 1 to 2 hours
Few Luxembourg tourist attractions are listed historic Medieval castles, but Beaufort Castle makes the grade. It was built over six centuries and its exterior stands very much today as when it was last inhabited in the 18th century. You can climb the towers, stand in the sky-filled rooms and peer out over the wooded surrounds. Next door is the roofed Renaissance castle (more like a stately home) with plush furnishings, dating back 350 years. If you’re a fan of rock music then it’s one of best places to visit in Luxembourg this May. They hold fabulous concerts in the courtyard (Keifer Sutherland performed last year and the Hollies are playing this summer).
Beaufort Castle is famous for the area’s blackcurrent liqueur called cassero “full of vitamin C” the leaflet points out. (Full of 29 percent alcohol seems to be missing!) Might be best to have that after walking on uneven floors and narrow staircases.
Price: 8 euros
Open: Medieval Castle – 29 Mar to 15 Nov, 10am-6pm daily
Renaissance Castle – 29 Mar to 15 Nov, 10am-6pm on booked tours only Thursday to Sunday 11am and 4pm
Luxembourg tourist attractions, time needed: 2 hours
Towering above the small town of Larochette stands another Medieval castle with its main walls still in tact. Delve into the dungeon or wander round the small garden. It’s an impressive structure looking up from the town’s main square but ‘inside’ there are no roofs, yet the crumbling walls give it a real sense of history. Larochette has a cute little bandstand which holds some concerts in the summer, three restaurants, a pub a small express store for groceries and supplies and often comes up as one of the best places to visit in Luxembourg for people wanting a slice of a small town.
Price: 5 euros; ask about the guided tour (90 mins)
Open: 15 Mar to 31 Oct, 10am-6pm daily
Luxembourg tourist attractions, time needed: 1-2 hours
Hiking & Outdoors
Brilliantly marketed as a mini-version of Switzerland, the area is woven with hiking trails, forests and some incredible rock formations, but not a mountain in sight! If you’re outdoorsy and like solitude, you’ll probably like it here.
(I’ll post a separate blog mid-March about Little Switzerland.)
How long do I need to visit all these Luxembourg tourist attractions?
I spent a week here, hiking and discovering the best places to visit. In Luxembourg, you can spend a couple of days or a couple of weeks, depending on what you fancy doing and how leisurely you want to do it. Most people, however, find the best places to visit in Luxembourg take them around 5-7 days. I’d have liked to visit the very north of the country but ran out of time, but I managed to see a fair few Luxembourg tourist attractions nonetheless.
Are the best places to visit in Luxembourg accessible by public transport?
- Yes, siree! That’s exactly how I got around. You can easily see the best places to visit in Luxembourg taking the local buses. They go all over the country and what’s more, it’s ultra cheap. A day ticket to for the whole of Luxembourg costs 4 euros (valid on the bus and train) while a ticket for two hours – you can swap vehicles as much as you like in that time – costs 2 euros.
- Trains run from Luxembourg City to Germany, France, Belgium with stops through Luxembourg en route.
- I heard that they are planning to make public transport free in Luxembourg but I’m not sure if that’s just a rumour.
- In fact, using the buses to reach Luxembourg tourist attractions means you can add another destination to your list because you often have to change at a different town (Diekirch and Ettelbruck, for example).
*Luxembourg is second only to Qatar for its GDP yet didn’t feel any more expensive than Brussels, which I thought was pricier.
Luxembourgish – Lëtzebuergesch /lets-oo-boyish/
Hello – Moyen
Thanks – Merci
Please – Wann ech gelift /van esh ga-lift/
I don’t speak Luxemburgish – Ech schwätzen keen Lëtzebuergesch /esh schwetzen keen lets-oo-boyish/
Do you speak English? Schwätzen dir Englesch? /shwatzen deer anglish/
Bus stop – Bus haltestell /bus halt-esh-stein/
(Thanks to Julie for the local lingo!)