Long-term Benelux resident Tim Skelton gives you an insider’s tour of one of Europe’s lesser-known destinations, the micro-capital that proves size isn’t everything.
0700-0900. If you’re out and about early, the best breakfasts in Luxembourg can be found in one of the many bakery cafés. In La Table du Pain (19 avenue Monterey, 241 608), the wafting smells of fresh-baked bread will be there to greet and tempt you as you approach. Those with a sweeter tooth might want to check out Chocolate House Nathalie Bonn (20 rue du Marché aux Herbes, 2626 2006). Breakfasts here include croissants filled with homemade chocolate spread, washed down with a ‘chocolate spoon’ stirred and melted into hot milk. Once replete, take the opportunity to wander the still-peaceful streets of the Old Town, not forgetting to include the charming Place d’Armes and the adjacent Place Guillaume II. You’ll find a market on the latter several days a week.
0900-1100. Head over Pont Adolphe to admire the spectacular views down over the Pétrusse Valley, a green artery pulsing through the heart of the city. On the south side is one of the few museums open before 11am, the Bank Museum (1 Place de Metz, 4015 2450). It spruces up the usual collection of notes and coins with light-hearted displays on bank robberies, real and fictional, and a mock stock exchange in which you can watch your virtual shares plummet. Across the valley at Place de la Constitution, you can descend into the wooded depths below, where a quiet haven of birdsong awaits even during rush hour. Follow the paths downhill to the Grund district, where you can either take a lift back to the upper town or continue along the riverside path to Clausen.
1100-1300. Overlooking Clausen are two architectural masterpieces in contrasting styles. The Museum of Modern Art MUDAM (3 Park Dräi Eechelen, 453 7851) hosts regularly changing exhibitions by contemporary artists that are always fascinating and usually thought-provoking. The I M Pei-designed interior space is a joyous blend of white limestone and glass that maximises the natural light and juxtaposes old and new with its views of neighbouring Fort Thüngen. Now fully restored, the latter is home to the Musée Dräi Eechelen (5 Park Dräi Eechelen, 264 335). The city’s newest museum (opened summer 2012) in one of its oldest buildings, it tells the oft-turbulent history of its fortifications, with exhibits that include an authentic guillotine, and a large copper model dating from 1903, showing the city as it looked in 1867.
1300-1500. Lunch in Luxembourg is the most important part of the day, and most restaurants are busy, especially on weekdays. One long-established favourite is L’Annexe (7 rue du Saint Esprit, 2626 2507) – reservations recommended. With simple décor and a terrace that offers a grand view in fine weather, this stylish brasserie (an annex of the Michelin-starred Clairefontaine) serves modern, French-influenced cuisine with flair and panache. The lunchtime plat du jour is particularly good value. At the Art Café (1a rue Beaumont, 2627 0652), the red colour scheme, velvet curtains and floor-to-ceiling mirrors are somewhat reminiscent of a tart’s boudoir, but the eclectic and good value main meals are a match for the distracting surrounds, and range from wok dishes and pasta to customise-yourself salads.
1500-1700. For a complete overview of Luxembourg from its earliest recorded human habitation in 12,000 BC to the present day, your one-stop shop should be the National Museum of History and Art MNHA (Marché aux Poissons, 479 3301). Spread over a bewildering range of floors and mezzanines, it encompasses Roman mosaics and Italian Renaissance masterpieces. For more underground art in every sense, the Am Tunnel gallery (16 rue Sainte Zithe, 4015 2450) is often overlooked by visitors. It occupies the oddest of locations: an underground passageway linking two branches of the National Savings Bank. The highlight here is found at the far end: a series of intimate portraits by one of Luxembourg’s most famous sons, photographer Edward Steichen, who made his name snapping the stars during Hollywood’s golden age.
1700-1900. Despite its name, Casino Luxembourg - Forum d'Art Contemporain (41 rue Notre-Dame, 225 045) is not somewhere to gamble away your life savings. Instead it is a space for contemporary art, where local artists create changing exhibitions on a range of themes. For a pre-dinner drink, there are many bars in the upper town that quickly become packed after office hours. One of the most popular with the local crowd is Zanzen (27-29 rue Notre-Dame, 2620 1822), a chic bar and restaurant just down the street from Casino Luxembourg. Another sought-after hotspot is Go Ten (10 rue du Marché-aux-Herbes, 2620 3652), which stands out by going for an organic Japanese feel, complete with leaves and real wood bark.
1900-2100. For subterranean dining of the romantic kind, book a table at Caves Gourmandes (32 rue de l'Eau, 461 124), housed in the cellars of the Îlot Gastronomique, a multi-storey warren of corridors and staircases that is home to half a dozen eateries, all worth a look if your first choice is full. Caves Gourmandes serves delicious French dishes in stone-walled candlelit surrounds. Somewhat simpler, but equally tasty, is the fare served up at Mousel’s Cantine (46 Montée de Clausen, 470 198), a traditional eatery with emphasis on comfort eating and heavy wooden furnishings. The local Luxembourg specialities here share a Germanic love of pork and massive portions, and include the national dish, judd mat gaardebounen (neck of pork with broad beans and sautéed spuds).
After 2100. Rives de Clausen, on the site of a former brewery, has been transformed into the hub of Luxembourg’s nightlife, where you can party into the early hours. With a hatful of bars and clubs in a row, there’s something for everyone, from samba to full-on rock. More bohemian, but also quieter, is the convivial Café des Artistes (22 Montée du Grund, 461 327), with candlelit tables, a Jacques Brel feel, and live piano music some nights. For a more off-the-wall experience, head to The Lab (42-44 rue de Hollerich, 2736 5353), a nightclub resembling a laboratory where the cocktails come in glass flasks and the shots are served in test tubes.
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Written by World Travel Guide.