Long-term Benelux resident Tim Skelton gives you an insider’s tour of one of Europe’s lesser-known destinations, a micro-capital that proves size isn’t everything.
0700-0900. While the streets remain quiet before the shoppers pour in, have a stroll around the charming Old Town, not forgetting to take in its two central squares: leafy Place d’Armes and the more imposing Place Guillaume II. You’ll find a market on the latter several days a week. Just west of Guillaume II is a great spot for an early breakfast. Locals will tell you the cosy and friendly Golden Bean (23 rue Chimay, 2620 3660) serves up the freshest and best coffee in town. The homemade carrot cake also comes highly recommended, in case a simple croissant just isn’t enough. There are also several great bakery cafés in town. One of the best is Oberweis (16 Grand-Rue, 470 703), which those with a sweet tooth will be pleased to hear makes some of the best handmade chocolates and pastries in the country.
0900-1100. To burn off those sticky calories, walk a few blocks south to Place de la Constitution, home of the Gëlle Fra (Golden Lady), Luxembourg’s independence monument. Behind her the small square affords spectacular vistas of the Pétrusse Valley, one of two gorges that cut through the city. To experience it close up, take the steps down from here to the wooded valley floor, a quiet haven where you can briefly forget you’re in the centre of a European capital. Follow the paths downhill into the Grund district, and the second gorge, the Alzette Valley. Here you’ll find the Abbaye de Neumünster (28 rue Münster, 262 0521), a cultural centre hosting a range of art exhibitions.
. From Grund, take the lift back up to the Old Town. For a sense of how sought-after this strategic site has been throughout the centuries, dip into the Luxembourg
City History Museum (14 rue du St Esprit, 4796 4500), and see how everyone from the Romans to Napoleon has wanted to control it. For an added treat, the museum café has a great clifftop terrace. Or take pot luck in the Cercle Cité gallery (2 rue Genistre, 4796 5133). Its changing exhibitions are temporary, but entrance is always free.
1300-1500. Lunch in Luxembourg is the most important part of the day, and most restaurants are busy, especially on weekdays. Vegetarians will love the Green Art café (Rue Sigefroi, 2747 8877), attached to the National Art and History Museum, MNHA. It has a fine range of pasta dishes, wraps and an unlimited salad bar. For a healthy liquid option, try A La Soupe (9 rue Chimay, 2620 2047), which serves up hearty soups, most made with fresh local ingredients. The menu changes weekly. One of the city’s most popular lunchtime haunts is l’Annexe (7 rue du St Esprit, 2626 2507) – reservations are recommended. 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.
1500-1700. Either walk across the Grand Duchess Charlotte Bridge that spans the Alzette Valley, or take the easier bus, to reach Kirchberg Plateau. On the far side is the Museum of Modern Art, Mudam (3 Park Dräi Eechelen, 453 7851), a masterpiece of white limestone and glass created by renowned architect I M Pei. Its light interior spaces host regularly changing exhibitions by contemporary artists. Next door is an equally impressive old-stone fortress. Fort Thüngen is home to the Musée Dräi Eechelen (5 Park Dräi Eechelen, 264 335) – named for the three ‘acorn’ sculptures that adorn its front facade. The museum recounts the often violent story of the city’s fortifications – there’s even a real French guillotine inside. One star is a massive copper model of the city, made in 1903, which shows how it looked in 1867.
1700-1900. Back in the Old Town, west of the centre, you’ll find the antidote to the fort. The Municipal Park is now a delightful maze of paths, lawns and ponds, and it was built to take the place of the city’s fortifications, dismantled as a condition of the 1867 Treaty of London. In the centre of the park is Villa Vauban (18 avenue Emile Reuter, 4796 4900), an elegant white mansion housing an art gallery. For a chilled-out, pre-dinner aperitif, try Vinoteca (6 rue Wiltheim, 2686 4434), in the vaulted cellar of a wine merchant, with a great wine list that reflects the quality of what’s sold in the shop above. If the weather’s onside, sit on the garden terrace with yet more fabulous views. Another popular 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 elegant modern Italian dining, around the corner from Go Ten is Essenza (12 rue de la Boucherie, 267 3771). It’s a warren of rooms spread over several floors, but each area is small, keeping the atmosphere intimate. Somewhat simpler, but equally tasty, is the fare served up at Mousel’s Cantine (46 montée de Clausen, 470 198), a traditional eatery down in the Alzette Valley, where the emphasis is on comfort eating and heavy wooden furnishings. The local Luxembourg specialities served 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. Behind Mousel’s Cantine is the city’s favourite nightspot. Rives de Clausen is a street of modern clubs and bars that pump out the party vibes into the early hours. 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. Or to finish the evening with one last great panorama, make a beeline for Coco Mango – this sophisticated bar on the eighth floor of the modern Sofitel Luxembourg Le Grand Ducal hotel (40 boulevard d’Avranches, 248 771) looks out over the entire city.
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Written by World Travel Guide.