6 reasons to love Luxembourg
If you're flying to Luxembourg from London City, we'd hazard a guess that you're a business traveller. You might even have visited before – thanks to Luxembourg City's importance to banking and European government, a fair few London-based professionals are repeat visitors. If that's you, we'll hazard a second guess: like us, you wish Britain would start seeing Luxembourg as a leisure destination too.
The irony is that Luxembourg City, unlike say Frankfurt or Brussels, has an obvious fascination the moment you arrive. Sure, the European Quarter is a little generic – though the gold-tinted towers of the European Court of Justice are quite a sight – but the city centre winds, rises and falls, its topography dictated by the looping Alzette River and the rocky cliffs of the Bock promontory. There are fantastic viewpoints everywhere, and you can't look down from one without itching to explore the streets below. Even better, the city is an easy gateway to the rest of Luxembourg. This is a small country, and you can reach some gorgeous countryside without going too far afield.
So if you're a first-time visitor, try to get out of hotels and meeting rooms and see more of what makes Luxembourg tick. Whether it's a case of taking a long walk instead of your gym session, or tacking on an extra day for some R&R and discovery, we think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
1. It's one of the few places you can try Luxembourgish wine
If you're entertaining or being entertained by clients, it's likely that local wines will raise their head at some point. What's particularly interesting for visitors is that legit Luxembourgish wine is rarely seen anywhere else (with the exception of Belgium, which takes over 80% of the country's wine exports). Dry whites and sparkling wine dominate, and the style is often described as a lighter version of Alsace wine. Luxembourg is part of the extended wine region along the Moselle river, and has been in viticulture since Roman times. If you're a true oenophile and have some spare time, take a trip out to Ehnen to visit the Wine Museum – it's a chance to learn more about traditional techniques and get a guided tasting. It's an hour away by train, or 30 minutes if you've hired a car.
2. It's the historic heart of Europe
Despite its modern image as a smart business enclave, Luxembourg has a long history of conflict – in fact, it began life as a castle built on top of the Bock. The capital's strategic location has turned it into a centre of business today, but a few hundred years ago it was a fortress that everybody wanted a piece of, sandwiched between rival European kingdoms. All that has left it with some fascinating historic remnants. Case in point: the casemates, a system of defensive tunnels that dates back to the 17th century. They burrow deep inside the Bock, and stretch for a remarkable 17km. Guided tours can't cover it all, but they're worth doing – you'll get a fascinating insight into the wars and rivalries that have shaped Luxembourg over the centuries.
Elsewhere, former defences have become modern museums. The 18th century Fort Thüngen now houses Musée Dräi Eechelen, which charts the history of Luxembourg in a series of striking underground galleries.
3. It has a global outlook, but a local feel
Luxembourg has an unusually diverse population thanks to its European institutions and status as a finance hub; almost half the country's residents are non-nationals. That makes it a remarkably cosmopolitan and welcoming place. Almost everyone is multilingual, and while a bit of French won't hurt, English is widely understood. So you'll have no trouble finding your feet and finding your way around. In fact, there's something surprisingly homely about the whole city. Think of it as a major European capital condensed into an unassuming provincial town.
4. It lives the good life
The country has the second highest GDP per capita in the world and tops all kinds of surveys for quality of life. And while traditional Luxembourgish cuisine is rather, erm, hearty (think big chunks of meat, spuds and lashings of sauerkraut), you'll also find world-class fine dining here. In fact, some restaurants combine the two – legendary Lea Linster has earned a Michelin star with her modern take on Luxembourg produce and dishes. Hers is one of three Michelin-starred restaurants in Luxembourg City, including the two-starred Mosconi. There are seven more around the country, so roving gastronomes have plenty to get their teeth into.
For shoppers, there is a great range of luxury brands and little boutiques in the Ville Haute (that's the hilltop section of the city centre, to the west of the Alzette), while Hollerich and the Garer Quartier are good for upmarket nightlife. It's also worth checking out Rives de Clausen down in Grund, a cluster of cool restaurants and bars in the grounds of a former brewery.
5. Luxembourg City is made for walking
Luxembourg City is relatively compact and incredibly walkable – and the unusual topography of the centre makes it fascinating to explore on foot. For some of the best views, take a stroll along Chemin de la Corniche, a rampart walk that follows the Alzette and offers fine views over the Grund (Old Town) and the river canyon. Back on the ground, there's another great trail that follows the Petrusse, Luxembourg City's second, smaller river. Effectively a beautiful urban park, the Vallee de la Petrusse passes under the city's two great bridges – the older Passerelle and the newer Adolphe – and because it's down below the bustle of the city centre it can feel surprisingly remote and peaceful.
6. …and so is the countryside
Head northwest of Luxembourg City and you'll hit the Mullerthal region, nicknamed 'Little Switzerland' for its green hills, deep valleys and unusual rock formations. The 112-kilometre Mullerthal Trail runs through the region, but we're not expecting you to tack that onto a business trip – instead, head to Echternach, which is one of Luxembourg's oldest towns and a great gateway for day hikes or overnight walking trips. It's a 40 minute drive from the city centre, or an hour by bus.
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