The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (Luxembourgish: Groussherzogtum Lëtzebuerg, French: Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, German: Großherzogtum Luxemburg), is a landlocked Benelux country at the crossroads of Germanic and Latin cultures.
With successful steel, finance and high technology industries, a strategic location at the heart of Western Europe, more natural beauty than you might expect given its size, and as one of the top three richest countries in the world, Luxembourg enjoys a very high standard of living and has prices to match!
Luxembourg CityCapital of the Grand Duchy, divided by two deep river valleys
ClervauxSmall castle town home to the Family of Man photo exposition
DiekirchTown known for its World War II history
EchternachSmall town known for the basilica containing the crypt of Saint Willibrord
EttelbruckTransport hub for northern Luxembourg
Esch-sur-AlzetteFormer mining town now home to the country's university, Luxembourg's second city
Mondorf-les-BainsSpa town with casino located on the Luxembourg-France border
ViandenQuaint small town presided over by a rather splendid château
Esch-sur-SûreA very small town built around a hilltop castle. Not far downstream the Lac de la Haute Sûre is found.
SchengenThe namesake village of the Schengen treaty, located on the border with France and Germany.
The city of Luxembourg proper was founded in 963, and its strategic position soon promised it a great future. Luxembourg was at the crossroads of Western Europe and became heavily fortified. You can still see the extensive city walls and towers which form its distinctive cityscape. Due to its key position, Luxembourg became a Duchy that once included a much larger territory stretching into present-day Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and France. The powerful Habsburg family kept its hand on it until the late Renaissance times.
After the Napoleonic wars, the Duchy of Luxembourg was granted to the Netherlands. It had a special status as a member of the German confederacy and the citadel was armed with a Prussian garrison. Luxembourg was still a strategic location that everybody sought to control. It was granted the title "Grand Duchy" in 1815 but lost some territories to France and Germany.
During the course of the 19th century, developments in warfare and the appearance of artillery made Luxembourg obsolete as a stronghold, and it became little more than a rural territory of no strategic interest. The Germans relinquished their rights over it and moved out their garrison, its western half was granted to Belgium in 1839, and the Netherlands granted it complete independence in 1867. Since then, Luxembourg has developed from a poor country of fields and farms into a modern economy relying on financial services and high-tech industries.
ClimateLuxembourg enjoys a temperate oceanic climate, with the hills of the Ardennes providing some extra protection against the influences of the Atlantic. The best, or at least the sunniest time to go is May to August, although with a bit of luck you'll enjoy mild weather in April and September too. The warm months of July-August are high-season in the country, with outdoor festivals all around, but Spring comes with many flowers and Autumn comes with wine-making opportunities in the Moselle valley area.
Despite the small size of the country, there are measurable differences in overall temperature, with the north being generally a few degrees colder and receiving serious packs of snow in winter. Although comparatively mild for this part of Europe, winters are on the cold side for travels, with average temperatures around +2°C in January and occasional low points of -15°C at night. July and August are the warmest months, with average temperatures between 15°C and 25°C, and usually a few days over 30°C. Annual precipitation is around 780mm, with highs in August and December.
Mostly gently rolling uplands with broad, shallow valleys; uplands to slightly mountainous in the north; steep slope down to Moselle flood plain in the south.
- National holiday: National Day falls on 23 June. (Birthday of Grand Duchess Charlotte moved by 6 months to coincide with the warmer weather)
Luxembourgish ("Lëtzebuergesch") is the national language. Luxembourgish is close to German and forms a dialect continuum with the German dialects across the border, but it is not fully mutually intelligible with more faraway German dialects. However, Luxembourg is also a Francophone country, with everything from road signs to menus to information in stores in French, so French is the most useful language to know and use in the country.
German is also almost universally understood, is used in the court system and is taught in schools, and is the predominant language in the areas of Diekirch and Echternach.
Over one third of Luxembourg's population is made up of foreigners, and this figure rises to around 50% in the cities. Knowing French is your best bet if you want to converse with most people, while English is widely understood by many others. Educated Luxembourgers are fluent in all four of the above languages; it is the "frontaliers" (workers who live across one of the borders) who may not speak English well or at all. Luxembourgers are among the polyglots of Europe, rivalling the Swiss.
Luxembourg is also home to a strong Portuguese population (94,000 reside there), so knowing Portuguese, while not a prerequisite, can be a plus.
- Non-EU citizens who are visa-exempt (e.g. New Zealanders and Australians) must present a passport which is valid for at least 3 months on the day they enter Luxembourg.
- Non-EU nationals who are required to have a visa (e.g. South Africans) must have a passport which has at least 3 months' validity beyond their period of stay in Luxembourg in order for a Schengen visa to be granted.
- For more information, visit this Luxembourg Government webpage (in French).
Citizens of the above countries/territories - except for Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Mauritius, Saint Kitts and Nevis and Seychelles - are permitted to work in Luxembourg without having to obtain any authorisation during the period of the 90 day visa-free stay. However, this visa exemption does not necessarily extend to other Schengen countries.
Luxembourg Findel AirportThis airport is connected by Luxair , the national airline, and other carriers to many European destinations. A full timetable is available on the website of the airport. Visitors from airports not directly served can connect to Luxembourg at the hubs in Amsterdam Schiphol (served by KLM), Paris Charles de Gaulle (served by Luxair), Frankfurt Airport (served by Lufthansa), and London Heathrow (served by British Airways). Note that international flights to Luxembourg with a change in a hub airport are often not much more expensive or even cheaper than flights to the hub itself.
- Frankfurt-Hahn (HHN), located in the German countryside about halfway between Frankfurt and Luxembourg, is about two hours away by direct Flibco bus. This airport is mainly served by low-cost carriers such as Ryanair.
- Brussels-South Charleroi (CRL), located in Charleroi (about 50 km south of Brussels) is about three hours away by direct Flibco bus. This airport is also mainly served by low-cost carriers.
- Frankfurt Airport (FRA) is a bit further afield. The DeLux-Express and Flibco bus services connect the airport with Luxembourg city.
Luxembourg train stationThis station opened 1859 can be reached directly from Paris (2 hours), Metz (1 hour), Brussels (3 hours) and Trier (43 min). Both international and national timetables can be found on the website of the national railways company CFL. Trains from Paris need to be booked in advance at SNCF's website, and have discounts for advanced bookings. Trains to Metz, Brussels, Trier, and other local destinations have neither advance discounts nor the possibility of reserving seats, so there is no advantage of booking these trains in advance. When traveling from Trier it is advisable to buy a TagesTicket DeLux, a day-ticket which costs €8.40 and is valid for a return trip to Luxembourg and free use of buses and trains within both Luxembourg and the Trier area.
CFL operate a minibus shuttle between Luxembourg train station and TGV Lorraine where passengers can catch TGV connections to Charles de Gaulle Airport, Disneyland Paris, Rennes, Bordeaux and other destinations, and a bus shuttle to Saarbrücken, where passengers can connect to the German ICE network.
Motorways from Metz (A3), Brussels (A6) and Trier (A1) connect to the ring-road around Luxembourg City, from which most other parts of the country can be reached.
If you want to enjoy a nice view on your way to the city, "Grund" and Kasematten, leave the motorway coming from the East (Germany) at exit "Cents".
Enter Cents and drive down the hill.
Don't let yourself be stopped by signs that the route is blocked via "Grund".
Luxembourg is served by a number of long-distance intercity buses. These include Ouibus, Flixbus, Eurolines, Regiojet and Flibco. In general, these buses are less convenient than trains: they offer less comfort and do not run frequent (often only once per day). However, sometimes they turn out cheaper than trains.
In addition, there are commuter buses to nearby places such as Trier and Bitburg in Germany and Bastogne in Belgium.
Luxembourg is a compact country, making it easy to reach nearly any town in the country in an hour or less by public transport. The Mobilitéit agency coordinates the country's trains and buses; their website and mobile app are both very useful for planning journeys throughout Luxembourg.
Tickets are valid on both trains and buses, and can be purchased at train stations, a limited number of vending machines, and in the bus from the driver. The rates are a flat €2 for two hours (unlimited transfers) or €4 for the entire day.
The Chemins de Fer Luxembourgeois (CFL) train network is generally a good way to move across the country. Luxembourg city is the main railway hub, from where lines radiate out in all directions. While the south is reasonably well covered, the north is limited to one main line which runs from Luxembourg City to Liège in Belgium via Mersch, Ettelbruck, Clervaux and Troisvierges. Diekirch has a branch line from Ettelbruck, and Wiltz from Kautenbach. To the south, you can reach Bettembourg and Esch-sur-Alzette. To the east, there is a line to Trier in Germany, which crosses over the Moselle River at Wasserbillig.
Trains in Luxembourg are comfortable and modern, and generally run perfectly on-time.
By busThe country is served by countless bus services, reaching every little village in the country. Most services run at least every hour throughout the week, with higher frequencies during weekdays and reduced operation on Saturdays and Sundays.
Buses numbered 1-31 serve the City of Luxembourg, with the most useful when arriving in the country being line 16 (Airport - Kirchberg - City Centre - Train Station - Howald) and 29 (Airport - City Centre - Train Station - Howald). Almost all city buses stop at the central bus station, Hamilius, and the train station (Luxembourg Gare) in their routes at some point, resulting in very high-frequent connections between these places (once every 1 or 2 minutes).
The bus service out of town is also extensive and reliable. Buses numbered 100 upwards will take you out of the city. For destinations in the north of the country, one usually first needs to take a train to Mersch, Ettelbruck, Wiltz, or Clervaux, and change there to a bus to the final destination. Other destinations usually have a direct bus from the capital.
Buses are modern and clean, and you can board at any door if you already have a ticket (except for TICE buses which run Esch-sur-Alzette, where you must enter at the driver). Screens and announcements on-board advise of the next stop on most bus services. It is important to hail the bus you wish to catch by raising your hand towards the road as it arrives.
Luxembourg's road infrastructure is well-developed. Anywhere that happens to lie along the major motorways is easily accessible via these (including Grevenmacher in the east, Mamer to the west, Bettembourg to the south and Mersch and Ettelbruck in the north). Esch-sur-Alzette, the country's second city (more like a small town by international standards) also has its own motorway link.
Unless otherwise indicated, speed limits are 50 km/h in towns and villages, 90 km/h outside built-up areas, and 130 km/h on the motorway (110 km/h in the rain). Mind the yellow town/villagge shields which indicate when you enter or leave a town or village. Speed limits are raised by signs to 110 km/h in some places on the N7 and N11, and lowered to 70 km/h on some open country roads. Within towns and villages, speed limits can be raised to 70 km/h on main roads, or lowered to 30km/h in residential areas. Speed limits are enforced by random police checks as well as fixed speed cams. Be aware that if you have a right-hand-drive car then you are very likely to be singled out for a customs check on the way in. Police are also very keen on stopping drivers for having the 'wrong' lights on in town, i.e. side lights instead of dipped headlights.
Driving in Luxembourg is nowhere as testing as in some other European countries. The locals are generally polite. When entering the highways from side roads into the slower traffic lane, the other drivers will allow you to join the traffic line, but traffic indicators are essential. As with other highways in Europe always keep in the slow traffic lane, keeping the fast lane for overtaking. Some drivers travel at high speeds and will flash their headlights to indicate that they are in a hurry, even if you are sitting on the speed limit. Most of the time trucks keep in the slow lane at their regulated speed for large vehicles. They can be a little annoying when overtaking other trucks. The truck drivers seem to keep a watch out for other vehicles. Cars towing caravans can be a bit of a menace at times but staying alert will ensure there are no problems. The closing speeds of vehicles need to be watched if overtaking, as some drivers travel well in excess of the speed limits.
Normal day to day driving in Luxembourg is a delight but traffic does slow down in peak times.
Finding parking in Luxembourg city centre on weekends can be difficult. Most spaces are quickly taken and some parking garages close early. The best option is to find somewhere near the station and then walk around the city centre.
Parking is paid within the entire city (including all residential districts). Traffic wardens are numerous and vigilant.
The streets and landscape in Luxembourg make for good cycling territory; highly recommended.
You may not expect it from one of the smallest countries in Europe, but The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a diverse land, full of beautiful nature and gorgeous historic monuments. Its turbulent history is filled with stories of emperors and counts as well as many battles and disputes. Today, the almost fairy-tale like castles and fortresses are a faint but impressive reminder of those days, and amidst their lovely natural setting, they make some superb and picturesque sights.
Head to Remich to start your own trip down the Route du Vin and discover the many fine wines that are produced here, in the Moselle Valley.
Discover the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg (Luxembourg-city, Remich, Schengen, Rumelange) by Segway at Segway.lu
If you know any coin collectors, take a few local coins as keepsakes, since Luxembourg coins are among the rarest of the euros — even in Luxembourg, most of your change will be in other countries' coins!
The general price level in Luxembourg is noticeably higher than in France and Germany, especially in central Luxembourg. Even cheap hotels tend to cost over €100 a night and you won't get much change from €20 after a modest dinner and a drink. To save some money, basing yourself in Trier (or other cities across the border) and daytripping to Luxembourg might be an option.
On the upside, cigarettes, alcohol and petrol are comparatively cheap, making the small state a popular destination for long-haul drivers.
Traditional dishes are largely based on pork and potatoes and the influence of German and central European cooking is undeniable. The unofficial national dish is judd mat gaardebounen, or smoked neck of pork served with boiled broad beans. A must to try if you do get the opportunity are gromperekichelchen (literally, potato biscuits) which are a type of fried shredded potato cake containing onions, shallots and parsley. Typically found served at outdoor events such as markets or funfairs they are absolutely delicious and a particularly nice snack on a cold winter's day.
In most restaurants, however, the typical local food would be French cuisine coming in bigger portions. Italian food has been popular since the 1960s. Home cooking has been greatly influenced by the recipes of Ketty Thull, apparently the best-selling cooking and baking book in Luxembourg since WW II.
You can also taste the "Bamkuch" (literally tree cake), which is eaten mainly during celebrations such as weddings and baptisms. This cake is traditionally made on a spit and presented as a tree trunk composed of several layers, visible when it is cut, and that represent the tree rings.
Young people tend to drink local or imported beer. Luxembourg has a number of breweries, with Diekirch, from the village of the same name, Bofferding, Battin, Simon and Mousel being the most popular. Despite the fact that you would be hard pushed to find any of these outside of the country, all are excellent lagers.
As an after dinner digestive, Luxembourgers like to drink an eau-de-vie . The most commonly available are Mirabelle and Quetsch. Both are made from plums and are extremely strong! Sometimes these are taken in coffee which may be a little more palatable for some.
The Association of Independent Hotels in Luxembourg operates a booking service at hotels.lu for a number of smaller hotels, mostly in the countryside, but a few in the city.
Luxembourg is a major player in the financial service sector. Many thousands of people commute from neighbouring Belgium, France (Les frontaliers) and Germany (Die Grenzgänger) on weekdays, considerably swelling the population of the capital city. The majority work in the numerous financial institutions based in and around the capital (particularly in the Kirchberg district) and are drawn across the borders by the excellent salaries on offer. Luxembourg City has a very international flavour as in addition to les frontaliers, it attracts young professionals from all over the globe. In this area, business is done predominantly in English, French or German and it is necessary to be fluent in one of these at a minimum, although many jobs will demand proficiency in at least two.
In many surveys, Luxembourg has been named "safest country in the world"; if you follow usual precautions, you should be fine. The area around the city centre's railway station is a little dubious; you will encounter people panhandling. There are also some dubious nightclubs in this area that visitors should stay clear of.
The food and tap water supply in Luxembourg is perfectly fine and the country's healthcare system is first class. The climate is average even though the summers can get hot. However these temperatures rarely rise much above 30°C.
Try to show respect for the local language and make some effort to say a word or two of it even if just the standard greeting "Moien". Avoid calling "Luxembourgish" a dialect of German or think that the country itself is merely an extension of France or Germany. The locals, especially those in the small towns and villages, are very friendly; saying "Hello" to them in any language will be returned with a smile.