Friday, 18 March 2016

PHOTO DIARY: Luxembourg City, March 2016

At the beginning of March, Steve and I went to Luxembourg City for a quick weekend getaway. Everyone asked us why were we going, it's not exactly the most well visited place in Europe, but we hard our reasons. Most of our annual leave this year is being taken up a 3 week trip to Japan and South Korea in October and because our next trip isn't until June I wanted something to break up the gap between Christmas and then which meant we needed to visit somewhere small enough that a weekend would be suffice. This meant that we didn't want to fly too far afield and because I'm obsessed with trying to visit every country in Europe (30/47) Luxembourg was the perfect choice as it takes less than an hour to fly there from London.

We originally intended to do a Friday night to Sunday night trip but ended up flying out on Saturday morning to save accommodation costs. This worked out well and even if we were exhausted from getting up at 4:30 am Luxembourg City is so small we did everything we wanted to do without rushing whilst still having ample time to relax.

We flew from Gatwick to Luxembourg Airport with Easy Jet. The flights were cheap with both return tickets costing less than £100. We caught bus 16 from the airport into the centre of town, the journey takes about 15-20 minutes and costs €2. Alternatively you can buy a 1-day ticket which is €4 but because the city is so small it's extremely easy to walk everywhere.

Day 1:

City Hall

I had booked a room at Hotel Vauban given it's city centre location and 'affordable' price tag. Luxembourg is not the cheapest of countries and the hotel cost €115 a night which was definitely one of the cheaper places I could find in this location. It's a nice place, the rooms are basic but comfortable and breakfast is included. Fortunately we were able to check in when we arrived around 10 am which was a nice surprise as I thought the room wouldn't be available until the afternoon. This gave us a little time to regroup and decide what we were going to do.

Our room looked out over Cathédrale Notre-Dame and the City Hall which made for a nice view. There was a food market in the main square on Saturday morning where food and flowers were being sold, a Luxembourg farmers market I guess.

We stuck our heads into Cathédrale Notre-Dame, it's not the finest example of Gothic architecture I've ever seen but the stained glasses windows are lovely.

As we made our way to lunch we spotted a couple of interesting shops. CD Buttek is a dusty old music shop that has rows upon rows of CDs and vinyl whilst Honey Mustard is a 'trendy' clothing store with a beautiful collection of well curated independent brands.

We stopped for lunch at brasserie Cafe des Capucins which is found in the courtyard next to Théâtre des Capucins where the food is what I'd call traditional Luxembourg. The restaurant is lovely, we sat at the back in a casual dinning space but the area by the bar looked quite colourful and contemporary. I highly recommend the meat balls and cordon bleu and even though this isn't a cheap options it's pretty standard by Luxembourg prices.

After lunch it was time to do some hardcore sightseeing. We spent an hour at Musée National d'Histoire et d'Art (MNHA) which covers a huge range or art and history. The excavated basement exhibits Neolithic artefacts whilst the upper levels showcase impressionist art including pieces from Cézanne and Picasso and an entire section dedicated to Luxembourg's Joseph Kutter.

We took a walk along the fortified remains of Luxembourg City i.e. Le Chemin de la Corniche which is dubbed the most beautiful balcony in Europe and I can completely understand why. The views over the valley and historical ruins are an impressive sight and I imagine that on a bright summers day the area must look exceptionally beautiful.

After struggling to find the entrance at first we eventually made it to Bock Casemates, Back in 963 Count Siegfried built a fortified castle on the cliff (Bock) that Luxembourg City is now found. Over the centuries fortified walls were added and reinforced as the city came under siege many times. In the 17th Century work began on expanding passages amongst the fortified walls, however it wasn't until 100 years later that the vast 23 km of tunnels was completed. Nowadays only 17 km of passage remain and it's a fascinating place as the passages twist and turn along the cliff edge, There are look out points in the large parts of the passages but most corridors lack any source natural light. Not very surprisingly, it's cold and damp so make sure you wear a good coat if you ever visit.

Our last major tourist stop of the day was Musée d'Histoire de la Ville de Luxembourg (MHVL) where you can find out about the city's history. Many of the displays were interactive and the small collection of Luxembourg art is impressive.

Unless you visit during the summer, it isn't possible to see the inside of Grand-Ducal Palace. That being side the exterior makes a nice backdrop for some holiday photography.

The cold was beginning to creep into our bones so we knew it was time to stop for a drink at Chocolate House. With a huge hot chocolate and cake menu I could have spent a very long time in here (we returned on Sunday as well). We warmed up in the cosy cafe upstairs and bought some truffles to take back home.

We popped into a few more shops including the English bookshop and an amazing sports wear shop were I found Adidas trainers I've never seen before. I also bought a pair of sunglasses from C&A because YOLO.

Before dinner we stopped for a quick drink at Le Lion Qui Fume, around the corner from our hotel. Steve had a local beer whilst I enjoyed a large gin and tonic. The bar is nothing special but a nice enough place to rest your legs for an hour.

Dinner that evening was a bit of a fail. On researching where to eat in Luxembourg I stumbled across a few fine dining establishments that sounded wonderful but in reality would have been quite a burden on our wallets. After a lot of research I decided to try Am Tiirmschen a restaurant that serves traditional Luxembourg food, but alas it was fully booked when we knocked on their door that evening. I didn't have a back up which meant we had to roam the streets looking for somewhere else to eat.

I'll admit now that I do not like this approach to eating on holiday. I like to research places in advance so that I don't end up at a complete joke of a restaurant. Whilst I'm not a fussy eater I can be fussy about the restaurants I frequent and on holiday I don't like to stray away from the 'local' food. We stumbled across plenty of Italian restaurants but alas we were not in Italy so we had to move on. We found a few Luxembourg / French type brasseries but they were on the main square and quite frankly, looked like awful tourists traps. We eventually found a Matelots, a restaurant specialising in French crepes. This certainly wouldn't have been my first choice for dinner but pancakes was the closest thing we were going to find Luxembourg cuisine so it had to do. The crepes turned out to be pretty nice, they weren't the best pancakes I've ever had but any sort of cheese and ham combination is going to be good.

Even though I was close to exhaustion I dragged Steve to Interview, an all day cafe / bar around the corner from our restaurant. The wood panelling gives it a 'cool' laid back vibe and considering it was a Saturday night we found a free table easily. A quick Luxembourg beer here and then it was time for bed.

Day 2:

Breakfast at the hotel was a nice continental spread. I enjoyed all the bread, cheese and fruit juice.

We bought a €4 day ticket because we knew we'd be catching the bus more than once. I love how simple the machines are to use even though they aren't in English.

We caught the bus 16 to the Philharmonie which only took a few minutes. It's about a 30 minute walk but the route is quite industrial so it made more sense to catch the bus. The building is huge and quite an impressive sight.

Next door is Mudam, the city's major contemporary art gallery. The gallery displays several temporary exhibitions at once. Nothing particularly stood out for me on this visit although I did enjoy the pictures of London from Fiona Tan's 'Geography of Time'. The gift shop has a great collection of home interior pieces as well.

The gallery is built around the remaining walls of Fort Thüngen which makes for a nice walk. There's a history museum inside the fort but we didn't visit it.

We caught bus 16 back into the centre of town as it was already time for lunch. We had seen Beet on the main square near our hotel the previous day so popped in after breakfast to reserve a table for 1:30. Beet is a trendy cafe that serves vegetarian and vegan food. It has a relaxed vibe with a minimalist but cool interior. There's a big burger menu as well as salads and breakfast items. We both ordered a burger with a starter sized portion of roasted cauliflower salad to share. As you can see the burgers come with chips and side salad which meant we ended up with an obscene amount of food. The meal kept us going all day long as we didn't even need dinner. This was probably my favourite meal of the weekend and whilst it wasn't exactly Luxembourg style I felt that I wasn't breaking my 'only eat local food' rule as you couldn't really call it one particular type of cuisine.

After lunch we stopped at Place de la Constitution, a monolith topped by a wreath-bearing golden maiden commemorating Luxembourg’s WWI dead. Across the road is Casino Luxembourg. a modern art museum that has been closed for renovation.

We walked over to am Tunnel, a contemporary art gallery, situated in part of the underground casemates of the city's ancient fortress. It is connected to the former headquarters of Banque et Caisse d'Épargne de l'État, the third-largest bank based in Luxembourg. The tunnels is covered in photographs, many from highly esteemed photographers.

Our final sight seeing spot of the day was Villa Vauban - Musée d'Art de la Ville de Luxembourg, a lovely little museum that exhibits 18th and 19th Century paintings. By this stage of the trip I was feeling pretty exhausted so I didn't fully appreciate the Jean-Jacques de Boissieu exhibition however it was nice to stroll around the 19th century residence.

We had one last stroll around town and with a couple hours to kill before our flight we enjoyed a drink and sit down at Konrad Cafe and Bar, a lively spot that puts on comedy shows.

We had a lovely weekend in Luxembourg City and for such a small place there's a lot to do in terms of museums and sights. You could probably see most things in one full day and I definitely don't recommend going for longer than a weekend as you'll probably be bored. French is major language, but with an interesting German accent but English is spoken by most people so no need not worry. Everyone comes across as friendly and accommodating plus the city never felt overrun with tourists. I doubt I'll ever return to Luxembourg but I'm glad I visited because I was actually surprised by how much I liked the place. 

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  1. I hate wandering about looking for somewhere to eat on holiday - it drives me nuts! Luxembourg looks really cute - I'd maybe get the train if I were already in the Netherlands or something x

  2. Wow, you packed in so much into two days. I have a Luxembourgish friend so visited a few years back! x


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