Monday, January 24, 2011

City Guide: Luxembourg City in October

Back in October, I spent my two weeks vacation traveling with a friend through Benelux. Our Eurail pass took us to Luxembourg City, Brussels, Brugge, Amsterdam and back to Paris. To end the trip, we took a flight to Barcelona to celebrate our birthdays.

Our first destination was by far the most picturesque leg of this trip. Luxembourg has something for everyone. Just over two hours from Paris by high-speed train, it is an ideal place for backpackers to enjoy a break from the large tourist centers and hostel parties en route to Amsterdam or Berlin. With thirteen Michelin star restaurants this county has the most per capita in the world and is perfect for a romantic getaway.

Rich in history owing to its location and national geography, Luxembourg City, otherwise known as the "Gibraltar of the North",  was for a longtime one of Europe's greatest military strongholds. The first fortifications were erected in the tenth century by Siegfried I.  For centuries it was passed between Europe's leading powers: from the Spanish and Austrian Empires to the Prussians, the French and back again. Its military history finally came to an end in 1867 with the Treaty of London which for the good of European peace required Luxembourg to demolish the fortifications, a process which took over 16 years. 

Be sure to take a walk through what is left of the (1) Bock casemates to get a feel for Luxembourg's military history. If you lack the motivation to make the steep jaunt down into the Grund hop on (2) The Petrusse Express which stops by the (3) "Gella Fra" Memorial on Boulevard F.D. Roosevelt. The mini-train will take you on an hour tour of the city while the audio guide provides an interesting narration of Luxembourg's folk history to the majestic music of regional composers. Be on the look out for the (4) Quirin chapel, a fourteenth century church built into the rock. 

Stop for a cup of the Caramel Bourbon Vanilla flavoured hot chocolate at the (5) Chocolate House which sits right across from the (6) Palace of the Grand Dukes. You might even get a chance to see the Royal Family! Not too far is the Place d'Armes which is the heart of the shopping district. 

On a monday night when most restaurants are closed and with a restricted budget, we opted for pub fare at Urban City Bar and Restaurant. The food was delicious and plentiful, the atmosphere was cozy and the beer was cheap. Equally recommended as a fun place to have drinks later in the evening. 

If you are spending the night, note that we did not have a good experience at the Fort Reinsheim. Located outside the city centre, the rooms were less than impressive and overall not a fun hostel experience. We nearly got locked out for the night! For just a few more euros opt to stay at the Hotel Parc Belle-Vue.

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