Stretching just 82km and 57km at its longest and widest points respectively, diminutive Luxembourg is a charming slice of northern Europe that consistently ranks among the world's top three nations in both wealth and wine consumption.
The Grand Duchy's capital, Luxembourg City, has a fairy-tale quality to its Unesco-listed historic core, perched on a dramatic clifftop. Beyond in the rolling forested hills, a string of beguiling villages clusters beneath stunning medieval castles. Then there’s superb wine tasting in the Moselle Valley and invigorating hiking in the rugged, rocky gorges of the Müllerthal region.
Luxembourg has recovered impressively from widespread destruction during WWII, a sad history remembered in war museums across the country. Today, 49% of the population are foreigners, drawn here by the high standards of living, glorious landscapes and an ideal location at the crossroads of Europe.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Luxembourg.
This château's extraordinary outline is the result of an almost-total 20th-century restoration after the original, built from the 11th to 14th centuries, had fallen into complete ruin. Walkways in the lower levels display different layers of occupation, from the Roman era onwards. The open-air Byzantine Hall is a marvellous space, while the Gothic polygonal chapel is built around a central well. Plusher halls display fine Flanders tapestries, while photo galleries show the reconstruction process and famous visitors.
Hidden within a series of 17th- to 19th-century houses, including a former ‘holiday home’ of the Bishop of Orval, the city's history museum is engrossing. Permanent collections on its lower levels cover the city's industrial, handicraft and commercial heritage, with models, plans and engravings, textiles, ceramics, posters, photographs and household items. Upper floors host temporary exhibitions. Its enormous glass elevator provides views of the rock foundations, the Grund valley and Rham plateau; there's also a lovely garden and panoramic terrace.
Beneath the Montée de Clausen, the clifftop site of Count Sigefroi’s once-mighty fort, the Bock Casemates are an atmospheric honeycomb of rock galleries and passages initially carved by the Spaniards from 1644 onwards. They were extended by French engineer Vauban in the 1680s, and again by the Austrians in the mid-18th century. Over the years the casemates have housed everything from garrisons to bakeries to slaughterhouses; during WWI and WWII they sheltered 35,000 locals. Kids will adore exploring the passageways.
Groundbreaking exhibitions of modern, installation and experiential art take place in this airy architectural icon designed by Pritzker-winning architect IM Pei (best known for his glass pyramid entrance to Paris' Louvre museum). The collection includes everything from photography to fashion, design and multimedia. Regional products are used in local specialities at its glass-roofed cafe, which hosts free concerts on Wednesday evenings.
Hailed as 'Europe's most beautiful balcony', this pedestrian promenade winds along the course of the 17th-century city ramparts with views across the river canyon towards the hefty fortifications of the Wenzelsmauer (Wenceslas Wall). The rampart-top walk continues along Blvd Victor Thorn to the Dräi Tier (Triple Gate) tower, stretching 600m in total.
The standout attraction at Clervaux' reconstructed 12th-century castle is Edward Steichen's Unesco World Heritage-listed photography exhibition Family of Man. Gifted to Clervaux in 1964, this ‘mirror of the essential oneness of mankind’ comprises 503 black-and-white, mid-20th-century photos by 273 photographers from 68 countries interspersed with thought-provoking quotations. Free 90-minute tours in English take place at 4pm on Sundays. There are two other museums here, one on Luxembourg castles with scale models, and another on the WWII Battle of the Ardennes.
World-renowned Remich-born architect François Valentiny built this extraordinary Arctic-white building with lattice-like cut-out windows in 2016 as an exhibition space for his and his Viennese business partner Hubert Hermann's designs. On display are 3260 pieces including architectural plans, drawings, sculptures and scale models; it also hosts temporary exhibitions by other architects.
This splendid castle ruin is Luxembourg's largest and most dramatic. Occupying the site of a former Roman watchtower, its construction began around 1000 AD. The original belfry and inner walls still survive; the outer walls were added in 1350 and the dungeons in 1498. Restoration is ongoing but the castle will remain open. Climbing the squat, 12th-century, square keep rewards with turret-framed views over the forested river bend below. From Bourscheid village, it's a steep 1.8km descent to the east.
Beaufort's two castles sit across a wooded valley on the town's western edge. Built from sandstone on the site of a Roman camp, the five-storey medieval castle expanded from 11th-century origins but never recovered from WWII bombing during the Battle of the Ardennes. You're free to explore its many levels. In the 17th century, a Renaissance-style castle was constructed alongside it – compulsory guided tours last 50 minutes. Admission to either castle includes a tasting of locally made Cassero fruit liqueur.