Luxembourg City is a delight for the sightseer. Most attractions are in a compact area, and inexpensive bus tours can take you to places of interest farther afield. One of your greatest pleasures in Luxembourg may come on a balmy summer evening at a sidewalk cafe on tree-shaded place d'Armes, as a band plays on the square in front of you.
Luxembourg City grew up around Count Sigefroi's 10th-century castle at Montée de Clausen on the Bock promontory. The count's choice of location was astute -- the 48m (156-ft.) cliffs overlooking the Alzette and Pétrusse river valleys were persuasive obstacles to invading forces. In time, there came to be three rings of battlements around the city, including the cliff bastions, 15 forts surrounding the bastions, and an exterior wall interspersed with nine more forts, three of them cut right into the rock.
Even more impressive than these aboveground fortifications were the 25km (16 miles) of underground tunnels that sheltered troops by the thousands, and their equipment, horses, workshops, artillery, arms, kitchens, bakeries, and slaughterhouses. Legend says that within these tremendous rocky walls of the fortress sits a beautiful maiden named Mélusine, whose knitting needles control the fate of Luxembourg.
Over the centuries, Burgundian, French, Spanish, Austrian, and German forces took control of these strategic fortifications, each in turn adding to the already formidable defenses. Europe's fears of the city's strength stood in the way of Luxembourg's very freedom and independence. Finally, in 1867, the Treaty of London ordered the dismantling of all these battlements, and what you see today represents only about 10% of the original works.
Visit the impressive casemates (tel. 22-28-09) -- granted World Heritage status in 1995 -- by entering from two points: The entrance on Montée de Clausen leads to the Bock Casemates, and the entrance on place de la Constitution leads to the Pétrusse Casemates. In the Bock Casemates, the Crypte Archéologique (Archaeological Crypt) features an audiovisual presentation that runs through the highlights of the Luxembourg fortress's history. The Bock Casemates are open March to October daily from 10am to 5pm; the Pétrusse Casemates are open during school vacations daily from 11am to 4pm. Separate admission for each is 2€ ($3.20) for adults, 1.50€ ($2.40) for children ages 6 to 18, and free for children 5 and under.
Three Fine Museums
As its name suggests, the Musée d'Histoire de la Ville de Luxembourg (Luxembourg City Historical Museum), rue du St-Esprit 14 (tel. 47-96-45-00; www.musee-hist.lu), takes you back along the corridors of the city's eventful history from the 10th century onward, by way of original objects and an interactive multimedia display. It's open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm (Thurs to 8pm). Admission is 5€ ($8) for adults; 3.70€ ($5.90) for seniors, students, and children ages 12 to 18; and free for children 11 and under.
The Musée National d'Histoire Naturelle (National Museum of Natural History), rue Münster 24 (tel. 46-22-33-1; www.mnhn.lu), housed in the 14th-century Hospice St.-Jean on the bank of the Alzette River, should be of special interest to children. It is invariably overrun with local school groups, due to its inventive dioramas and other exhibits depicting the changing peoples, cultures, geography, and environment of both Luxembourg and the wider world. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm. Admission is 4.50€ ($7.20) for adults, 3€ ($4.80) for students and children ages 6 to 18, free for children 5 and under, and 9€ ($14) for a family ticket.
Opened in 2006 in a modernist building in the Quartier Européen (European district), designed by Chinese-American architect I. M. Pei, the MUDAM (Musée d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean/Grand-Duke Jean Museum of Modern Art), parc Dräi Eechelen 3 (tel. 45-37-85-960; www.mudam.lu), presents both permanent and visiting collections of modern art from around the world. It's open Wednesday from 11am to 8pm, and Thursday to Monday from 11am to 6pm. Admission is 5€ ($8) for adults, 3€ ($4.80) for seniors and ages 18 to 26, and free for children 17 and under.
More Places of Interest
Place de la Constitution affords a marvelous view of the Pétrusse Valley and the impressive Adolphe Bridge that spans it. In the center of the square, the tall Monument du Souvenir (Remembrance Monument), a gold-plated female figure on a tall stone obelisk, is a memorial to those who have perished in Luxembourg's wars. Known affectionately as the Gëlle Fra (Golden Lady), the monument was erected in 1923, destroyed by the Nazis in 1940, partly reconstructed in 1958, and finally restored to its original form in 1985.
The suburban areas of Clausen, Grund, and Pfaffenthal, south of the Pétrusse Valley, are among Luxembourg City's oldest, most picturesque sections, and each merits at least an hour's visit; though be warned -- you'll probably want to loiter at least half a day. Take a stroll alongside the Alzette River, and look up at the fortifications on the hills. There are many nightlife possibilities here, and cafes and restaurants, often with open-air terraces in good weather.
Belts of dense greenery ring the city, giving the visitor an easy, close-at-hand escape from city sightseeing. Take your pick: Bambesch, to the northwest, contains play areas for children, tennis courts, and footpaths through the Grengewald forest. Kockelscheuer, to the south, holds a campsite, ice rink, tennis courts, and a pond for fishing.
The ultramodern Euro-zone on the Kirchberg plateau, off av. John F. Kennedy in the northeast of the city, is home to the European Court of Justice, the European Investment Bank, and the European Parliament.
A Visit to the U.S. Military Cemetery -- The serene U.S. Military Cemetery at Hamm (tel. 43-13-27; www.abmc.gov), 5km (3 miles) east of Luxembourg City, is the final resting place of 5,076 of the 10,000 American troops who fell in Luxembourg during World War II, in the course of liberating the Grand Duchy and fighting the Battle of the Bulge (1944-45). There are 101 graves of unknown soldiers and airmen, and 22 sets of brothers buried side by side. The identical graves are arranged without regard to rank, religion, race, or place of origin, the only exception being the grave of Gen. George S. Patton (because of the many visitors to his gravesite).
To get to the cemetery, take bus no. 5 from Luxembourg Gare; by car, take bd. du Général Patton east, which becomes N2 outside of town. The cemetery is open daily from 9am to 5pm; admission is free.
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