For such a small country, there’s a lot see to in Luxembourg. This guide will help you decide what to do in Luxembourg for a weekend trip. You’ll get a three day itinerary packed with advice on what to see, where to stay, where to eat and how to get around.
Luxembourg is one of those overlooked destinations that I love seeking out. Sometimes, I’ll do that because a place is quirky (like Shoreditch London) or because it’s not on the typical American’s bucket list (like Sri Lanka). But I think that Luxembourg gets overlooked because it has a bad rap as a “boring” city due to it’s banking sector and many tourists prioritize France because it is perceived as being more romantic. I say balderdash to that.
It’s hardly boring in Luxembourg, and what with its picture perfect medieval old town and fairy tale castles, it also packs a big dose of romance. If you need further convincing, you can read this piece on why Luxembourg is worth visiting, suffice to say that it packs a big historical punch into a tiny little package.
Luxembourg is a perfect city break precisely because of that tiny little package. Getting to Luxembourg is pretty easy and getting around is even easier. The city has a compact downtown and you can see most of the things to do in Luxembourg City in one day. You can also get to most of the other tourist sites outside of the city within two hours using public transportation.
What to Do in Luxembourg on a Long Weekend Getaway
This itinerary is designed for a three day long weekend in Luxembourg. It gives you a half day to get there (and home), a day out in the countryside and a day and a half in Luxembourg City. I’m presenting it to you in the order in which I did my trip, but you don’t need to be prescriptive about it. Do it in the reverse if that works better for you. As a practical matter, Luxembourg City is actually just called “Luxembourg”, but I’m calling it Luxembourg City in order to distinguish the parts of this itinerary that are in the city proper vs. those that are out in the countryside.
I’m recommend that you focus on three aspects of what I think makes Luxembourg special: history, fairy tale castles and hiking.
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Getting to Luxembourg
Getting to Luxembourg from Frankfurt, Paris or Brussels is very easy by train. The TGV train from Paris can cost as low as €25 and only takes two hours. If you don’t mind getting up early, you could even do Luxembourg as a day trip. Arriving by train from Belgium takes three hours and €20 and the once-daily TGV from Frankfurt takes two hours and ~€60. There are also more frequent, but slower trains from Frankfurt that run throughout the day. The Luxembourg City train station is in the city center and from there, it’s a twenty minute walk into the old town. The Luxembourg train station is also a major bus hub so from there, you can easily get to everywhere else in Luxembourg.
There are also sixteen air carriers flying into Luxembourg airport from sixty nine European cities, including low cost carriers such as Ryan Air and EasyJet.
Keep an eye on airfare to and within Europe using Skyscanner alerts.
Day One: Vianden
Explore Vianden Castle and Town
We arrived in Vianden at midday and after lunch, we set out to conquer the castle. My husband was a little skeptical of visiting Luxembourg for the aforementioned reasons, but when he saw Vianden Castle, he was a convert.
Vianden Castle was constructed between the 11th and 14th centuries on the foundations of a prior Roman fortification. It was a center of power into the 1500’s when it had royal connections to France, Germany and Hungary. It was the seat of power for the House of Orange-Nassau and descendants of the Nassau line still hold the title of Grand Duke in Luxembourg. By the mid 1800’s, however the castle was losing it’s shine, was sold off piece by piece and fell into ruin.
Restoration work began in 1977 and the castle has been gloriously brought back to life. They have made great effort at the castle to present rooms of various eras and they have excellent explanatory displays that not only give information about the history of the castle, but that are also honest about what they don’t know. I found this candor refreshing and wish that more historical sites would do it.
Beyond the castle, you can spend the remainder of the day wandering around the town, taking a walk along the river and visiting the small Victor Hugo museum.
Visiting the Castle: The castle is open daily from 10a-6p during high season and until 4p in low season. Entry is €7 for adults. You can get to the castle by simply walking up right up the hill along the main road. However, I recommend taking the chairlift. The lift costs €3.50 one way and gives great views of the river valley. From the top of the lift, you get the magical view of the castle featured above and then you can take a short pathway down the hill to get to the castle entrance.
Getting to Vianden: It takes under two hours and €2 to get to Vianden using public transportation. You can take the train to Ettlebruck and then transfer to one of several buses or you can take the 570 bus directly from the main Luxembourg train station to Vianden.
Where to Stay in Vianden
Stay at the Victor Hugo House: I stayed at the Victor Hugo house because I am a book nerd of the highest order and I make a point of staying in bookish lodgings (like this library in Wales and this bookstore B&B in England). Our room was large, comfortable and a very good deal. Check reviews and book at Trip Advisor or Hotels.com.
If you are using public transportation to get to Vianden, be careful about where you book because the booking services will show you hotels and guesthouses that are not within walking distance of Vianden proper. Check the full list of area hotels here on Trip Advisor or Hotels.com.
Where to Eat in Vianden
Eat Dinner at the LaJolla Lounge: This spot has a varied menu of meats, fishes and pizza. The food was nothing to write home about but the location is really spectacular. They have a series of tables lined up along the riverbank all of which offer excellent views of the castle.
Eat Lunch at the Fischer Masgoort Bakery: This bakery smells like a bakery so you know that bread is going to be good. We had simple but delicious sandwiches and salads that fortified us after our hike. This bakery would also be a great little spot for breakfast.
Day Two: Take a Hike, Then See Luxembourg Art & Beer
Morning in Vianden: Ourdall hike
Luxembourg has over 5,000km (3,100 miles) of trails which, according to their tourism bureau, makes it one of the densest pedestrian networks in Europe. There is a constellation of hiking trails that go through and radiate out of Vianden. They range from the longer (and hillier) Nat’our route which is 10 miles (17km) to a simple stroll along the river. We wanted to get to Luxembourg City by the afternoon so we chose the 5 miles (8.5km) Ourdall promenade.
This one-way hike follows the Our river north out of Vianden to Stolzembourg, where we took a bus back to Vianden. The hike was quiet and peaceful and gave us a slow look at the Luxembourg countryside. If you want to take a hike, you can purchase a hiking map from your hotel and choose your route according to how much time and energy you have.
PM Art and Beer in Luxembourg City
We got into Luxembourg City in the mid afternoon and after checking into our AirBnB and chillin’ for a bit, we headed back out. We spent our afternoon and evening doing the following:
See Contemporary Art at the MUDAM
Most of what what there is to do in Luxembourg revolves around history, but it’s worth exploring the city’s contemporary side as well. The MUDAM has a contemporary art collection which features a range of multi-media exhibits from local and internationally renowned artists. The building itself is a piece of contemporary art and we found the exhibits to be very engaging. When we were there, they had a series of ingeniously designed kinetic sculptures by Susumu Shingu. Do as we did and visit the museum in the late afternoon because they have entertainment and a happy-hour vibe in their cafe in the late afternoon.
How to Visit the MUDAM: They are open Thurs-Tues 10a-6p and Wed until 9pm. Entrance fee is €8 but it’s free on Wednesday evenings. The MUDAM is located in the newer part of the city and you may want to take a bus or cab up to the museum.
Stroll Fort Obergrünewald
If you have time and energy, I recommend walking down from the MUDAM back into old town. It’s a thirty minute (mostly downhill) walk that goes will take you through the remains of Fort Obergrünewald, which was part of the city’s fortifications in 1732. The site is now primarily parkland with great views of the older part of the city. If you choose to go this way, keep an eye on your Google maps. You have to wind your way through the park, down some trails and onto to the Rue de-Trois-Glands road, cross over the Alzette river and then back into the old town.
Stroll the Chermin de la Corniche
This promenade is located just below the upper city and above the Grund. It’s only a few blocks long, but it follows the curve of the Alzette river and it gives up stunning views overlooking the Grund below and the Bock Casements above.
Have a Beer in the Grund
Now that you’ve bushwacked your way down from the MUDAM, you need to fortify yourself with a beer and there is no better place to do that than in the Grund. All of the Luxembourg old town is a UNESCO heritage protected treasure and the Grund is one of the oldest parts of the city. It was originally settled by craftspeople who engaged in local trade. Park yourself at Scott’s Pub, which is what to do in Luxembourg if you want to pass for a local. It sits right on the water at the intersection where the Rue Münster bridge enters the Grund and it fills up with local’s going out for drinks after work.
If you are feeling lazy from the beer and worn out from all of the hiking and walking, you can take the St. Esprit elevator back up to the upper city.
Day Three: Discover Luxembourg City’s History
You can do most of the key sites of Luxembourg in one day if you focus on the UNESCO old town. I’m listing things below in the order in which we did them but you can tackle the city however you wish. We did a self-guided tour of the city but you could also schedule one of Visit Luxembourg’s guided walking tours which will give you a two hour overview of the upper city.
Cross the Adolphe Bridge
This stone bridge has a hidden pedestrian walkway that runs under the busy road above. From it, you get great views of the gardens surrounding the Petrusse river and the upper town. When you get off the bridge, turn right and head over to the Monument du Souvenir. This is another fabulous viewing spot for the park and Grund. Are you sensing a theme here regarding great views of Luxembourg? Just to remind you once again, this town is crazy picturesque and it’s hilly topography ensures great views from everywhere.
Check out the stained glass in the Cathedral Notre-Dame
This cathedral was initially built in 1613 but it has been remodeled and enlarged many times over the centuries, most recently in 1938. The building is known for its neo-gothic confessionals and modern sculptures but I was wowed by the stained glass. They had a lot of traditional crucifixion and Madonna-themed windows but they also have some very modern and abstract glass.
Get a dose of history at the Lëtzebuerg City Museum
This museum is what to do in Luxembourg if you really really want to understand it’s history. The museum’s four floors provide an exhaustive history of the city. The museum has a series of topographical displays that show how the city’s footprint has evolved over the centuries. They also do a great job of going beyond “royal history” with displays on everyday life and the modern economy.
Visiting the Lëtzebuerg City Museum: Open Fri-Wed 10a-6p, Thurs until 8p. A ticket is €5 but it’s free on Thursday evenings.
Tour the Bock Casements
Any weekend in Luxembourg should include a visit to the Bock Casements. In 963, Count Sigfried built the fortification on the Bock promontory, the city burrowed tunnels into the rock in 1644 and the tunnels were in active defensive use until 1847. They retained some use as storage and shelter before later becoming a tourist stop. I was keen to visit the casements for several reasons. Of course, I was interested in the history of how Luxembourg defended itself. But I also love visiting weird and creepy spots for their own sake– like the punk rock museum in Reykjavik which is located in a public bathroom, or a creepy cave in Northern Ireland that was used as a filming location for the Game of Thrones.
An itinerary of what to do in Luxembourg wouldn’t be complete without the requisite great views and the Bock Casements provide some of the best. From the open top of the casements, down to the tunnel windows, you get 360′ views of the Grund, the upper city, the Corniche walk and Fort Obergrünewald.
Visiting the Bock Casements: Entry fee is €12 or adults. Open daily 10a-8:30p. You can take a guided tour at 11am, 2pm and 4pm.
Where to Eat in Luxembourg City
This sunny cafe features home made granola and pastries with a generous dose of good strong coffee. Located a few blocks west of the train station.
This all day eating spot is recommended by our AirBnB host. They like the fun social scene and modern bar vibe. It’s located in a busy part of town that also includes other restaurants and brasseries, so you can stroll the block and find something that suits your appetite. @ Place de Paris and Rue ‘du Anvers.
Dinner: Oscar’s Bar
Oscar’s is located in the Grund just down the street from Scott’s pub. They have elevated pub food with burgers, salads and fish dishes with a great little outdoor deck.
After-dinner drinks: Vins Fins
VIns Fins is located on a sliver of sidewalk in a corner of the Grund. They serve organic and biodynamic wines and cheese platters.
Where to Stay in Luxembourg City
Luxembourg is a tricky lodging market. I’m the queen of the well-reviewed, modestly priced lodging but it was hard to come by in Luxembourg. You can book into beautiful luxury properties for $200 and (way) up, or you can find lodgings closer to $125 with lukewarm reviews as best. There is very little in between.
I chose to do an AirBnB in a beautifully modern, shared space. It was the same price as one of the dodgy hotels but the room was deluxe with a private bathroom, laundry, friendly hosts and cats! We stayed near the train station which is a much nicer neighborhood than most urban train station neighborhoods and everything but MUDAM was walkable. Check the AirBnB inventory here. If you are new to AirBnB, you can use my special discount code to book your first stay and receive a $40 credit.
If you prefer a hotel, check out one of these:
Posh & Historic: Place D’Armes. This 28 suite boutique hotel is stitched together from 7 historic homes. They offer luxury amenities and are conveniently located in the upper historic area. Check reviews or book at Trip Advisor or Hotels.com.
Well Located w/ Breakfast: Hotel Vauban. This 16 room hotel is located in the central upper city area. The rooms are cozy but they offer good linens and breakfast. Check reviews or book at Trip Advisor or Hotels.com.
What to Pack for Luxembourg
Check out my Europe packing list to get a complete list of carry-on items that will cover hiking and sightseeing in Europe for three weeks (with laundry). But here are a few particular things that you should be sure to take on your Luxembourg weekend trip.
- Waterproof trail runners: I like the Keen shoes because they have a roomy toe box and their trail runners have enough tread for hiking but aren’t so sporty looking that you can’t wear them in the city.
- The eBags weekender convertible: This flexible soft side bag is small enough for a quick weekend trip to Luxembourg, but it also has expando zippers, allowing you to take up to six days worth of stuff.
- Extra memory cards: Luxembourg is so picturesque, you are going to want to bring extra memory for your camera.
- Guidebook for Luxembourg: Of course, you should bookmark, print and/or memorize my weekend Luxembourg guide, but sometimes, it’s also helpful to take a larger guide. If you have an Amazon Prime account, you can download the Lonely Planet guide for free using your KindleUnlimited benefits.
If you don’t have an Amazon Prime account, I recommend getting one. In addition to the KindleUnlimited benefits, you get lightening fast delivery for your travel goods, you can watch video on the road and you can store your photos on Amazon drive. You can get a 30-day free trial HERE.
This Luxembourg weekend trip is an action packed itinerary but you’ll have so much fun doing it…I certainly did. Enjoy exploring the hiking, history and fairy tale castles that Luxembourg has to offer. Happy trails!
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