Luxembourg City is the capital of the country and by far the country’s biggest city, which isn’t very hard when your country only has twelve of them. Luxembourg City’s population is less than 100,000, which is hard to believe as it feels like a much bigger city when you visit it. Once I was in the downtown areas I assumed this there wouldn’t be much more to the city, but as I drove farther away I continued to see other districts and dense areas. Luxembourg City is built among low altitude but steep mountains, making it a city with lots of interesting terrain and beautiful bridges. Above are two photos of the central parts of Luxembourg City.
Two famous landmarks in the city are the Gelle Fra to the left and the Notre Dame cathedral on the right. The Gelle Fra means monument of remembrance and is dedicated to those from Luxembourg that served in World War I. The war wiped out about 1% of the country’s population. In 1940 when the Nazis occupied the country they dismantled the Gelle Fra. Parts were found and brought back, but it wasn’t until 1980 that the actual statue was found and the monument completely restored. The Notre Dame’s history goes back to the early 17th century, although its crypt has famous citizens from the medieval times such as John of Bohemia.
During one of my night walks I visited the Place d’Armes. This pedestrian area is the city center, a place where lots of events, ceremonies and festivals take place. The plaza is surrounded by shops and restaurants so it’s always a great place to go for dinner and drinks in the evening. On the right is a photo of teh Cercle Municipal. The building served as a court for most of its time, but now has been converted into an exhibition center.
Luxembourg has all types of restaurants to choose from. Most of them are fairly expensive and on the elegant side, but there are also enough casual places and even fast food if you want to save some coin. When I came across this chocolate store on the left I ended up spending a good amount of money to take some back with me to the U.S. Now the really impressive restaurant for me was Chi Chi’s. These were once very popular in the U.S. and were found all over the country, I even had one walking distance from my house! What ended up happening was a really bad case of food poisoning that ended up making them close all their doors except their international restaurants. I hadn’t seen a Chi Chi’s in at least 15 years, so I had no choice but to eat here. It was still as good as I remembered it!
When I went out Friday night, I was surprised how many people were in the city center. I was even more surprised by how many younger people I saw. It seemed the far majority of people here were in their early 20’s. This girl saw me taking a photo and asked me to take hers. I hadn’t been using flash so when I turned it on I accidentally took this photo at the wrong settings! The photo on the right is next to the Royal Palace. I was drawn to the area because I could hear the crowds of people talking a few blocks away.
During the day time I returned to Place d’Armes. The place was just as busy as it had been the night before. This time there were some street performers such as these guys doing a balancing act and even a free orchestra in the plaza center.
I had actually walked by this building on the left the night before and didn’t even realize it. This is actually the Grand Ducal Palace, the official residence of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg. The Grand Ducal Palace has had political functions since 1572 when it served as the city hall for roughly 200 years. I wasn’t until 1817 that this became the home of the Grand Duke. When I visited the current Grand Duke was Henri Guillaume, the ninth Grand Duke of Luxembourg. On the right is one of the palace guards watching over what is the last remaining grand duchy in the world.
Luxembourg actually has the highest GDP of any other country in the world! I’ve heard even a simple job like a elementary school teacher pays over $100,000 a year. The country is also definitely one of the most well dressed places I’ve ever visited. I felt strange walking around in shorts but I had no choice since I wanted to enjoy the last warm days of the year. Otherwise with this small exception Luxembourg’s wealth is displayed everywhere. This downtown art store above looked like a small museum but instead things were for sale. Many of these smaller items seemed to average around four to five thousand euros! Many people have the typical small economic vehicles, but I saw plenty of expensive sports cars in Luxembourg such as this Aston Martin.
Despite the high GDP there are still a few homeless people in the city center. Every single one of the I saw seriously had a dog with them. I find it hard to believe they all happened to find a dog as a companion, it seemed more of a marketing tactic to get more donations. Many of the signs said things like “We are hungry”, suggesting that the dog was suffering as well.
Luxembourg’s old city is another beautiful district. Here are many ancient castles and forts, and many of the city’s museums. The streets themselves were impressive! Rolling stone streets surrounded by stone buildings on either side.
Also in Luxembourg’s historical district are the famous Bock Casemates. These are one of Luxembourg City’s most famous places to visit. It’s likely that the Romans and later Franks had built defensive fortifications here about 1,500 years ago, but what’s known for sure is the beginning of what’s left of the Bock Casemates started before 1000CE. The Bock Casemates were built to protect Luxembourg City, and are a network of tunnels and defense positions over looking the strategic parts of the city. The Bock Casemates saw many battles during its time and was at times destroyed and rebuilt again. Above are some of the most restored parts of the defensive fort. On the left are some of the internal doors near one of the main entrances while on the right are some spiraling stairs deeper inside.
The Bock Casemates could hold roughly 1200 soldiers and dozens of cannons. Natural light doesn’t seem to make its way well in the inner parts, so I imagine the hallways and stairs were once lined with torches and candles. This is definitely worth a visit, and it’s surprising how big the place is. I even had some couple ask me for directions on how to get back outside.
Another point of interest for those who like World War II history and especially Americans is the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial. The cemetery has the graves of over 5,000 Americans who died during the war, most of them during the Battle of the Bulge that took place in Luxembourg. The entrance begins with a large iron gate followed by the memorial seen above. There is a guest book inside that you can sign, it seemed the majority of people visiting were Americans, although there were plenty of local countries as well as a few from China.
I had never been to an American military cemetery before overseas and thought that 5,000 dead would make it the largest in the world. It turns out that there dozens of much larger American military cemeteries around the world than this one, some as high as 17,000. This one is home to two Medal of Honor recipients and is known for being the final resting place of General Patton. The famous World War II general died soon after the war and had asked, “to be buried with his men”.
Literally less than a mile away from the American WWII cemetery is the Sandweiler German graveyard from the same battles. Interestingly all the signs regarding this graveyard never use the term Nazi, but instead simply refer to them as German soldiers. This graveyard is twice as big as its American counterpart, with over 10,000 graves. Since many relatives still live close by in the area, several of the graves had recent flowers and candles recently left behind.