The following is from yesterday's edition of The Morning Sun.
This is the time of the year to visit Europe.
Not only do the airfares and hotel rates drop toward the end of August, but the odds of running into a shorts-with-socks and fanny pack-wearing American decrease significantly.
And one of the best places to visit is Luxembourg, which is so off the map for American tourists that most of your friends and family will look puzzled when learning of where you want to go. Expect many responses along the lines of, “Luxembourg is by (insert random country here), right?”
But after seeing your experiences in this small country — a grand duchy headed by a grand duke — at the crossroads of Europe your friends and family will endlessly hit ‘like’ in envy of your postcard-perfect pictures on Instagram and Facebook.
What to do
Start your trip with a visit to the Luxembourg City Tourism Office located at Place Guillaume II, the central town square. While here, purchase the Luxembourg Card for 27 euros (about $35) per person or 68 euros (about $90) for a family. This gives the cardholder free admission to more than 60 touristy attractions for a period of three days.
From here, embark on a walking tour of Luxembourg City, the quaint namesake and capital of the grand duchy. The promenade tour (free with the Luxembourg Card) takes about two hours and gives you a good lay of the land.
After the tour, explore what remains of the immense fortifications, which were so impressive and militarily significant in its time that Luxembourg’s capital was known as the Gibraltar of the North. A stroll along the walls is particularly nice in the early morning with lovely views of Grund, an older part of the city located beneath the old fortress in the Alzette Valley.
The Grand Ducal Palace is a much lower key version of London’s Buckingham Palace. Take a couple of quick pictures, but don’t spend too much time here as there’s really nothing to admire except the palace’s architecture.
The same is true for Notre Dame Cathedral, which is average at best, as cathedrals go. If you are looking for old churches, do see the Chapel of Saint Quirin. Built into the cliffs, this ancient place of worship sits was a Roman-era “heathen shrine” with the present Roman Catholic structure dating to 1355.
On the outskirts of Luxembourg City is the American Military Cemetery (take a public bus for about 15 minutes from Place Guillaume II), the final resting place for Gen. George S. Patton Jr. and more than 5,000 other U.S. soldiers from World War II.
With the Luxembourg Card giving you free train and bus transportation it’s super easy to go beyond the capital and visit Vianden. Here you will find a quintessentially Old World town with everything you would expect: Narrow cobblestone streets, old houses with carved wooden doors and churches older than America.
If you have heard of Vianden, it is probably because of Victor Hugo, the French literary great, who spent considerable time here. You can even visit his former house, which is now a museum.
The must-see is the very historic Vianden Castle, which dates to the 11th century and could easily be a castle from the famous Harry Potter novels. Leave yourself enough time to fully explore the castle and be sure to take in the impressive views from the ramparts. More incredible views of medieval Vianden and the surrounding Our Valley can be had by taking the chairlift (use your Luxembourg Card!) up 1,476 feet. The Church of the Trinitarians and St. Nicholas’ Church, both dating to the 13th century are also worth visiting.
Where to stay and eat
With its location on Place Guillaume II, Hotel Vauban has one of the best locations in the city. This is a very small hotel with limited amenities — it’s really more of an upscale bed and breakfast inn. Nevertheless, the location cannot be beat and the hotel is very clean. Breakfast and high-speed wireless internet are complimentary with rooms from about 90 euros ($119).
Downtown Café (open from 9 a.m. until at least 10 p.m. most days), located about a two-minute walk from the hotel on Rue Chimay, is perfect for simple meals that won’t break the budget. For something more formal, go to Restaurant Clairefontaine. Just be prepared to spend some euros at this very nice Michelin-starred restaurant.
Another option is the twice-weekly market (Wednesday and Saturday) held literally right outside Hotel Vauban in the central town square. Just about anything can be bought here, including all the fixings for a takeaway meal.
If you want to stay the night in Vianden, the Youth Hostel offers a great value with single rooms from 14 euros (about $18.50).
How to get there
No direct flights are available from the United States to Luxembourg, which means a connection is necessary. This also means you could combine a trip to Luxembourg with a visit to France or Belgium via a train from Luxembourg’s central station.
Fares for most of September and October were $1,114 on United Airlines with a departure out of Detroit. Out of Saginaw, flights on Delta Airlines and its partners Air France and KLM with connections in Detroit and Paris were as low as $1,107. All fares were found using Kayak, Google Flights and ITA Matrix.
— Dennis Lennox