The Luxembourg hop-on hop-off Guide
How to explore Europe's most charming city in a day or two...
Step back in time to the 10th Century as you examine Luxembourg City, capital of this tiny country that is just 82km long and 57km wide. Despite its diminutive size, Luxembourg manages to pack a variety of attractions and landscapes inside. There are lush highlands and valleys in the north, ancient forested landscape to the east, and the southeast is spectacular, with its steep vineyards and riverside hamlets. And in between you’ll find lush rolling plains, picture-perfect pastel-coloured houses and medieval castles sitting on hilltops.
This tiny country has had a most eventful history, and you will learn all about it when you wander around the old part of town, with its winding cobblestoned streets and pretty squares. Beautiful Luxembourg Castle, two Casemates and the city’s remaining fortifications are all located in this area – they were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.
You can explore the underground tunnels, or Casemates, see the changing of the guard at the Ducal Palace, go shopping in the market or gaze in awe at the beauty of the ancient Cathedral of Notre Dame.
The city is split into various districts that are separated by the breathtaking gorges of the Alzette and Petrusse Valleys. Aside from the charming old part of town, there’s also the more modern area on the Plateau du Kirchberg, home to high finance, shopping malls and entertainment complexes. In the south you’ll find Gare, the area around the Railway Station, and then there are the lower town districts of Grund, home to a number of museums, bars and restaurants, and Clausen, which boasts a vibrant nightlife. A small glass elevator takes passengers from the "Haute Ville", or upper part of the city, to the "Grund", which makes getting around much easier.
The best way to explore Luxembourg is, obviously, to hop on one of the red sightseeing buses that take you around the city. Plan your daily activities around the bus tour itinerary. Decide what you want to explore, then, hop off the bus when you reach a sight that you want to visit. After you’ve done your sightseeing, you can hop right back on the bus until you arrive at another sight. This is sightseeing made simple, and personalised to suit you.
How much does it cost?
At the time of writing, a 24 hours unlimited travel ticket costs US$ 18.5 for an adult and US$ 9 for a child (5 – 15). You can also opt for a family ticket that costs US$ 39.50 and covers up to a maximum of 2 adults and 3 children.
Buses depart at 9.40am and every 20 minutes after that. Last bus departs at 6.20pm in summer (1st April – 30th October). Duration: 60 minutes.
Places to see and things to do along the route
1. This bus tour departs from Boulevard Franklin Delano Roosevelt, close to Notre Dame Cathedral and the country’s National Library. This Roman Catholic Church is late Gothic in style, and was elevated to a Cathedral at the end of the 18th Century. In the Church cemetery you can see the famous National Monument to the Resistance and to the Deportation, sculpted by Lucien Wercollier. Also in the square is Luxembourg’s Library, established in 1899 in place of the original, which opened a century earlier.
A nice 1-minute video guide to Luxembourg's historical sites
Just nearby, you’ll find Constitution Square (Place de la Constitution), home to one of the city's best known landmarks, Gëlle Fra ('The Golden Lady'). This bronze statue, which inaugurated in 1923, was dedicated to those who lost their lives in the First World War, but since then it also became a memorial to those who perished in World War Two and the Korean War.
Pétrusse Valley, right below the statue, is a beautiful park located between the upper part of the city and the Bourbon Plateau. The park has a miniature golf course and small steam train. A favourite sight in the vicinity is the Petrusse Casemates, reinforced medieval fortifications that date back to 1,644. These Casemates were tunnels throughout the old city fortifications. There are actually two sets of casemates – the others, called Bock Casemates, are also worth exploring later on your tour (see hop off point 3 below).
A fun way to explore the many sights in the area is to hop on the famous Petrusse Express in Constitution Square. This little sightseeing train takes visitors to see nearby sights and offers spectacular views of the old fortress and the city. It’s a one-hour trip, and you will have a commentary of the sights through headphones.
Another sight worth exploring in this area is the Casino Luxembourg, on 41 Rue Notre-Dame (a street that runs parallel to Boulevard Roosevelt). Originally opened in 1882 as the Casino Bourgeois, it was used as a centre for cultural and social events as well as a casino. In 1995 it was renovated and became a forum for contemporary art. It also contains a library and reading room, the infolab, with over 7,000 publications covering the history of art since the 1960s.
A short glimpse into the beautiful Grand Ducal Palace
2. The first hop off point on the route is at Rue du Fossé, in the city centre, which has lots of shops, hotels and restaurants around it.
From here you can visit Place Guillaume II ('William Square'), named after the King of the Netherlands, William the Second, who was also Grand Duke of Luxembourg in the middle of the 13th Century. This is where the city’s monastery and Church of St Francis were located, but they were destroyed during the French Revolution. The square has since been redesigned, and now contains the city’s Municipality, a tourist office, shops and cafes, as well as the statue of King William II at the centre.
Do look out for the 16th Century Grand-Ducal Palace nearby. It’s the official residence of the Grand Duke and also where he carries out all his duties. On the first floor there are a number of staterooms, where heads of state and dignitaries from other countries are received.
Here, in the centre of the old city, you can explore the Hotel de Ville or Town Hall, which is also located in Place Guillaume II, Luxembourg’s main square. This two-storey building in the Neoclassical style is the centre of local government, as well as the office of the Mayor. Not far away is a pedestrian precinct that extends all around shady Place d’Armes, a square full of shops, boutiques and arcades as well as the Palais Municipal. You can also take a pleasant stroll along the main shopping street, Grand Rue, which is just around the corner from Place d’Armes, and enjoy its cosy street cafes, bistros, chocolatiers and restaurants.
Other sights clustered in the area include the Chamber of Deputies, where the city’s national legislature is housed, and the Museum of the History of the City of Luxembourg on Rue de Saint Esprit. This history museum opened in 1996 and contains displays that illustrate the city’s history spanning over 1,000 years.
3. Montée de Clausen is the next hop off point along the route. The 10th Century Luxembourg Castle, which is located here, on the Bock promontory, was the central point around which the city grew up. The castle’s location above a rock cliff, with small medieval-style homes in the valley below, is a spectacular sight.
The Bock Promontory is also known as the Gibraltar of the North, and on it a vast fortress was built. Little remains of the fortress today, but the site is a must-see, not only because of its historic significance, but also because the views from here are quite breathtaking.
At the entrance to the Bock Casemates, you’ll find the Archaeological Crypt, which offers an excellent audiovisual presentation explaining the city’s history. The Casemates once covered an underground network spanning 23km. Thousands of soldiers could remain underground with their horses, and entire mini cities existed there, too, including workshops, kitchens, bakeries, you name it. Today, 17km of these casemates still remain, some penetrating 40 metres into the rock.
For unsurpassed views, take a walk along the Corniche, a pedestrian promenade called “Europe’s most beautiful balcony”. The path borders the old ramparts along the edge of the Alzette Valley and takes you all the way to the gateway called Porte du Grund, built in 1632. The views en route are quite breathtaking.
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Still in the vicinity of the Bock, at the former crossroads of two Roman roads you’ll find a small area called Fishmarket, where the town’s first markets were held. This is where the National Museum of History and Art is located, in a bright white building with a glass atrium. You can take the glass elevator to the preshistory section below ground, and also to explore the Gallo-Roman remains. The museum also boasts the Salles Kutter, two rooms devoted to Luxembourg’s famous Expressionist painter, Joseph Kutter, who died in 1941, and its collection of artworks from the 13th to the 20th Century is quite spectacular.
Another site worth visiting around here is Saint Michael’s Church, first built in 987. The one you’ll see was built in the late 17th Century and features a number of archaeological styles, including Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque.
You can take two fascinating sightseeing walks while you’re in this area. The Wenzel Circular Walk takes you through 1,000 years of history as you cross the famous Bock Casemates, explore the Upper and Lower part of town and enjoy spectacular views from the ramparts of the fortress. You will also discover the Bock Promontory, the Old Town, the Wencelas Ring Wall, the Alzette Valley and the city’s unique fortifications.
The second walk is the Vauban Cultural Circular Walk, which starts from the Bock Promontory and visits the remains of the fortress built by Sebastian le Prestre de Vauban in 1684, including the Vauban Towers and Fort Thungen.
Tip: Mousel's Cantine, right next to the former Mousel brewery, on Montée de Clausen 46 , serves large portions of lovely local food, as well as some excellent unfiltered local beer.
4. Hop off the bus to explore one of Luxembourg’s hippest areas at the next stop, at Avenue de la Porte-Neuve. Nearby is the Municipal Park, or Parc de la Ville, a tranquil spot in the middle of the city that forms part of the boundary between the Ville Haute quarter and the rest of the city. The southern-most section of the park is called the Edmund Klein Park, and is home to the Villa Vauban, a 19th-century bourgeois mansion that was the original seat of the European Court of Justice, and is now an excellent art museum.
If you happened to be in Luxembourg in August and September, you can attend the annual City Fair, or Schueberfouer, which is held in the Glacis Car Park, just on the other side of Boulevard de la Foire. It offers lots of fun entertainment, including 184 attractions, 27 rides, plus 54 restaurants and snack bars.
The area is also home to the city’s banking district, centred around Boulevard Royal, and nicknamed Luxembourg's Wall Street. This is where you’ll find a selection of international banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions.
5. At your next hop off point, at Rue du Fort Thüengen, there’s lots to explore, starting with the Fortress after which the road is named, Fort Thüengen. This historic fort is located close to the city centre, and was used as fortification for centuries. Its three towers have fascinating acorns on them, which gave the fort its more popular name, Three Acorns (Dräi Eechelen). Most of the original fortress was demolished in the 19th Century, following the 1867 Treaty of London, and then rebuilt in the 1990s, and is now a museum.
The Mudam, or Museum of Modern Art is also located here – Erected on part of the historic fort, this museum, which opened in 2006, boasts a fine collection of contemporary art including over 200 works by more than 100 artists and photographers. Nearby is the modern Philharmonie Luxembourg, also known as the Grande Duchesse Joséphine-Charlotte Concert Hall, which opened in 2005. It hosts over 400 philharmonic performances each year and if you book for a show, you can enjoy a peek behind the scenes and have a drink at the elegant bar.
6. The bus stops close to the Rue du Kiem, one of the few places in Luxembourg where you can do any kind of shopping... Nearby you’ll find the Auchan Shopping Mall, the most popular shopping mall in the city, which boasts a two-storey hypermarket that offers everything from health and beauty products to clothing and household goods. Close by is the Utopolis Cinema Complex, where you can go to the movies, have a drink at one of the bars or a meal at a choice of restaurants. International congresses and trade fairs are held at the Luxexepo (Parc des Expositions), which is just nearby.
7. The bus stops, once more, at Avenue de la Porte-Neuve (See point No. 4 above).
8. The next (and last) hop off point along the route is at Place de la Gare, where Luxembourg railway station is located. The city’s main railway station serves the city as well as Southern Luxembourg. From here, you can also take a stroll along some of the city's main streets, like Rue de Strasbourg, Avenue de la Gare and Avenue de la Liberté, and enjoy shopping… The Post and Telecommunications Museum, right opposite the station, boasts a vast collection of artifacts related to the development of the post and telecommunications system, including old stamps, a telegraph line, manual telephone, postmens’ uniforms, old documents and photographs.
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And here is something that is well worth knowing about: Taking a hop-on, hop-off bus tour is one the best ways to explore any large city, as it saves you lots of precious holiday time and takes you EXACTLY to those places you really want to visit... (Not to mention the great views you can enjoy from the open top...).
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