UNESCO Hunt #11 : A Train Ride To Luxembourg

UNESCO Site #699 Says:

“Because of its strategic position, Luxembourg was, from the 16th century until 1867, when its walls were dismantled, one of Europe’s greatest fortified sites. It was repeatedly reinforced as it passed from one great European power to another: the Holy Roman Emperors, the House of Burgundy, the Habsburgs, the French and Spanish kings, and finally the Prussians. Until their partial demolition, the fortifications were a fine example of military architecture spanning several centuries.”

That never-ending landscaped view.

Luxembourg’s old quarters and fortifications, the impressive vestiges of an ancient city, are set in a striking natural environment. The city itself was founded in 963 (can you imagine that?) and has played a significant role in European history throughout the centuries. Did you know that more than half of Luxembourgs’ population comes from 143 countries? Even so, the country still manages to preserve its historical charms and multicultural surroundings.

The country of the Grand Duchy is sandwiched between Belgium, Germany and France making it easily accessible from these three countries. We took a 3 hours train ride from Brussels to Luxembourg first thing in the morning as we wanted to have more time exploring the city. It was a good thing too because by the time we arrived, most of the shops have started to open along with the tourist attractions. From the central station we walked 10 minutes through the main road, a bridge, rows of shops before entering the William Square. The rest of the journey and areas that you can visit while in Luxembourg are as follows.

1. Place Guillaume II (William Square)

The popular square is named after William II, King of Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg. On every Sundays, a flea market would take place at this square with stalls selling super fresh organic vegetables, fruits, spices (in potted plants), food  and flowers. We didn’t have any particular guide with us so we followed a group of older folks who was on a walking tour and stumbled into this. The Asian in me was in awe with the cleanliness and arrangement of the products as every single item seem to have its’ own place. Even the fruits were arranged in its crates, creating a bright splash of colour across the stall. I wish I could take the herb plants home with me as it’s healthier and fresh.

Weekend morning market at William Square with organic items for sale.

Weekend morning market at William Square with organic items for sale.

Flowers and potted plants arranged neatly at the local market.

Flowers and potted plants arranged neatly at the local market.

 

2. The Grand Duchess Charlotte

We saw this lovely lady during our walk on Clairefontaine Square and listened to the local guide explaining its’ history to his tour group. The statue of the Grand Duchess Charlotte was designed by a Parisian sculpture and officially inaugurated in the presence of the Grand Ducal Royal Family. She was a symbol of freedom for the people of Luxembourg through her World War II radio broadcasts to the nation when she was forced to flee from her country to London.

The statue of Grand Duchess Charlotte on Clairefontaine Square.

The statue of Grand Duchess Charlotte on Clairefontaine Square.

 

3. Hotel de ville (Town Hall)

Down the street is the Hotel de ville or Town Hall built between 1830-1838 in neoclassical style, site of the former Franciscan convent. The building includes the offices of political decision-makers and several municipal departments.

4. Statue Equestre Guillaume II (Equestrian Statue of William II)

In William Square, you won’t be able to miss the grand statue of the late William II on his horse. Designed by Mercie (1884), the statue ws erected in the honour of the King and Grand Duke William II of Orange-Nassau. He ruled from 1840 to 1849 and granted the Grand Duchy its first Parliamentary constitution.

Equestrian Statue of William II in the William Square.

Equestrian Statue of William II in the William Square.

 

5. Palais-Grand Ducal (Grand Ducal Palace)

Built during the older Renaissance part dates from 1752, the Palais-Grand Ducal is the city residence of the Grand Duke. It has one of the most beautiful facade in the city with majestic interior and stairs. The Palace can be visited exclusively during summer. We only got to view the exterior of the building and observe the guard doing their routine march before changing shifts.

A guard on duty marches in front of the Grand Palace.

A guard on duty marches in front of the Grand Palace.

 

6. Chambre des Deputes (Chamber of Deputies)

The Chamber of Deputies is adjoined to the Palace in 1859 and it hosts the Luxembourg Parliament. This is where the big decisions are made for the betterment of its’ nation. The Chamber consists of 60 members, called Deputies with each of them representing one of four constituencies.

The adjoined Chambre des Deputes with the Grand Palace.

The adjoined Chambre des Deputes with the Grand Palace.

 

7. Bock Casemates (UNESCO Heritage Site)

The Bock Casemates in Luxembourg was one of the most envied fortresses in Europe and was known as the ‘Gibraltar of the North’. The 23 km long underground galleries were reduced to 17 km as the city developed. This along with the Petrusse Valley casemates served as a shelter with the capacity to protect 35,000 people in the event of an alert or bombing. While walking through the casemates you would enter the dungeon of the old Luxembourg castle and see the beautiful view of the valley below. There’s also a section where they say you can catch a glimpse of the legendary Melusine, a mermaid and love interest of the 1st count of Luxembourg.

From the loopholes of the Bock Casemates is the view of the Grund below.

From the loopholes of the Bock Casemates is the view of the Grund below.

 

8. Casemates de la Petrusse (Petrusse Casemates)

This underground defense works was built in 1644 by Spanish engineers, to shelter people against air attacks. There are 450 steps to climb if you wish to tour the Petrusse Casemates including an “Austrian staircase” that dates back to 1746. For defense purposes, the Spanish raised the Ravelin (an old term denoting a half-moon) of the Pate, intended to reinforce the Beck Bastion.

9. Cathedrale Notre-Dame (Cathedral to the Blessed Virgin)

Late Gothic style, various components and ornaments inspired by Renaissance style, raised to Cathedral in 1870. The north gate is characteristic of the semi-Renaissance, semi-Baroque style of the period.  The crypt is the resting place of John the Blind, King of Bohemia and Count of Luxembourg while the two lions flanking the entrance are made by Augueste Tremont. As we walked away from the Cathedrale, the clock struck and the sounds of the bells can heard echoing across the city centre.

A glimpse of the Notre Dame Cathedral from William Square.

A glimpse of the Notre Dame Cathedral from William Square.

 

10. Corniche

The most “beautiful balcony of Europe”. Splendid views over the Holy Ghost Citadel with the Cite Judiciaire, heart of the Luxembourg Justice, and over the lower town of Grund. The ‘Batterie du Grund’ used to serve as a platform for the performances of the famous ‘Casemate Theatre’. The Corniche can be seen along the Alzette valley on the ramparts built by the Spanish and French in the 17th century.

The view of Corniche and the Grund from above.

The view of Corniche and the Grund from above.

A closer view of one of the bridges in the city.

A closer view of one of the bridges in the city.

 

11. Eglise Saint Michel (St Michael’s Church)

It is the oldest shrine in the city, replacing the castle chapel of the Counts of Luxembourg placed on the same site in 987.  The church was destroyed a few times but always reconstructed, altered and extended so that it lasts through time. The Eglise Saint Michel combines elements of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque architecture.

The Church

St Michael’s Church can be seen on the way down to the Bock Casemates area.

A green train touring the city of Luxembourg with the Church behind it.

The green Luxembourg city train touring with the Church behind it.

Besides these main point of interests, there are also other places of interests in Luxembourg that you can visit if you have more time. Once you’ve finished visiting, there’s always the local cafes and restaurants with the view of the splendid city.

1. Marche-Aux-Poissons (Fish Market)

Historical Centre of the Old Town, former crossroads between two Roman roads.

2. Musee National d’Histoire et d’Art (National Museum of History & Art)

Testimonies of the history of the city and the Grand Duchy.

3. Musee d’Histoire de la Ville de Luxembourg (Luxembourg City History Museum)

Reflects the urbanistic and architectural development of the city since its creation.

4. Cercle Municipal (City Palace)

Administrative building with conference rooms and several festival halls.

5. Place d’Armes

Also named “Parlour of the City”, completed 1671, renewed 1986 it hosts restaurants and bars.

6. Place de la Constitution

Superb view over the Petrusse Valley and the Adolphe Bridge. Hosts “Gella Fra” memorial. Set up in 1923 it symbolizes today freedom and resistance for the Luxembourg people.

A train crosses one of the citys' bridge during autumn.

A train crosses one of the citys’ bridge during autumn.

About Yafieda Jamil

A Malaysian girl currently working abroad in Phnom Penh city. I love a good road trip, hot cappuccinos, spicy food and staring at old buildings. My mission is to inspire people to see the world differently before we all get any older. Oh and giraffes are the most beautiful creatures on earth.

4 Responses to UNESCO Hunt #11 : A Train Ride To Luxembourg

  1. wow…. urm, did you actually write down all of these notes. Coz if not, that’s a lot of memorizing!

  2. I still cannot believe how simple the palace is (at least from the outside). Like if there’s no guard standing outside, I would have totally missed it.

    Btw, where are photos of bridges?

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