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krisek Luxembourg - A travel report by Krys
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Luxembourg,  Luxembourg - flag Luxembourg -  Luxembourg
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krisek's travel reports

Wild jazz nights in Luxembourg.

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Luxembourg is considered to have one of the most dramatic locations amongst the European capital cities. It surely looks great. I was lucky to come to the capital of this city-size country during a jazz weekend. It was superb!

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Luxembourg is one Europe’s most spectacularly situated capital cities. It spans two deep river valleys, where they meet, the Alzette and Petrusse. It seems almost impossible to build a city there and create a country of its own around it. The ancient Romans built a tower, which guarded two roads, which met there. Later, the land was granted to Siegfried I, who built a small castle there named Lucilinburhuc, giving routes to the existing name of the city and the country.

As its location at the trading and communication routes was a significant, the town received churches and fortification rather early in its history. The city walls and the complex system of fortifications grew and developed though the 10th and 14th centuries, which spectacularly failed under Philip the Good Burgundian in 1443. The Habsburgs then enhanced the defense structures of the Luxembourg Castle, which by 16th century was among the strongest fortifications in Europe. Sadly, the Treaty of London of 1867, required Luxembourg to demolish its defense systems. It took 16 years. UNESCO listed the City of Luxembourg and its Old Quarters and Fortifications as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 1994. This is how the inscription was justified:

"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."

I came for a weekend in the middle of July. Weather was fantastic. There was a lot of sunshine, good visibility and it was warm. A perfect aura for trotting the valleys and browsing through the districts, admiring this stunningly situated city.

Favourite spots:
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I really liked the tall bridges linking the parts of the city divided by the rivers. They looked gigantic and offered wonderful views. The green valley below looked almost surreal. Almost as if they were not part of the same municipality. As if the fortified upper town was one city, the lower town by the river - another, and the parks along the water - yet a third one. A fascinating combination! The upper town had its palaces, cathedrals, forts, mansions, and... shopping centres, and the lower town, the district of Grund, had the charm of a small village complete with picturesque little houses, narrow alleys and magnetic atmosphere. If I were looking for a fourth face of the city, it would be the district with the European institutions, like the European Court of Justice, the European Court of Auditors or the European Investment Bank. For the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (the only grand duchy in the world) is the founding member of the European Union.

What's really great:
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I was so lucky that I came during a jazz festival. It was great - many jazz parties in the streets! There were concerts in many places around the city. I have never seen so many jazz bands in one city in my life! They played live for free on numerous piazzas and squares, in front of prominent monuments or historically significant places. The culmination of this incredible party was the jazz night in the lower town. There, there were several concert platforms scattered around, but only like few hundred yards away from one another. Boats with trumpeters and other musicians were floating in the river playing funky and lively jazz. The place was packed! It was like a summer carnival. There was beer, wine, sausages, burgers, sweets being sold on every little corner of this magnificent, old and picturesque part of Luxembourg. Everyone had a super great fun and it was such a great surprise for me that I am dreaming of going back there to experience that again. It lasted until wee hours.

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If the surrounding nature and the city position is not a sight enough, there are some smaller, or rather less spectacularly overwhelming but still very lovely places to see. There are the famous Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Grand Palace Ducal, the Neumuenster Abbey, the Bock Promotory and the Bock Casamates, the Petrusse Casamates, the Citadelle du St-Espirit, the Castle Bridge, the Church of St. Ulric, the Place d'Armes and the city hall. And one of my favourites, the Mill House in the lower town, the district of Grund.

The Chemin de la Corniche is amongst the best streets to admire the spectacular position of the city and the slate-roofed buildings of the lower district. Walking the best, if only sensible, way to see the city. Luxembourg is not large. Its population of about 75,000 people is packed densely - about 1,485 people per square kilometre. Plus, the areas around, otherwise spectacular, train station is not pretty. It is only for partying and cheap hotels.

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I stayed at one of the hotels closest to the station. It was Hotel Zurich***. It was located in an old-ish building about a hundred-and-fifty yards from the station, at rue Joseph Junck, number 36. It was clean and the rooms were decent. All had satellite television, internet access, radio equipped with an alarm clock (very useful for those early rising to catch a morning train to Trier, for example), telephone, and even a safe. My room had an en-suite bathroom with shower cabin, which were squeaky clean, and the towels were immaculate. All for about €60 per single, and about €80 per double, which was not the cheapest. The hotel welcomed pets - I really do not know why I know that. The personnel was professionally invisible and courteous. It also had a bar, called Barbarella.

There were cheaper options in town, one star and two star hotels, but I found no availability in those, perhaps due to the jazz nights. But I was content with my choice to be close to the train station.

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Due to all that great jazz extravaganza (there are the annual jazz events: the Printemps Festival (Mar-Jun), Blues'n Jazz Rallye (Jul), New Orleans meets Luxembourg (May), actually), I didn't have to look for nightlife. Although, I was going to Luxembourg prepared and I knew that the best places to party were in the old town, the Grund and around the train station in the Hollerich district. I was making plans to check the Sodas Cafe Bar (rue de la Bucherie 16) offering a good selection of cocktails and a funky combination of soul and rock music; Secret Garden (cote d'Eich 7) lounge bar with leather couches; the friendly Viking Bar Luxembourg (rue de Hollerich 19) with reportedly wild atmosphere; and Chiggeri (rue du Nord 15 - with restaurant upstairs) with its reportedly mixed and interesting crowd, excellent wine list, relaxed atmosphere and Africa's inspired decor. But I was partying so well in Grund with thousands of people that I did not have to look for a different venue or crowd.

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I think that the best place in the city to sit down and relax was the Place d'Armes. It was fringed with countless cafes and restaurants, and when I visited a large jazz band played for the entire afternoon. As it was summer, many of the eateries and cafeterias had tables outside, which made it a perfect spot for people watching while sipping a chilled white wine or cold beer. The streets leading towards the square, mainly those in the northern part, were packed with shops of all kinds - a great place for window-shopping :) - the best ones along the Grand Rue.

The other, and larger, square was Place Guillaume II, which hosted a morning market twice a week - Wednesdays and Fridays. This was for those early risers, who want to hang out before late breakfast.

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Luxembourg offered everything in terms of cuisine, like a true European metropolis. The best restaurants were located around Place d'Armes and around the old town, including a few really romantic cafes in Grund. French dishes seemed to dominate the menu carts around the town, but any type of seriously looking fine venue would have something traditionally Luxembourgish, influenced mainly by the Germanic kitchen including the neck of a hog, pork sausages, blutwurst (blood pork sausage), schnitzels, and potato cakes (gromperenkichelchen). But a lighter French and Spanish dishes were widely available, too. Plus, of course, international chains and fusion cuisine was easily found about the town.

I went to the traditional and inexpensive Brasserie Chimay (rue Chimay 15) for a poached salmon with baked potatoes. It was efficient and the personnel were very attentive and friendly. I was also looking for a Thai place, but could not spot one. Otherwise I would have had prawn green curry.

Other recommendations:
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Surely one can relax in Luxembourg City for an entire weekend, but those, who have more of an explorer soul, there are a couple of interesting options around Luxembourg and just across the German border.

The first one is the incomparable Vianden with its superb castle built and expanded between the 11th and 14th centuries. It was a seat of Philip II, the count of Vianden, who gave the routes of the Orange family (who famously built a fort in Ghana near the town of Secondi). The castle was ruined by a fire and an earthquake and problems with ownership. When the Grand Duke Jean gave the castle to the state in 1977, a complex restoration work began and now the castle took its former fantastic looks. Vianden is only 47 kilometres from Luxembourg City but getting there is not easy; need to combine train and then bus from Clervaux (nice castle, too) or Diekirch.

The other optioin is Trier, the oldest town in Germany. It is linked with Luxembourg by hourly trains taking about 45 minutes.

Published on Wednesday November 19th, 2008

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Fri, May 07 2010 - 04:54 AM rating by livvy

Great report thanks!

Thu, Nov 20 2008 - 02:10 PM rating by rangutan

Good tip .... you "do" civilized places very well too :-)

Wed, Nov 19 2008 - 06:53 PM rating by pesu

Krys, do you think this festival takes place every summer?

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