Just a little over two hours from Paris by high-speed train, Luxembourg City is a mix of Old World charm, modern museums, and Instagram-worthy views. And, since it gets fewer tourists than Paris, it's quieter and more laid back. You can see much of the city in one day if you leave Paris early in the morning and return that evening. Here's how to do it:
Getting to Luxembourg City is easy and relatively inexpensive. You can drive -- although traffic and parking can be difficult during the week when the city doubles in size with workers from neighboring areas. Instead, take the TGV high-speed train (which travels at nearly 200 miles per hour) from Paris’ Gare de l’Est station. Not only can the train get you to Luxembourg City faster than a car but also, you can purchase a round-trip ticket for as little as $50 Euro. Trains arrive at Central Railway Station (Gare de Luxembourg), the hub for the city’s busses.
We recommend taking the first train in the morning so that you arrive around 10 a.m. From there, you can walk to Old Town (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) in about 10 minutes, or, alternatively, board a bus to more distant attractions. Unfortunately, Uber and similar ride-sharing options aren't allowed to operate in Luxembourg, but you won’t miss them. Public transportation is clean and efficient -- and will be free come 2020.
What to See and Do
Originally a castle surrounded by ravines, Luxembourg City evolved into a strategic fortress that earned it the nickname the Gibraltar of the North. Today, the Old Town -- along with what remains of those fortifications -- are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take some time to stroll through the public squares, including Place de William, where you’ll find the Luxembourg City Tourist Office if you need directions or suggestions.
From there, it’s a one block walk (east) to the Grand Ducal Palace. If the Luxembourgish flag is flying overhead, the Grand Duke is working in the palace (he actually resides 20 miles away on his own estate). Here, you can watch the soldiers stoically guarding the residence, much like those at Buckingham Palace in London, before heading across the street to the Chocolate House for a delicious hot chocolate, which is created by stirring a chunk of chocolate into steamed milk.
If you see only one thing in Luxembourg City, make it the Bock Casements. This network of subterranean tunnels are the remnants of the city’s fortifications and, from openings once used to fire canon, offer stunning views of the city and ravines below. Admittedly, though, it’s light on actual artifacts and historical information. For that, check out the Museum Dräi Eechelen, located in the restored keep of Fort Thüngen. You can also visit the City Museum.
Luxembourg has a bustling modern art scene. In Old Town, you can admire the collection at Casino Luxembourg, but don’t miss the MUDAM, located in the business district. Not only does this museum have an impressive collection of contemporary work, but the building was designed by I.M. Pei, the architect responsible for the famous glass pyramid at the Louvre.
When the weather is good, you might consider strolling the Wenzel Circular Walk. Pick up a leaflet at the Luxembourg City Tourist Office (which is also the trail’s starting point), and continue through Old Town and into the ravine outside the fortress walls. The entire trail takes two-and-a-half hours and includes signs (in English) on the landscape and points of interest.
History buffs should visit the graves of General George S. Patton and the 5,076 American soldiers who died during World War II. Getting to the American Military Cemetery in suburban Luxembourg City can be tricky, though, so you may want to hire a taxi. You could also take bus 15 or 70 to the Rue Haute stop, and use your phone’s map to guide you to the dirt road that leads into the cemetery by foot.
Budget-friendly tip: Purchase a Luxembourg Card at the Central Railway Station or Luxembourg City Tourist Office for free admission to 79 attractions as well as free second-class transportation through the country. The pass is available in one-, two-, and three-day increments.
Where to Eat
You won’t go hungry in Luxembourg City. Menus at restaurants tend to mirror those you’d find at bistros in France, with the exception of a few traditional Luxembourgish dishes (think dumplings, sausages, and similar hearty fare). For lunch on a day trip, make your way to Place d’Armes, the main public square in Old Town. There, you’ll find a number of good options, like Le Grand Café (which opened back in 1894). Le Grand Café serves a mix of bistro items like carpaccio, cheese plates, and beef tartare but you can also order burgers, chicken wings, and spare ribs. Expect to pay on average 25 Euro (under $30) for a lunch entrée. It's a great place to come and people-watch after a few hours of sightseeing.
If you prefer something a little more formal, head to the upscale Brasserie de Cercle. This eatery makes for the perfect pit stop a day shopping on Grand-Rue. Order a glass of Luxembourg wine to sip as you dine on pasta, salmon, or pizza. Menu prices range from 15 to 25 Euro for most items (about $16 to $30). Brasserie de Cercle does serve up some traditional dishes, but if you're looking to experience authentic Luxembourgish cuisine, head to nearby Am Tiirmschen for kniddelen (noodles), Judden mat Gardebounen (smoked pork with broad beans), and sausages.
If You Decide to Stay...
Although you can visit Luxembourg City on a day trip from Paris, you may want to stay overnight so you can explore the city at a more leisurely pace. Hotel Sofitel Luxembourg Le Grand Ducal makes for an excellent home base, but, like most local hotels, its price of 475 Euro (over $550) per night isn’t cheap. Even if you end up staying at a different property, venture up to the hotel's eighth floor bar for incredible nighttime views of Old Town.
For slightly less, you can stay in Old Town proper. The 28-room Le Place d’Armes Hotel features seven residences that have been combined into a boutique hotel. Rooms start at 283 Euro (or about $315), which is quite a bargain when you consider it’s on Place d’Armes (the public square) and features its own Michelin-starred restaurant, La Cristallerie.