Why Luxembourg you ask? Good question! When I saw that Ryanair had cheap flights I put my feelers out to our friends to see who would want to come along on an adventure to this tiny country we knew nothing about. Success! Two couples were in and we all got our £33 return flights for a weekend getaway in early December – bargain.
The best thing about this trip was the fact that we had zero expectations – the bar was set low, and I mean low. And to our surprise Luxembourg impressed us all with its picturesque cliffs and valleys, quaint city streets and bustling Christmas markets. I think the point to stress however, is that the Christmas markets absolutely made our trip – without them I think our experience would’ve been quite different.
This was a true weekend trip, we all rushed out of work early on Friday evening to take our flight out and were back late on Sunday, ready for a slow Monday back at work. On arrival in Lux we hunted out some late night snacks and stumbled across our first market of the trip at Place de la Constitution (where we enviably ended up spending a large chunk of our time). We scoffed down some hot dogs and enjoyed our first, of many, gluhweins aka mulled wine.
The layout of this small city is complex, as it is set on several different layers, straddling hills and dropping dramatically into the deep gorges. On Saturday morning we set out to explore and found ourselves at the ruins of the Bock and Casemates which tower over the River Alzette. Over the centuries this area was reinforced, attacked and rebuilt time and time again so makes for some very interesting landscapes. The casemates, were actually closed while we were here, are 17km of tunnels that are open for tourists to explore.
Walking down into the valley we discovered a cool little area along Rue Emile Mousel which looked like it could be a bit of a party hub at night, though it was dead when we wandered through. It was super cute walking down along the river with the buildings reflecting perfectly in the river. A nice thing about travelling with friends, apart from the company, is that it usually makes for more interesting photos. And you don’t have to ask randoms to take your couple photos…you just need to put up with your friend directing you like an awkward professional photographer.
About midday we came across another great little market where we warmed up with some hot cider and gluhwein. The thing that both Andrew and I have come to love is the festivity around Christmas time here in the Northern Hemisphere. It is such a different vibe to New Zealand and I feel nothing feels more “Xmasy” than warming your hands on a hot mug of alcohol, eating a hot dog, while being with friends & family at an outdoor market. Cheers!
I basically feel like this blog is an account of us drinking and eating our way around the Luxembourg Xmas markets.. and to an extent that is 100% correct. We went back to our favourite market at the Place de la Constitution and found a toasty spot inside one of the wooden cabins which served up delicious plates of raclette and more wine (of course!).
After the sun went down and the wine going to our heads we ventured outside and stumbled upon another yet another Xmas market at Place d’Armes, just two blocks away. Children were up on stage singing carols while we stuffed our faces with delicious potato cakes and churros. We were stoked to have our next gluhwein served in novelty boot mugs which we all ended up taking home as souvenirs.
The night was starting to wind down when we found ourselves at the Grand Ducal Palace for an amazing light show. In three sites around the city, Luxembourgish artists present a real opera of light, sound and special effects transforming the outside of the buildings into illuminated, captivating and magical scenes. The Palace was a show of the 125 years of the Luxembourg-Nassau dynasty which was so well done and a great way to end our evening.
On Sunday we decided to get out of Luxembourg City and took a train + bus ride about 1hr north to visit the Vianden Castle. This is a great day trip and it really demonstrates just how small this country is! Travelling in Luxembourg is easy and cheap – for just €4 you can get unlimited travel (bus and trains) for the entire day, especially handy when we also needed to get back to the airport that evening. Vianden Castle, located in Vianden, was built between the 11th and 14th century and was only restored to its former glory 1977 after it was transferred to State ownership. The grey moody day was the perfect setting for our visit and even the castle connoisseur of the group, Tim, was impressed.
So to everyone’s surprise Luxembourg was a hit and another country to tick off the list. It was the perfect weekend getaway with great festivities, food, wine and friends! Thanks to B&B and T&E – let’s do it all again sometime soon.