Whether you live nearby like we do or you’re just passing through, Luxembourg City is worth a visit. Made up of different levels and filled with castle ruins and city walls, a fascinating history permeates just about everything you can see. Personally, you’ll quickly find that the city itself is expensive (the country is one of the three richest in the world!) but worthwhile to see the Old City ruins alone.
Casemates du Bock
The first thing on my list to do was the Casemates du Bock, an underground fortress and UNESCO World Heritage Site in Luxembourg City. You can wander the ruins and walls above or go below into the museum and explore the caves (Bock is the entire fortress while the Casemates are the underground part). Originally built under the city’s now nonexistent castle, this network of tunnels and caverns were used in World War II as a bomb shelter and before that to resist the French Army in the 18th century. They were involved in a number of battles from Spanish to Austrian Habsburg forces.
I learned more about this in researching than actually seeing them, and what I found is quite fascinating. It’s one thing to wander through the eerie caverns and gaze out onto the Old City through the hollows in the walls once used to fire cannons, but I found out there’s more than meets the eye. Due to its defensive strength and rocky impenetrable position, the Bock and its Casemates were vital to a number of military successes. What I didn’t know is that it used to consist of barracks, stables, storehouses, kitchens and other buildings but was ordered to be destroyed in the Treaty of London to patch things up between France and Germany. Since a lot of the Casemates were built directly under Luxembourg City, they couldn’t be destroyed without taking out the city above and instead a small section is open for viewing.
All in all, I would research before going because I’d appreciate seeing it a lot more! As it was, the brochure provided minimal information but the views of the Old City were spectacular. Bring your walking shoes because while the museum itself is pretty small, you can wander the old walls for a long time.
As far as traveling as a family with an infant, I have mixed feelings. The first time we went to Luxembourg City we brought a stroller and I didn’t think it was very stroller-friendly. Unless we just got unlucky, there were stairs even just getting out of the parking garage. If you want to walk along the Old City walls (which I recommend) you probably won’t want a stroller. That being said, I saw tons of strollers on our walk through Grund, the quarter on the city’s lower level, and I’m not sure how people did it. I ended up carrying Thom in the carrier on our second trip but got so sweaty and tired from all the walking and stairs that I’m not sure what to suggest? It kept us from exploring more of the walls but I’m not sure what the alternative could’ve been. Apparently there’s an elevator from Grund to the upper city but we are incompetent/stubborn and couldn’t find it.
tl;dr You can’t take a stroller into the Casemates and it’s a little difficult in the Old City, but if you’re just wandering around the downtown area in the upper part of the city, I would say take the stroller.
As long as you’re in the downtown area, make sure to try out the Chocolate House Bonn! As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, when the afternoon hits there’s a thing called Kaffee und Kuchen time, and this place is perfect for it. We nommed on delicious chocolate cake and coffee to fuel the rest of our trek through the city. Right across from the cafe sits the Palais Grand-Ducal, or Grand Ducal Palace, and you can watch the changing of the guard from your seat while you unabashedly stuff your face with chocolate (…hypothetically).
Nearby, there’s also a bookshop in English that we didn’t get to visit but I noted it for next time! There are tons of shopping opportunities in the downtown area as well if that’s your cup of tea, plus a number of museums and a cathedral if you have time.
As I mentioned before, you can get awesome views of Grund from the upper level of the city or climb a bunch of stairs and explore the area for yourself. Walking around and seeing all the history made this city worth a visit for me (plus, leg day 😉 ) and we didn’t even get to see all of the ruins.
If you have the time, please do yourself a favor and drive an hour north to Vianden and see the castle.
Next trip to Luxembourg, we want to visit the Luxembourg American Cemetery where General Patton is buried. Also, since we’re not sick of castles yet, I want to see Beaufort and Bourscheid Castles and check out Schiessentümpel (apparently very Tolkien-esque).
What did we miss while visiting Luxembourg or Luxembourg City?