"Buy coffee", people advise us when we mention that we will pass through Luxembourg on our way to Burgundy and "Calculate how much petrol you need before you get into Luxembourg, and then you can fill up there!" For most Germans, the tiny country of Luxembourg with its favourable tax laws is mainly a shopping or a tax paradise, but not necessarily a sightseeing destination – although the mighty structures of the former fortress are a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1994 and well worth a visit.
Armed with the leaflet “Wenzel Walk” dispersed by the tourist information in the city centre, we feel geared up for our self-guided walk through the fortifications. The walk is named after Duke Wenzel II, who reigned in the late 13th to early 14th century and reinforced the walls. In fact, the foundation of the citadel goes back to the year 963, however, when Siegfried, Count of Ardennes, erected a small wooden fort on the Bock promontory, a lofty rock in the valley of the Alzette. This structure was soon connected via a draw bridge with the settlement on the bluff on the opposite site of the river, and Siegfried's successors continually extended and improved the stronghold.
Over the centuries, the strategic spot changed hands regularly. One after another, Burgundian, Spanish, French, Austrian and Prussian rulers competed for the strongest and best-fortified walls.
We start our walk on the opposite site of the Bockfelsen, where today's city centre is situated. So, first we have to cross the river on a historic stone bridge. Along numerous defence towers, crenels, battlement parapets and gateways we get an inkling of the sophisticated architectural defence system. We pass the old military hospital, which later became a men's prison and functions today as an art centre. The London Treaty of 1867 declared Luxembourg independent – the century-old walls, deemed no longer necessary, were razed, which is said to have taken 16 years. Our walk ends at an elevator that brings us back up, through the rock and an underground car park, to the modern old town and to our car.
Is it worth a visit?
Luxembourg is a relaxed and beautiful town with a lot of good restaurants. The walk through the fortifications takes around two hours, and the leaflet “Wenzel Walk” is available in English at the tourist information or online. We found Luxembourg was well worth the visit and we hope to return to both the city and the country to see more of this small neighbour of Germany.
How to get there?
The city centre and the Bockfelsen are quite walkable.