Under the bridges and below the city centre's rocky summit lie the lower towns. These are old settlements that grew up alongside the Alzette river that runs through Pfaffenthal, Clausen and Grund. The river fed the workshops of the artisans who set up down below, to supply the shops up above.
Today the lower towns offer the most beautiful views in the city, whether looking across them from the outcrops and bridges around the center, walking through them along narrow paths, or along the fast flowing waters of the river looking up at the sandstone cliffs and the buildings of the upper city that teeter on their edges.
Even if you don't intend to take the elevator down to Grund, it's worth making a detour to this part of Vielle Ville.
I think the buildings are mostly legal, courts of various types, but even though they are modern they are very attractive.
And there are superb views from what was the Citadelle du Saint-Esprit (from Grund you can clearly see the fortifications built into the rock face in 1685).
I particularly liked the four sculptures above the entrance of the Cour Constitutionelle...although I'm not really sure what emotions they are intended to express.
And I love the eye-shaped windows in the roof of the (?) octagonal building. I first noticed this type of window when I was visiting Rotheburg-ob-der-Tauber and although I've never had it confirmed...surely they are intended to look like eyes, surely they are intended to show that the building is 'watching'?
I rather liked the installation on the side of the Cour Constitutionelle as well. Four shiny vases, representing the four elements: earth, air, fire and water. They were created by Horst Glasker and have been on the site since 2010.
Grund is the part of Luxembourg city which lies directly beneath Vielle Ville, in the valley of the river Alzette. It's been settled for a very long time indeed, way back into prehistory and is the oldest part of the city.
It still has many older buildings (some dating back to at least the 1500s and quite possibly earlier) and is a lovely place to wander, with towering cliffs, stone bridges across the river, superb views of the Vielle Ville, trees and parkland along the banks of the Alzette.
Definitely somewhere you should not miss whilst you are in the city. Take the elevator down from Place d'Esprit or walk down the winding Rue Large.
Although the Bock was fortified from 963, the fortifications you can still see today were almost exclusively built in the 17th century (1600s), making a fortress out of Vielle Ville.
You can walk along the line of those ramparts by following the Chemin de la Corniche, with absolutely stunning views of Grund in the valley (the oldest part of Luxembourg city which still survives) and the valley of the river Alzette. In the distance you can just make out the furthest defensive structures: the Wenceslas Wall built in the late 1300s.
During the mid-1700s the Spanish, who controlled the city at that time, dug many tunnels and galleries inside the sandstone of the Rocher du Bock, large enough for bakeries, stables, kitchens, storage..everything needed to survive a siege, including passageways filled with explosives which could...in dire circumstances..be used to blow up the fortifications above.
There are 11 miles of passageways, only a tiny fraction of which are open to the public (since 1933!). They are now a UNESCO World Heritage site but, unfortunately for me, they are only open from March to October.
I didn't manage to visit the casemates, but the views from the Chemin de la Corniche made walking down to them more than worthwhile!
Dent Creuse means 'hollow tooth'...and you can see why this Medieval tower has gained its name.
It was once part of the original city fortifications, built in 963 on the orders of Count Siegfried of Lorraine. They were constructed on the Rocher du Bock ('the bock), a huge lump of sandstone standing just outside what is now Vielle Ville. The Bock has fantastic views over the surrounding countryside (now mostly city) and was clearly a superb defensive position.
Hardly any of these first fortifications survives, except Dent Creuse. For that reason alone it's pretty special, although I suspect it underwent some architectural changes before it was allowed to fall into ruins as the rest of those fortifications were cleared. The remaining window does not, imo, fit the earliest construction date.
Although you can go inside, it was closed when I visited (out of season) and I don't think there is a great deal to see anyway. But the views are superb...it's worth walking out to the tower just for that.
If you look carefully at the rock outcrop on the opposite side of the road you will see where the gate stood when those earliest fortifications existed, carved out of the rock.
The one museum in Vielle Ville, Luxembourg City, is really rather swish. It gives a good overview of the city's development over the millennia, with its top two floors used for various temporary exhibitions. I discovered from one of the exhibitions that almost 48% of Luxembourg's residents are not Luxembourg-born....the exhibition suggested that this was because it is such a super place to live. Personally, I suspect it has far more to do with the many multi-national financial and EU institutions which have their bases in the city, drawing their employees form all over Europe and the rest of the world, but there we go...I may be wrong. :-)
The museum has been created from several old properties and one of its highlights is a slow-moving room-sized lift (it can hold up to 60 people) which takes you from the very base of the structure with the original walls carved out of the cliff-face up to the 5th floor, with excellent views over the Alzette valley on the way.
The two lowest floors map out the settlement and development of the city. It is all very modern in its presentation, which may well appeal to many visitors and certainly seems to be the way museums are moving forward. But I find it frustrating: there is much less to actually see when space is taken up with big models and interactive displays. If I visit a museum I want to see displays of artefacts from the past, not modern interpretations of how life once was.
But there we go. I suspect I am in the minority.
The museum also has a gift shop and a nice cafe/brasserie with a little courtyard garden...some superb views from there.
The museum is certainly very modern and very easy to navigate (signage is in English as well as French). Entrance fee is 5 euro (as of February 2013) , with free entrance on Thursdays from 1800-2000. It's open from 1000-1800 every day except Thursdays, when it opens for those extra hours.
Certainly worth an hour or so of your time, if you have it to spare...but not so good that it is an absolute 'must' for any visit.
From the Luxembourg Train Station ( The Gare) mit is a short 15 to 20 minute walk to the historic city center which is called the Ville Haute (High City) . There are essentially two routes to go; Avenue de la Liberté or Avenue de la Gare. I would recommend taking Avenue de la Liberte because it is more scenic. As you enter the street you see a number of architecturally prominent but unmarked buildings along the street. To make sure you are on the right street the avenue is a one-way arterial road, with four lanes of traffic. As you continue down the avenue eventually you will come to the very elegant Adolphe Bridge (see review). There are beautiful views down the bridge into what I believe is called the Petruse Valley. A nice park awaits you near the bridge. Follow the street down to the Ville Haute to the Place d' Armes. The Place d' in Luxembourg City is somewhat compact and full of hustle and bustle when we there on a Saturday afternoon.
Walking from the central plaza to the edges of the Ville Haute you will look down into the Villa Basse (The Low City) of Luxembourg City. None of the walk is strenous except getting from the High City down to the most extreme areas of the Low City. All in all it is worth the walk.
Walking across the Aldolphe Brige which connects the Gare area with the old city center is an experience. The bridge is magnificently wide and down below are a series of lush trees and homes. The rail bridge is also designed in similar arches to the Adolphe Bridge. The pedestrian access lanes are wide which was somewhat unusual for the time of construction. The Adolphe Bridge was designed by French architect Paul Séjourné in 1902. The bridge consists of a large central arch flanked by smaller arches on either side. With a span of 278 feet, the central arch was the largest of its day.
The Bock refers to a series of rocky cliffs that are above the River Alzette in the northeastern corner of Luxembourg City. The cliffs over the centuries offered a near perfect natural fortification for defending the area from invading troops. Beginning in 963 Count Siegfried begin building a castle on the Bock. The castle became the basis for the town of Luxembourg City and over the years the castle was added to including a series of underground tunnels, passageways and cuts through the rocks that are called the casements. A few of the tunnels remain to this day and are open to walk through.
Walking the encasement area is enjoyable. I could almost imagine the area being defended by cannon fire against invading enemies while rummaging through some of the passageways. For a more detailed tour of the tunnels a small fee is required to tour. We chose not to see the more elaborate tunnels. The Bock Encasements became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994.
Larochette is located about 30 km north of Luxembourg city. It is comprised of a large castle overlooking a small village. The castle was begun in the 11th Century and reached it greatest peak in 1565 when it caught fire and was destroyed. In German the castle is known as Fels, which means rock, implying the massive rock upon which the castle was built. The village sits along the banks of the Ernz River which flows north to the Our, along the border of Luxembourg and Germany.
Carved out of the sandstone cliffs is one of the oldest places of worship in Europe. Quirinus Chapel was originally a place of pagan worship which the Romans took over to worship Christ. A spring rises up here from the rock and has long been considered a source of health and healing. Until the 19th century is was just a couple of caves in the rock, but since then outer facade and belltower has been added.
The simple, yet elegant Neumunster Abbey was my favourite building in Luxembourg City. Flanking the Alzette river, it is beautiful viewed either from the peaceful walk through the lower paths of the Grund, or high up on the cliffs of the Haute Ville. It has a long history, dating back to at least 1309, although the current building dates from around the 17th century.
With great views over the valley to Gare and the grand Luxembourg Bank building, the National Solidarity Monument offers a peaceful place to contemplate the resistance and solidarity of the Luxembourg people in the face of Nazi occupation. The brick structure is symbolic of imprisonment, and in front the eternal flame burns for all those who gave their lives in the name of freedom.
The country of Luxembourg is a monarch and its head of state is the Grand Duke of Luxembourg. It's largely a symbolic role, as proven in 2008 when the Grand Duke refused to sign a law allowing for euthanasia. He was stripped of his role in signing laws, thus proving that Luxembourg is a democracy.
The city residence of the ducal family is at the Grand Ducal Palace. It is one of the finest buildings in the city and looks like a place of power. It did once function as a Town Hall, but now, like the Duke, it has had its status reduced to nothing more than a family home. It's still guarded by armed military, however.
Once upon a time the city of Luxembourg was a great fortress, so impressive it was dubbed "Gibraltar of the North". The original castle was built on the Bock in 963 and for nearly a century it dominated a strategic corner of Europe. The Bock consists of an immense network of underground tunnels running through the sandstone. Many of these survived the dismantling of the fortress that took place in 1867, and can be visited at the Montée de Clausen.
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