“To die is nothing, but it is terrible not to live” – Victor Hugo
The next time you are looking for a quiet few days away in Europe, have you considered Luxembourg? As one of the smallest countries in the EU, Luxembourg is a quiet destination, one that promises plenty of down-time and an escape from the fast pace of normal life. For the perfect romantic break, get out of the city to Vianden, a small town in the North East with narrow streets and a hill-top castle. This idyllic destination is just a 50 minute flight from London and a 45 minute drive from Luxembourg City.
Driving in Luxembourg
For this trip, I recommend hiring a car. You can drive pretty much anywhere in around an hour so its the perfect way to explore this country. Search online to find the most competitive prices at your time of travel. We paid £45 a day with Holiday Autos and Alamo. Once on the beautifully scenic open roads, take a moment to appreciate the lack of traffic and the nature surrounding you. We passed many farms, seeing cows, horses and sheep on our travels.
B&B Auberge du Château
We stayed at Auberge du Château, a locally run B&B in the heart of Vianden. The breakfast is varied and fresh, the rooms are modern and comfortable and your hosts are extremely friendly and efficient. Julien assisted us with parking opposite the hotel before our arrival and arranged for our late check-in to be straightforward and hassle-free. He was also very knowledgeable on the local area and even offered us a discounted rate on our room if we wanted to go without daily cleaning. I love this option and wish more hotels would offer it. I would never use a clean towel every day at home and support the idea of cutting back on hotel laundry when I travel. Request a high-floor room with a mini balcony overlooking the winding streets and wake up to the sounds and smells of small town life.
The Moselle Valley
Take a day to explore the Moselle Valley, a wine region shared with France and Germany. It’s all too easy to cross the borders and suddenly find yourself in a different country but aim for the part of this region in Luxembourg. There are a few wineries that offer lunch and tasting but many close early. It is common for all shops to shut after 2pm here so bear this in mind when considering lunch. The Moselle is best enjoyed by grapping some picnic bits in the morning and finding a beautiful spot amongst the vines to sit and feast come early afternoon. Take some of the windy, unmarked lanes into the hills to get the best views for photographs. The Moselle produces excellent Rieslings and Pinot Gris. Make sure you also try a Luxembourg Pinot Noir on your travels. Don’t plan, just go, and see where you find yourselves.
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Cycling the Ardennes
Vianden is amongst the Ardennes Region, an area of hilly landscape shared with France and Germany. If you get a wonderfully sunny day, head to Diekirch and hire a couple of bikes, or if you are feeling brave, a tandem! Rentabike is located on Rue Jean I’Aveugle and costs 45 euros for 24 hours mountain bike hire. Follow one of the many green cycling routes out of town and into the hills. We followed route 16 along the River Our. Pause for photos of swans and ducks, herons and fish, sheep and donkeys. Pack some fruit and a baguette and break as and when you see fit. The higher you go, the more spectacular the views but there are also many routes that offer relatively flat, easy-going cycling that are picturesque too. Whatever level of intensity you choose, on your way back, treat yourself to a refreshing Diekirch local beer in the afternoon sun.
You cannot stay in Vianden without giving a whole day to wandering amongst its natural beauty and checking out it’s impressive medieval architecture. The biggest draw for this small town is the castle on top of the hill, one of the oldest in Europe. You can take a cable car up or locate the little crooked steps in between the buildings and opt for the scenic route. This way you can stop at the little church half way and listen to the bells as they ring out across the town. The castle itself is 7 euros per person for entry and exhibits are laid out in an easy-to-follow flow. Audio tapes are available to hire or you can just wander and take it in at your own pace. The exhibits are written in German and French, the views from the top are wonderful and some very famous films were created here, like George and the Dragon starring Patrick Swayze. One of the best views of the castle is at night. After the sun has gone down, drive up to one of the many look-out points on the roads out of town and enjoy the castle and Vianden below lit up against the night sky.
On your last day in Luxembourg, I recommend choosing a late flight and spending the hours before exploring Luxembourg City. Walk the old town and take photos from le Chemin de la Corniche, known as the most beautiful balcony of Europe. Mosey around the upscale shops and grab a smoothie in Rawdish, a fab vegan café with in and outdoor seating. The historical buildings of Luxembourg are beautiful and the main bridges make fantastic photo stops. Parking is steep at around 10 euros for half a day. After you’re done exploring, the airport is roughly a 15 minute drive from the city centre. Enjoy your lunch in the city but save dinner for the airport. Luxembourg airport has a restaurant land side that overlooks the runway, where you can watch planes take off and land as you dine. Oberweis offers a variety of French cuisine, including a fantastic vegetarian burger.
Other Useful Information
Luxembourg is fairly expensive so be prepared to pay for the things you want to do. Packing picnics is a great way to explore the country in a cost-friendly way and we found a hired car a relatively inexpensive way to move around. Everyone speaks German and French, and in the city English is commonly spoken too. In the smaller towns, you may struggle to find English speakers so brush up on some French or German before you depart. I found it oddly off-putting to not know whether to greet someone in German or French, but don’t hold back. Just go with the language you feel most comfortable with and do your best. There’s always google translate or a trusty phrase book if you get really stuck!
We really loved our mini break to Luxembourg. We spent 4 nights in Vianden and used the hired car to explore from there. Summer is a good time to visit to get reasonable weather but bear in mind that it does rain fairly often here. Take a good waterproof jacket and try to plan your outdoor trips for the drier days. For me, this destination is perfect for escaping reality. Everything is slow-paced and shops don’t stay open for long. Unwind with excellent local wine and bakery goodies, get out into nature with rolling hills all around and just simply relax. It’s a little gem in the heart of Europe that doesn’t need to cost the earth and can be easily explored fully in just a few days. Merci Luxembourg and a special vielen dank to our wonderful hosts at B&B Auberge du Château for making us feel so welcome.
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If now you need more, check out my other European Travel Diaries.