Sunny-side-up greetings from the city of a Count who married a mermaid. . . already, it’s a great set-up for an adventure with kids, isn’t it? And Luxembourg is a family-friendly city at that! Even if you only have a day here with your kids, below is a quick guide for you on what family-friendly things you can see or do here.
Before going to Luxembourg I was convinced that it is a country only for people with thick wallets. After all, LUXury is in its name. . . this was my first thought at least. To my surprise, Luxemburg was quite. . . well, normal. It welcomed us with cheap (yet quite nice) camping, very affordable public transportation (which is going to be totally free of charge starting In March 2020) and friendly service providers who spoke English and other languages.
“Hallo. Grouss Laachen!” That’s how you say “Hello. Big Smile!” in Luxembourgish.
There’s something about little countries of Europe that pulls us in. During last year’s summer camping road trip we visited Andorra, Monaco and Liechtenstein (which our kids call “Frankenstein”, to this day!). On days 24 and 25 of this summer’s camping road trip (2019) we made it a goal to visit this little country of deLUXe! OK, ok, it’s NOT so little and not SO obviously luxurious (except for the numerous simultaneous construction projects all over the city, courtesy of the many international companies that have offices here! Business must be booming!).
So the story goes. . . Over a thousand years ago Count Siegfried married a mysterious beauty called Melusina who had only one condition–that she will keep Saturdays a private matter. That is, the Count was not allowed to see her on that day. So time bred jealousy that drove the Count to break his promise. He secretly followed her to the Bock casemates (the foundation of what is now called the “Gibraltar of the North“), saw her bathing in the river and discovered her secret. . . that she would turn into a mermaid on the forbidden day. When she saw him watching her, she jumped into the river Alzette and disappeared forever and ever and into the minds of Luxembourgians.
Other than that. . . Why else should you visit? Well, stuck between France and Germany with all the wars between them, Luxembourg made it a point to mediate for peace between these warring countries. This essentially became the founding principle of the European Union.
Now, Luxembourg is one of the 4 official capitals of the EU (the others: Brussels, Frankfurt and Strasbourg) and the seat of the highest court of justice in the union–the European Court of Justice. So ‘nuf said.
And oh, the city itself, with its old quarters and a complex of underground fortifications–totaling over 20-something square kilometers, is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. It once was the most heavily fortified city in Europe! What!?!
City of Luxembourg: family-friendly one-day itinerary. . . with kids
If you want to have a truly kid-friendly visit of the “Ville of Luxembourg” , make your first stop at the city tourist office and GET YOURSELF a copy of “City Promenade for Kids“. Available in English (of course) and in any other language. And if you wanna see what Luxembourgish looks like, grab a copy!
This self-guided tour is some kind of a “treasure hunt” where you can explore the old fortress city of Luxembourg by following a guided map. It piqued the interest of our boys! Not only did they learn a bit about the main attractions in the old city center, they were also very engaged in hunting for that piece of information at each of the 12 stops. Info that is needed to break the code to open a “vault” back at the tourist office and get the FREE little souvenir gifts for the little ones : )
In the end the “hunt” was also informative, fun and sufficient for us parents too!!!
The whole go-slow trek/route took us 3-4 hours (with our 7 and 3-year old children going up-and-down the hilly old quarters of the city), and including the tour of the underground galleries for the older one.
It’s not usually the case that tourist offices give you MORE than the typical spiel about the city. We have visited over 40 tourist offices so far. . . In this case, the city went above and beyond the service to ensure family-friendly visit.
Here are the main sights/stops (in pictures) for this free children-friendly Luxembourg City Promenade
DURATION: 3-4 HOURS, MINIMUM, WITH YOUNG KIDS… AFTER ALL, FOR EVERY STEP YOU TAKE, THEY HAVE TO TAKE 2 OR 3, SOMETIMES UPHILL!
- Place Guillame II
- Grand Ducal Palace
- Place d’Armes (City’s Palace)
- Place de la Constitution (Gelle Fra)
- Cathedral of Our Lady of Luxembourg
- Place Clairefontaine
- Corniche road to “Europe’s most beautiful balcony”
- Leutzebuerg City Museum
- Bock Casemates
- Hollow Tooth Tower
- Saint Michael’s Church
- Marche-aux-Poissons (National Museum of City and Art)
- Adventure Playground at the City Park (optional)
As in many city squares and tourist spots, food at the main plazas were a bit pricey for our budget. And since we did not pack lunch this time, we chose (and recommend) a side-stall Eco-friendly take away lunch by Kaempff-Kohler at 18 Place Guillame. Our kids love their paninis–Pastrami de Boeuf and Chedar–and Tomate Mozzarella for us.
Cathedral of Our Lady of Luxembourg. . . the city’s largest church with a statue of a 400-year-old statue of the Virgin Mary and a pilgrimage site for locals in April-May during the period known as “Oktave”.
The Bock Casemates (promontory). . . a rock cliff surrounded by the river on three sides. This is where the Count built his first fortified castle and later built with underground galleries, originally 23 kilometers long that linked all sections of the old fortifications, and where thousands of soldiers and horses lived, making it the most heavily fortified in Europe. Recommend going down and into the Bock (separate fee) to have different viewpoints of the fortifications and explore the maze-like layout in the relative darkness of the caves. T I P : NOT for our 3-year old or toddlers though (steep, shallow and narrow stairs in the dark!)! and of course NO STROLLERS!
Marche-aux-Poissons. . . The old Fish Market (sounds fancy in French, doesn’t it?). This was apparently was where the two ancient Roman roads met and the beginning of the city. Here you can see what the old city looked like with its small winding streets and old houses. Stop by the National Museum of City and Art to see the best-preserved mosaic from Roman times, if you have the time.
Adventure Playground at the City Park. . . With a rush-back to the tourist office before it closed at 1700, we were unable to go the municipal park with its adventure playground where the city mermaid (Melusina) and a pirate ship apparently awaits the city’s young visitors. Oh well, SAVE SOME for LATER!