Luxembourg: rural beauty and Gothic grandeur

The micro state of Luxembourg is home to a beautiful capital and to villages set in green, forested hills, writes Tom Hall

One of many historic sites in Luxembourg. Larochette's castle dominates the town below.

Luxembourg may be famous for its small size, but the European microstate deserves to be known as an attractive tourist destination. Squeezed between Belgium, France and Germany, the Grand Duchy is home to a beautiful capital and to villages set in green, forested hills.

Luxembourg owes its independence to the 19th-century struggles for supremacy between Napoleon III’s France and Bismarck’s Prussian empire. With other European powers keen to ensure the Grand Duchy’s continued neutrality, one long-term result of the 1867 Treaty of London was Luxembourg’s reaffirmation as a buffer between these great rivals.

Luxembourg may be famous for its small size, but the European microstate deserves to be known as an attractive tourist destination. Squeezed between Belgium, France and Germany, the Grand Duchy is home to a beautiful capital and to villages set in green, forested hills.

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Luxembourg owes its independence to the 19th-century struggles for supremacy between Napoleon III’s France and Bismarck’s Prussian empire. With other European powers keen to ensure the Grand Duchy’s continued neutrality, one long-term result of the 1867 Treaty of London was Luxembourg’s reaffirmation as a buffer between these great rivals.

The microstate of Luxembourg is home to a beautiful capital and to villages set in green, forested hills

With its medieval old town, ramparts and museums, the capital, Luxembourg City, is a perfect starting point for a visit. But this is no city state. Beyond the capital there are lovely villages and towns to visit too. Echternach, with its Gothic core, and Esch-sur-Sûre, towering over the river below, are arguably the pick of the bunch. West of here are some of the nation’s best hiking trails. In the north of the country, the Vennbahn – one of the world’s longest converted railway cycle paths – stretches at a gentle gradient to Aachen in south-west Germany.

Luxembourg is separated from Germany by the Moselle river, which has vineyards hugging its banks. Foodies will love exploring producer villages along the way, culminating in Schengen, the village where Luxembourg, France and Germany meet, and the location for the signing of the European Economic Community’s open borders agreement in 1985. In fact, there is even a museum dedicated to the agreement in the village’s European Centre.

The country is well connected by plane and train from the UK, making this prime territory for a short break.

If you like this…

● Take a relaxed tour down the Rhine from Bonn to Mannheim, Germany for castles, half-timbered villages and folklore galore.

● Liechtenstein is another small European state that, while being little visited, is also notable for its natural beauty.

Tom Hall is a travel writer and author of Lonely Planet’s Best Ever Travel Tips

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This article was first published in the December 2019 edition of BBC History Magazine