So you have a day to spend in Luxembourg.
Think 24 hours is enough to leave no stone unturned in one of the world’s smallest countries? Think again. To explore it all in one day, you’ll have to cover exactly 41.58 square miles an hour. No offense, but I doubt you. But, just because you can’t see everything in one revolution of the Earth doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Last November, my friends and I did.
Here’s what you should do in your short time in the world’s only remaining duchy.
First of all, rent a car. While trains can get you to most European destinations, they can’t get you many places in Luxembourg. Don’t worry, though, untraveled Americans. Luxembourgers drive on the right, just like you.
Luxembourg’s eponymous capital and biggest city is a good place to begin your tour de force. Find a spot, preferably a parking garage, to park outside of the city center; you’ll be getting in your steps during this part of your day. If you prefer, bike tours are available as well.
Start by heading to Chemin de la Corniche, billed as “Europe’s most beautiful balcony.” From here, take in a stunning, sweeping view of everything from 17th century ramparts to the Alzette River below to incredible architecture in every direction. Take a quick jaunt down to the river, if you’d like, and stroll among weeping willows and mermaid statues.
Next, walk the short distance to Cathedrale Notre-Dame. Peek inside at its immense grandeur, then stroll to the Palais Grand-Ducal. This palace is the town residence of the Grand Duke, and features a splendid, Instagram-worthy façade. Then, head to Casemates du Bock, the remains of a 1000-year old castle built into the fortifications of the city. Here, you’ll find over 17 kilometers of tunnels which used to house not only military forces but a whole miniature city. If you visit in the winter, like we did, the tunnels themselves will be closed, but you’ll still get great views of the city. And, as your reward for missing out on the tunnels, go catch a Christmas market and treat yourself to some mulled wine. You deserve it.
Back to the car! Hop in and drive to Chateau de Larochette, perched high on a sandstone cliff 150 meters above the Valley of the White Ernz below. This 11th century castle lies just 30 minutes north of the city and has been partially restored. It’s open to the public except for in winter.
Just down the road, you’ll find Chateau de Beaufort, the ruins of another 11th century fortress. The castle is also closed for the winter (moral of the story: don’t go in winter like we did), but you can still stroll around its photogenic ramparts regardless of season.
Next, navigate to what is arguably the most iconic castle in all of Luxembourg: Vianden Castle. This fully restored stunner has origins dating from as early as the 10th century. Alone on a hilltop above its charming namesake village, this fortress is just as gorgeous by night as it is by day, thanks to powerful floodlights that illuminate it after dark. Want an even better view? Take the Vianden Chairlift up to 440 meters above sea level, and get that shot of Vianden Castle you saw on Instagram.
At this point, you might be thinking Luxembourg is all about manmade (albeit stunning) architecture. Wrong. Unbeknownst to us upon arrival, Luxembourg is over 33 percent forested, and boasts some incredible hiking, especially in the northern part of the country.
Continue your drive from Vianden towards Hohllay Cave, along Luxembourg’s Mullerthal Trail. This cave lies at the end of an easy, short (0.3 km) trail in the midst of a lush deciduous forest. Explore the recesses of the man-made cave, and puzzle over the cryptic markings on its walls (hint: they’re actually mining scars, but Instagram doesn’t have to know that). Head downhill from the cave and adjoining amphitheater, and find yourself alongside a bubbling stream, with tiny waterfalls on tributaries coming in from both sides. A bridge will take you over the stream through a gorgeous slot canyon.
Next, head to the rock labyrinths of Berdorf. This slot canyon-laden hill country is arguably my favorite spot in all of Luxembourg, a place that will remind you more of Utah than anything in Western Europe. Start your hike right off the side of the road with the accessible and unpronounceable Werschrummschluff. Say it five times fast, then look for a trailhead right as you pass Predigstuhl, which is a lookout on a rock pinnacle that you can easily reach the top of, as well. There’s no real route here, just occasional arrows and signs painted into the rock. Squeeze between green rock walls and through insanely narrow slot canyons, working your way uphill to an incredible, magical viewpoint, which overlooks more crazy rock formations throughout the Black Ernz valley. If you’re lucky enough to be here on a foggy day, like we were (one of the few pluses of coming in winter), the mist through the trees and crags paints a surreal picture, one I would love to paint if I had any artistic talent whatsoever.
Got more time? Do the entire Mullerthal trail. It’s only 112 km.
All in all, it’s fair to say that Luxembourg deserves far more than 24 hours of your time. From castles to canyons to corniches to cities, Luxembourg is proof that size doesn’t matter, at least when it comes to countries. I left feeling like we’d barely scratched the surface of the beauty and history that this tiny duchy holds. From But, if a day is all you have, my recommendations are a great place to start. And finish. And everything in between.