At the heart of Europe
Luxembourg has always reached out to its neighbouring countries to form alliances and set up partnerships.
So it’s no wonder that Luxembourg was sitting at the table when 6 countries signed the Treaty of Rome, the foundation of the European Union.
From then on, Luxembourg has upheld its European spirit and currently hosts some of the major EU institutions with great pride.
Monarchic symbol par excellence, the crown also represents the Grand Ducal dynasty and the head of State, Grand Duke Henri. This is why official symbols such as flags or medals typically feature a crown-wearing letter H. In the year 2000, Grand Duke Jean abdicated in favour of his son Henri; since then, Prince Guillaume has been Hereditary Grand Duke.
The Grand Ducal family represents the country on state visits and on trade missions to foreign countries. They participate in many social and cultural activities across the country. Grand Duke Henri, his wife Grand Duchess Maria Teresa and their five children are official patrons to numerous national associations and causes in the fields of humanitarian action, sports or art.
Grand Ducal Palace
The Grand Ducal Palace is the residence of the Grand Ducal family in the capital, and above all a major symbol of Luxembourg’s monarchy and a much-visited tourist attraction. In fact, you haven’t really seen Luxembourg City properly if you haven’t stopped and marvelled at the beautiful facade with its elements of the Flemish Renaissance style, dating back to the late 16th century. That’s when the oldest section of the edifice was built as a guildhall. In 1890, the building was transformed into the Grand Ducal Palace we know today. And if the flag’s up, the Grand Duke is in. Good luck spotting him!
Luxembourgers are proud of their heritage and their language, but they are pragmatic about it as well. On top of the three official languages of the country – Luxembourgish, German and French, English is also taught as a mandatory subject in school.
Furthermore, many people speak other languages such as Portuguese, Italian or Spanish. In fact, an average resident speaks 3.6 languages!
In any case, given that the international community makes up roughly 47% of Luxembourg’s population, you will always find someone who understands you.
In the South, Luxembourg shares a border of over 73 km with France. In the West, 148 km with Belgium and, in the East, 135 km with Germany. But what is the point of talking about borders, anyway?
In the summer of 1985 the Benelux countries, as well as France and Germany signed the ‘Schengen Agreement‘ in the small ‘3 countries corner‘ town of Schengen, thus agreeing to open their mutual borders.
Today, 26 countries are part of the Schengen Area. This historical landmark is well worth a visit!
It’s a long tradition that Luxembourgers head abroad to pursue their academic studies in order to discover new cultures and broaden their horizon. While this tradition is still being upheld, Luxembourg also launched its own university in 2003, attracting foreign and national talent.
Located in the former industrial district of Esch-Belval, uni.lu is perfectly integrated into the European university landscape – and the Times’ Higher Education Top 200.
Looking for a cosmopolitan higher education experience? Well, welcome to Luxembourg!
You name any famous orchestra, and they will quite probably have performed in the ‘Philharmonie’.
Since 2005, this stunning building on the Kirchberg plateau has organised world-class concerts of different genres, hosting musicians from across the globe.
Christian de Portzamparc’s architecture, with acoustics by Albert Yaying Xu, make for a very special place to experience music. An icon of contemporary architecture in Luxembourg!
Its glass cupola is an unmistakeable hint: Chinese American architect leoh Ming Pei has been at work here.
As he has in many other places around the globe, leoh Ming Pei created a state-of-the-art exhibition space which, today displays its own renowned collections, loans works of art to partnering museums all over the world, and hosts international exhibitions.
In brief, this is world class contemporary art.
Luxembourg’s fortress used to be much sought-after. Among other things, its central location and gradually built, extensive fortifications made for an ideal military site.
No wonder that, over the course of the centuries, French, Spanish and Austrian troops all made their contribution to the former ‘Gibraltar of the North.’
In 1867, however, the martial phase of fortress history came to an end. Under the Treaty of London, Luxembourg became neutral and large parts of its fortress were destroyed. Some bastions, such as the ‘Spanish towers’ and walls have been preserved and today, they endow Luxembourg with its iconic, picturesque views of its old town, a UNESCO world heritage site since 1994!
The official name of this edifice is ‘Pont Grand-Duchesse Charlotte’, but most people simply and affectionately refer to it as the ‘Roud Bréck’, or ‘Red Bridge’.
Built in the mid-1960s, this landmark links the upper town to the plateau of Kirchberg, where urban development then started with European institutions setting up their headquarters.
Since then, the district has continued to develop to a financial district, as has the use of the bridge. Keyword: Tram!
A beautiful and golden shining statue, created as a memorial to the victims of the First World War.
Set up at a location for everyone to see. Torn down during the Nazi occupation. Lost and forgotten for decades. Finally retrieved in the 1980s, and reinstalled as a memorial to the victims of both World Wars.
In 2010, it was decided that we should share her beauty and let her discover the world – the ‘golden lady’ travelled to the Shanghai World Expo as a true ambassador of Luxembourg. Welcome her back home!
It’s true, Luxembourg’s flag may remind you of the Dutch one, but the devil is in the detail.
The blue colour in Luxembourg’s flag is a tad lighter. Since the Dutch kings were, for most of the 19th century, also Grand Dukes of Luxembourg, this similarity seems perfectly comprehensible.
However, there are conflicting stories… Whatever the truth may be, we’ll show our true colours!
There are lots of red lions out there, but to Luxembourgers, the ‘Roude Léiw’ is above all the centrepiece of Luxembourg’s coat of arms. As a symbol of might and power, the lion is frequently found as a heraldic animal in Europe. The appearance of Luxembourg’s red lion has been evolving since the early 13th century, following the intricate lines of succession and claims to power of the medieval era. The crown, golden claws and split tail are what set the Roude Léiw apart from its peers around the world.
Among its various uses, the red lion is one of the most popular symbols used in sports. So, if you hear people shouting ‘Roude Léiw, huel se!’ (Catch them!), make sure to cheer along to support our Luxembourgish sports(wo)men. Roooaaar!
True, fireworks are common around the world.
Yet in Luxembourg, they really are enjoyed as a closing (or opening) act for many great events, including the yearly funfair ‘Schueberfouer’ and the national holiday in June.
We’ve celebrated this holiday – the anniversary of the Grand Duchess or Grand Duke – on the same day for three generations, even though it’s not actually her (or his) birthday. Anyway, see you on the eve of June 23rd!
Every year, in the late summer, the setting up of the Riserad, visible from afar, heralds Luxembourg-City’s traditional Schueberfouer.
This yearly funfair can be traced back more than 670 years! In late August and early September you’ll have the chance to take a ride, win a prize, get a bite.
Unfortunately, the fairground stalls will hit the road around mid-September, leaving no doubt that summer is over for another year.
As a hero in his own right, Superjhemp – Jhemp being a typical Luxembourgish male name – has accompanied a whole generation through its childhood.
Since the late 1980s, this cartoon figure has been solving crimes and mysteries, saved a Luxembourgish papal candidate and sweetened the evenings of many children – and parents…
Do you know a Superjhemp of your own? If so, this one’s for you!
This love story between a mermaid and Count Siegfried of Luxembourg is part of the country’s founding legends. A story proving that men, in some circumstances, are at least as nosy as they claim women are.
In brief, Melusina insisted on her privacy once a week and retired to her bathroom. Suspicious of her doings, the Count watched through the keyhole and discovered Melusina’s fishtail… His curiosity made him lose her forever, since she quickly jumped into the river Alzette and was never seen again.
Except that today, she is once again sitting on the Alzette’s bank – welcoming visitors as a modern sculpture, in purple. Why not pay her a visit?
The ‘Renert’ is the Luxembourgish version of the ‘Reineke Fuchs’, an opus that has been part of European literary history since the 15th century. One of the most famous interpreters was the German author Goethe (who, by the way, spent some time in Luxembourg).
Luxembourg’s Renert was written by Michel Rodange in the 19th century. A national epic today, the fable is a satirical story depicting the unique characters of Luxembourg (at the time, of course).
The protagonist? Renert, a trickster fox in a tailcoat. Enjoy the read!
Do you identify as ‘raised in the countryside’, or are you a city kid? Whichever it is, this one’s for you. Written by Auguste Liesch and published in 1936, ‘Maus Ketti’ remains one of the most famous stories in Luxembourgish literature. Ketti, a sweet-natured field mouse from the south, receives her rather snobbish cousin Mim from Clausen, in the capital. Unhappy with the hearty food being served, Mim invites her rural cousin Ketti to the city, to discover all the first-class delicacies she won’t stop praising. Going any further than this would spoil the story… But in brief, the fictional story recounts the (also fictional, of course!) difference between rural and city life, and the lessons to be drawn. Now, which mouse do you want to be?
The Diekrich Donkey! There are different theories as to why, among all the native animals, a donkey has come to be the mascot of the city of Diekirch. The ‘Dikrecher Iesel’ has in fact been known for more than 200 years. One day, historians might come to an agreement on how the donkey connection came about. In the meantime, locals feel proud of their obstinate animal symbol, which even managed to make it to the top of the local church tower. The donkey – also affectionately referred to as ‘Louis‘ – can’t be missed at local happenings, such as ‘Al Dikkrich’ in the summer, or the ‘Dikkricher Cavalcade‘ in the winter. I-ahhhh!
If, all of a sudden, you happen to hear a marching band approaching your home, rest assured: it’s neither the Mardi Gras nor any official type of ceremony! It’s the so-called ‘mutton march’. In a long-standing tradition, local music groups play the unmistakeable march in the streets, inviting people to the town fair. The tradition has been upheld, although the march has nowadays mostly become an important opportunity for music groups to raise funds – so be generous! Why the sheep? Back in the day, they served as prizes at the fair and were taken along as an attraction or ‘teaser’. These days, marches rarely feature any livestock, but should you happen to spot a stray lamb, don’t worry, they will be fine! You just can’t win them anymore.
Held every Whit Tuesday, Echternach’s traditional ‘hopping procession’ is not only the last of its kind in Europe, it’s also inscribed on UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage. Different groups hop to the same ear-catching tune, played by different marching bands. Even though its historic origins remain disputed, the procession constitutes a pilgrimage to missionary Willibrord, who founded the abbey of Echternach in the late 7th century and to whom many miracles have been attributed. At one point, and for a short time only, some groups took three steps forward and two steps backward, leading the ‘Sprangprëssessioun’ to serve as a reference for any kind of arduous process. Arduous to none, religious pilgrimage to some, cultural folklore to others, the procession keeps attracting thousands of people and remains a one-of-a kind experience open to everyone! Hop along!
Let the little bird tell you: a hand-made Péckvillchen is always unique! A ‘Péckvillchen’ is a hand-crafted ceramic bird whistle which traditionally produces two different sounds that you can play and ‘tweet’ with. But there’s more to it than that. On Easter Monday, Péckvillercher are the main attraction in both Luxembourg-City and in the town of Nospelt, where a dedicated market takes place, the so-called ‘Eemaischen’. On both markets, you will find many finely crafted Péckvillercher on display, representing different species (real and imaginary), coming in different colours and shapes. Most of them are ceramic, but glass is increasingly popular as well. For the very limited editions or special collections, make sure you’re the early bird!
Back in 1902, the town of Vianden (in Luxembourgish ‘Veianen’) counted more than 2.500 nut trees, about a fifth of the country’s nut tree population! At the time, almost 500 hundredweights of nuts were harvested in a year. Locals were nuts about nuts – and still are! In 1935, the local nut market ‘Veiner Nëssmoort’ took place for the first time and, since 1970, has been regularly organised in the historic, picturesque centre of the town, just below the famous castle. Before anything else, the nuts typically need to be ‘geschutt, gepeelt, geweesch a gedrëchent’ (i.e. shaken, peeled, cleaned and dried). Every first Sunday in October, you can visit the market to taste and let yourself be seduced by delicious regional nut products: pastries, oils, cakes, liqueurs, spirits and much more. That’s the ‘Veianer Noss’ in a nutshell!
Luxembourgish is an independent language, and of course has developed a lively literary landscape of its own for anyone to explore, bookworm or not.
In a country marked by such a moving history and diverse population, there are many stories to tell. There are several publishing houses and many authors contributing to Luxembourgish fiction and non-fiction.
If interested, just pop into a bookshop, and ask for the ‘Luxemburgensia’. Enjoy the read!
Luxembourg boasts a great number of exceptional museums, exhibitions and galleries, showcasing the long tradition and great diversity of art throughout the ages, from across the country and beyond.
In 1995, Luxembourg-City was the European Capital of Culture for the first time. This gave a strong boost to the promotion of arts, to the development of cultural venues and to the presence and appreciation of contemporary art in particular.
Following Luxembourg-City as host of the ECoC for a second time in 2007, 2022 will see Esch-sur-Alzette, our second city, take a turn. Esch2022!