Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What Do You Know About Luxembourg?

What do you know about Luxembourg? Maybe that it’s a small, wealthy country? Or that it’s somewhere in Western Europe? Or that its citizens speak a language called Luxembourgish? Maybe you don’t really know anything about Luxembourg, but you could hardly be faulted for it. There isn’t a lot of news coming out of the place, and it’s not usually at the top of anyone’s travel wish list. When I moved to Belgium I knew very little about the smallest member of the Benelux region other than that I wanted to take advantage of its proximity to Brussels to engage in a little exploration. Last weekend’s overnight stay finally opened my eyes to this undeniably charming European enclave.

Recorded history shows that Luxembourg's eponymous capital city (sometimes also referred to at Luxembourg City) arrived on the scene in 963. Built as a fortress city, it possessed great strategic value throughout much of Europe's tumultuous history. At 998 square miles, and with a population of roughly 493,500, the country of Luxembourg is tiny, but it is also quite powerful. Its financial sector is one of the most important in Europe, and it has the highest GDP per capita in the world (approximately $113,00 according to the IMP, whereas the U.S. is at about $47,000). Luxembourg's citizens do speak Luxembourgish, but also speak French and German (the other two official languages) and often English.

Luxembourg City is not big, but there is plenty to do to fill a weekend. I loved exploring the historic fortifications as well as walking around the adorable old town (someone once told me that the city looks like it was plucked out of Disneyland, and they were right), both of which were named World Heritage sites by UNESCO. There is a cathedral and a couple of large churches to visit, a number of theatrical and musical venues, excellent shopping opportunities, and an impressive number of fine dining options. Be sure to try one of Luxembourg's wines or sparkling wines, which are said to rival their more famous French neighbors. The rest of the country offers beautiful rolling hills and plenty of outdoor activities.

One of the things I liked best about Luxembourg was that it was small. Larger European capitals are amazing (hello, Paris!), but can sometimes be overwhelming. I felt relaxed in Luxembourg, which is not usually something you feel in, say, London or Brussels. The city gives you the impression of being isolated from the rest of the world, and provides a unique and beautiful escape. We might not know much about Luxembourg, but maybe we should.


Adriana said...

I thought Luxembourg was very cute! I went during fall, so the leaves made a great scenery!

Zhu said...

I definitely want to visit one day. I must admit I don't know anything about it... do you have a feeling of a distinct culture there? Silly question, but you know what I mean!

Tanya said...

@Adriana, I thought the same thing - very cute! Would love to see it in the spring.

@Zhu, I didn't know anything about it, and I do know what you mean about a distinct culture. You know, yes, I did sense one. I think because they have their own language and they have a very unique history that they obviously value and promote. I would definitely recommend going there.