Home And Away Guide: Luxembourg

Luxembourg is probably less visited than it should be. The capital of one of the world’s smallest countries is a vibrant, dynamic city within a romantic, peaceful countryside that gives it plenty of natural space to breathe. Luxembourg’s visitors tend to focus on its rich history but today’s city is a modern, open, friendly place that has embraced the opportunities of high-tech life without losing its soul.

From small café bars to Michelin-starred restaurants, this city enjoys the best in gastronomy alongside a lively and diverse cultural scene including a number of popular outdoor festivals throughout the year. After working with many of the best chefs, gastronomists and wine-makers in Luxembourg, Tanja de Jager decided to strike out on her own and opened Dipso, a wine bar in the old town. The name is highly appropriate, since it is the Greek root of the word “thirst”. The bar serves both local and international wines. www.dipso.lu La Grand Rue is Luxembourg's smartest shopping street with lots of upscale designers, including Max Mara and Gérard Darel, as well as smaller boutiques.

The city has twice been honoured as European Capital of Culture and it buzzes with artistic creativity such as the music, dance and theatre performances at the Grand Théâtre and the state-of-the-art Philharmonie. Luxembourg’s multilingual character is reflected in its variety of exciting stage productions in Luxembourgish, French, German, Dutch and English.

Luxembourg's capital is a two-tier city: the Old Town is perched high above the green gorges winding around it. It grew from a 10th century fortress on the promontory, and spread across the valleys, which are today spanned by an extensive bridge system. A signposted two-hour stroll, the Wenzel Walk, takes tourists along the city's historic ramparts, and through cobbled streets that pass churches, towers and palaces.

The musts: the bustling Place d'Armes, a square in the heart of the pedestrian zone; the Bock Casemates, an extraordinary warren of tunnels cut through the stone cliffs; and the Chemin de la Corniche, a promenade overlooking the valley, and described as Europe's most beautiful balcony. The capital's cultural kingpin is the Musée d'Art Moderne. Built within the ruined walls of an old fortress, it's not just a challenging forum, but an artwork in its own right. Designed by Leoh Ming Pei, this new building completes his "European Trilogy", alongside the Louvre extension in Paris and the German Historical Museum in Berlin. The simple volumes and generous spaces of the building show the mastery of the architectural language by the famous architect in combining stone and glass. More traditional tastes are met by the National Museum of History and Art which includes works by Cézanne, Picasso and Magritte. Hôtel Simoncini is a modernist hotel less than a minute’s walk from Place GuillaumeII. Its thirty six newly refurbished rooms are compact but stylish, with original art on the walls; there’s also a gallery on the ground floor.

For best rates see www.hotelsimoncini.lu Luxair offers flights to Luxembourg City from Dublin airport with an early afternoon departure www.luxair.lu For information on this must see destination. www.lcto.lu

Robert Walshe is a travel broadcaster with Q Radio in Northern Ireland.

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