La Vieille Ville Luxembourg
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Perhaps you’ve heard of it but I would almost guarantee that you couldn’t place it on a map. Nevertheless, this Disney-esque kingdom is centered around the quaint capital, Luxembourg City. After Aachen’s cathedral, Luxembourg City was the second UNESCO World Heritage Site on the 2017 Tour de France route. Luxembourg City boasts elegance, culture, and refinement as the historic fortified capital of this tiny but prosperous country. In fact, Luxembourg enjoyed the highest per capita GDP in the world in 2015 according to the IMF, well ahead of second place Switzerland and nearly double that of the United States. Needless to say, Luxembourg City should be on anyone’s travel list for next year. The heart of this old city is the fortified La Vieille Ville overlooking the confluence of the Alzette and Pétrusse Rivers. This is a strategic spot that dates back to the Roman tower built here. The city benefitted from its rocky, naturally defensive landscape that likened it to Gibraltar, becoming known in fact as the “Gibraltar of the North.” Continuously, fortifications piled on top of fortifications. One after the other in the 10th century, then the 12th century, then the 14th and 15th centuries until the prominent fortress that exists today was built by the Spanish in the mid-1600s. Work was continued under Frenchman Vauban and subsequently the Austrians in the 18th century and finally the Prussians in the 20th century before an effort to dismantle the fortress was undertaken in 1867. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that Luxembourg only became fully independent in 1890. In total, it is this layered development and exhibition that gives rise to the City as a UNESCO WHS. Put your walking shoes on because Luxembourg City will have you up, down, all around seeing what it was that brought so many empires to this special place.
Right on the border with France, Mondorf-les-Bains is a historic spa town with the only casino in Luxembourg. It is also the southern border of the small terroir Moselle-Luxembourgeoise. Just outside of Mondorf, vineyards dot the hillsides along the snaking Moselle River. Luxembourg is wine crazy. It ranks as the second highest per capita wine consumption in the world, behind only the Vatican. Yet this small country only has 12.54 square kilometers of vineyards to its name. Centered around the Luxembourgeoise town of Remich, a mere seven kilometers to the northeast, the Moselle-Luxembourgeoise wine region is known for its sparkling Crémant, Rieslings and other white wine varietals like Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. The latter types have even gotten rave reviews, the Pinot Gris described as “world class.” The area takes immense pride in showing off its picturesque vineyards and local products, some of which have nothing to do with but go very well with wine – jam, honeys, sausages, and snails. There are vineyard hikes, wine festivals, tours, and of course wine tasting. Just another way to enjoy this small country with big heart.