Luxembourg is right at the heart of Europe, yet this small landlocked country somehow still feels brilliantly off the beaten track. It’s loosely split into five distinct rural regions – plus the capital, Luxembourg City, with its UNESCO World Heritage Site old town – each of which teems with both tranquil walking paths and thrilling, adrenalin-pumping bike trails. Diverse landscapes run the gamut from pretty villages, wildflower meadows and sun-dappled forests to gigantic canyons, majestic red-sandstone rocks and wooded valleys. Exploring on foot or on two wheels is made even easier by a bookable luggage-transfer service (complimentary until the end of September 2021) and free public transport. This is somewhere to switch off and slow down, surrounded by nature. Here is our top pick of what to see and do in Luxembourg.
GO MOUNTAIN BIKING IN THE LAND OF THE RED ROCKS
Named after the rich red ore (Minett in Luxembourgish) that was once key to the success of the country’s iron and steel industry, the southern Red Rock region has an intriguing old-
new landscape: in the Belval neighbourhood of Esch-sur-Alzette, for instance, weather-beaten blast furnaces are surrounded by the modern architecture of the University of Luxembourg. It’s also a magnet for mountain bikers. Trails for all abilities criss-cross the former mining land – one of the most challenging is the Lalléngerbierg-Gaalgebierg route, which winds through a former open-pit mining site, now the Brucherbierg-Lalléngerbierg nature reserve, and past spectacular towering sandstone cliffs. Other, easier options include the Ellergronn Trail, with points of interest such as the old funicular, and the single track Haard-Red.
DISCOVER LUXEMBOURG CITY‘S OLD QUARTER
A World Heritage Site since 1994, Luxembourg City’s historic district is packed full of must-see sights, from the late-Gothic Notre-Dame cathedral to the Adolphe Bridge with its stone arches and the 17th-century Grund Gate, the entrance to the fortified lower town. Leafy spaces such as Pétrusse Park, designed by French landscape architect Eduoard André to include rock formations and ruins, make the ideal spot for a picnic along the way. Choose from the UNESCO bike trail (six miles), the shorter UNESCO walking route (1.5 miles) or the Wenzel Circular Walk, where highlights include the Bock Casemates (a series of underground tunnels dating back to 1644) and the Chemin de la Corniche, which has sensational views of the Alzette Valley.
GET BACK TO NATURE IN MULLERTHAL
Known as Luxembourg’s Little Switzerland because of its green hills, the eastern area of Mullerthal is one of the most popular for hikers who are drawn here for the patchwork pastures and jaw-dropping rock formations. The Mullerthal Trail stretches over 70 miles and consists of three big loops, each with knockout views over the Sauer River. Route 2, for instance, starts in Echternach, Luxembourg’s oldest city, taking in the impressive Wollefsschlucht canyon, Berdorf village (famous for its cheese), the Schnellert forest and the village of Mullerthal itself, where one of the most important mills of the region has been restored and opened to the public.
VISIT VINEYARDS ON A CYCLE TOUR
Around the Moselle River, which also flows through Germany and France, Luxembourg’s winegrowers have cultivated their own unique style of mostly white wines, including the sparkling Crémant and soft Rivaner. One of the best ways to explore is by bike: pick up the Velo Vinum cycling trail at the Musée et Maison du Vin in the village of Ehnen. It climbs up steep hills before flattening out past peaceful vineyards and fruit-laden orchards. The circuit ticks off towns such as popular Remich and Bech-Kleinmacher – both with plenty of wine-cellar pit stops.
HIKE THROUGH THE ARDENNES VALLEYS
With two nature reserves and the country’s largest lake, the northern region of Ardennes is a real back-to-nature destination. For serious hikers the two trails to tackle are the 32-mile Escapardenne Lee and the 65k Éislek (handily, there are also eight train stations along the routes where you can hop on and off for free to create your own tailored version). The former plots a course from Ettelbruck to Kautenbach along steep paths, rocky ridges and the wooded valleys of the Sauer and Wiltz. At Kautenbach, ambitious walkers who aren’t yet feeling weary can pick up the Éislek and continue onto La-Roche-en-Ardenne in Belgium.
SLOW DOWN IN RURAL GUTTLAND
Just outside Luxembourg City, Guttland is defined by the historic Valley of the Seven Castles and its stunning natural landscapes that are dotted with charming villages and old farm houses. Slow tourism is encouraged via the countless hiking and cycling trails; there’s even a dedicated meditation path in the tiny village of Rindschleiden for visitors who want to pause and reflect. Elsewhere, in Beckerich, you can sign up for tours in the former mill that focus on the environment and developments in sustainability.
TAKE A BIRD-SPOTTING CANOE TRIP ON THE SAUER RIVER
A tributary of the Moselle, the Sauer River is known for its gentle rapids and an especially scenic stretch between Born and Wasserbillig (there are easy landing places at both towns). It’s also part of Natura 2000, a network of breeding and resting sites for rare and threatened species. Spot dragonflies and large copper butterflies on the riverbanks, dippers and kingfishers near lowland forest meadows and little grebe nests on the water’s edge.