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Three self-guided city walks

Three self-guided city walks

by Sarita RAO 6 min. 20.08.2022
Want to see the city in a new light? Then try one of these three self-guided walks
Reminders of Vauban's fortifications to Luxembourg City
Reminders of Vauban's fortifications to Luxembourg City
Photo credit: Photo: Anouk Antony

Fancy a stroll in the city? You can try one of these self-guided walking tours to find out about the historical fortifications built by Vauban that make Luxembourg a UNESCO World Heritage site, or the gardens and parks of the city, or a circuit to enlighten you on the women who influenced the city over the centuries.  

Each of these walks has a printable PDF showing the circuit but perhaps, more importantly, giving you more insight into what you’ve stopped to look at, so we’ve included a link to these at the end of each section.

Women – lives and legends

From Melusina to the Countess Ermesinde, Marguerite Thomas Clement, the first female MP, and Aline Mayrisch-de Saint-Hubert who founded the first girl’s grammar school, this 5.2km walk will take you on a one-hour forty minute journey to uncover the influence of this gender on Luxembourg’s history, religion, politics and art.

The walk begins at the Place d’Armes outside the Cercle Cité where a frieze from 1907 depicts the Countess of Ermesinde, also Countess of Luxembourg from 1186-1247, handing over the Proclamation of Freedom to citizens in 1244. A liberal ruler, the proclamation gave the people of Luxembourg advantages but also obligations such as military service in times of war. The countess also founded the Clariss Convent in 1238.

The walk visits the Grand Ducal Palace, with information on Empress Maria Theresa who gained military supremacy in the War of Succession in the 18th century, and put in place reforms to limit the tax privileges of the nobility and establish a land register. 

Marguerite Thomas-Clement the first female MP in Luxembourg
Marguerite Thomas-Clement the first female MP in Luxembourg
Photo: Al. Anen, fils/LW-Archiv

The nearby parliament buildings were where women first received suffrage (the right to vote) in May 1919, with the first Luxembourgish female MP, teacher Marguerite Thomas-Clement, elected in the same year. There were no women MPs in the Grand Duchy from 1931 until 1965, but in 1967 Madeleine Frieden-Kinnen became the first female government minister.

 The walking tour also takes in the Bock Promontory and the legend of Melusina, Count Siegfried’s mermaid wife, then covers the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame who established the first school for girls in 1628 and a maternity home for poor, unmarried mothers in 1877. Nearby, the former glove factory employed some 1,500 women in 1905.

Saint Sophie school was originally the first public grammar school for girls from 1911 to 1926, after which it moved to buildings in Limpertsberg which are now part of the Lycée Robert Schuman. The school was founded by socialite Aline Mayrisch de Saint-Hubert who bore the cost of setting it up in the early years, and also co-founded the Luxembourg Red Cross Association in 1914.

The tour then takes in the statue of the Grand Duchess Charlotte in Place Clairefontaine, the Gëlle Fra, and the Women’s Library, Cid-Femmes.

You can find a PDF of the walk with more historical information and a map here.

Gardens & Parks

If strolling past flowers and shrubberies is more your sort of walk, then this one takes in the best of the city’s parks and gardens. Starting at the Bock Promontory, the walker is invited to take in the views of the gardens below, including the terraced Convent Garden where traditional vegetables and medicinal herbs are grown, before crossing the river to Neumünster Abbey and the contemporary monastery gardens.

Upstream, there is a steep slope used in the past by people working in the tanning industry to dry skins, but now an orchard of some 120 apple trees (beautiful when in blossom). In Grund, the walking tour takes in the rose beds near rue Saint Ulric and Saint Quirin’s Chapel, a place of pilgrimage due to the belief that the spring next to it has the ability to cure eye ailments.

It then passes below the Passerelle viaduct and follows the Pétrusse River past the vegetable gardens that once supplied the market at Knuedler, but which are now private allotments. 

A green city filled with allotments, and terraces growing vegetables and medicinal herbs
A green city filled with allotments, and terraces growing vegetables and medicinal herbs
Photo: Pierre Matgé

The walk continues to Edward Klein park, home to sculptures of Victor Hugo and Mahatma Gandhi, and local acolytes including writer Batty Weber and cyclist François Faber. The gardens of the Villa Vauban are the final stop.

You can download a brochure of this walking tour with more information here.

Vauban Circular Walk

Ever wanted to know more about the historical places of strategic importance to Luxembourg from its fortresses and gates to its bastions and bridges? Then this self-guided walking tour will bring to life the city’s transformation under Vauban.

The circuit is named after the famous French military engineer, Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, appointed under the reign of Louis XIV as commissioner for fortifications. Experienced in warfare, Vauban was put in charge of the technical aspects of the French siege of Luxembourg (against the Spanish) in 1684. It was Vauban who turned the city into the Gibraltar of the North, from 1685 and 1688 with the help of 3,000 labourers. Much of his work was destroyed, but what remains has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

A staircase follows the contours of the wall at Fort Niedergrünewald
A staircase follows the contours of the wall at Fort Niedergrünewald
Photo: Yves Welter

As with the previous walk, the starting point is the Bock Promontory, where Vauban had the Spanish fortifications restored. The circuit then crosses the castle bridge and continues behind some 19th century houses (now part of the Museum of History and Modern Art), to the arch of Pfaffenthal’s first gate and the bastion erected in 1606.

Leaving the medieval fortification ring of the Upper Town through the pointed arches of the three towers gate, walkers cross the road to take in the view near the Spanish towers, before heading down to Pfaffenthal, which lines both banks of the Alzette river, and which together with Grund, forms the city’s oldest district. This area was home to craftsmen, tanners, brewers and wool-dyers in the Middle Ages, and had a small Roman settlement before that, but is perhaps best known as being home to the Benedictine Abbey. 

Passing by the panorama lift, the circuit takes in four massive well preserved towers. Vauban saw this unfortified part of Pfaffenthal, adjacent to the fortress, as a weak point in the city’s defences, and had these sections incorporated in 1685. His construction closed the valley with a protective wall, linking Fort Berlaimont on the city side to the new forts on the Grünewald heights opposite. Deep moats and drawbridges were also designed to keep the enemy out, and if they breached these defences, boiling oil could be thrown on soldiers from the towers.

A long modern stairway up to the Fort Niedergrünewald follows the contours of the wall surrounding it, built by Vauban in 1684 and consisting of three bastions and an extensive network of underground chambers. From here the tour goes through the valley of caves and the remains of Fort Obergrünewald  to Fort Thüngen and the Three Acorns Museum. This was not built by Vauban, but by the Austrians in 1722, and extended a century later by the Prussians. The walk then descends into Clausen, past the Mansfeld Gate built in 1600, but reinforced by Vauban in 1684, before returning to the Bock Promontory.

You can find more information and a map of the circuit here

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