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Afternoon out: Dudelange
Inside Lux

Afternoon out: Dudelange

1 by Sarita RAO 12 min. 17.02.2022 From our online archive
The quarters of Little Italy and Brill, Mount St John, the Haard nature reserve and Parc L'eh. There's plenty to do and see in Luxembourg's most southern city
Dudelange city hall and pavillion
Dudelange city hall and pavillion
Photo credit: Raymond Schmit

At the foot of Mount St John, Dudelange is also known as the "Forge of the South", due to its steel history. You can visit castle ruins, art galleries and the different historical quarters of the town, or try out a Tarzan swing and a barefoot walk at Parc L’eh. Bikers and hikers will enjoy the many circuits in the 240 hectare Haard nature reserve.

History 

Dudelange or Diddeleng, can be traced back to Celtic and Roman times, but it flourished in the Middle Ages, when its 250 inhabitants were engaged in rural and artisanal work. By the mid-18th century tanning, brewing, and distilling businesses  had appeared. 

In 1870 the discovery of iron mineral deposits changed the shape of the town. A steel plant was constructed in 1881, causing the population to double by 1890. Foreign workers came first from neighbouring countries, but later from Italy and Poland. The population grew to 10,000 and thus Dudelange was granted town status in 1907.

Around town

Mount St John is a spiritual site and pilgrimage stop, the ruins of which also hide Gallo-Roman structures beneath the Medieval fortifications. 

From 1464 to 1542 the Mount was the seat of the Order of the Bretheren of St John of Jerusalem. The church was dedicated to St John the Baptist. Despite its destruction, it remained a holy place, which hosted processions in honour of St John which drew large numbers of pilgrims.

The origins and destruction of the castle are not known, and the walls uncovered during excavations show different construction periods, with the last in the 16th century, shortly before its demise in 1552. 

The ruins were used as a quarry by nearby villages, but it was restored and excavated in the 1970s, when the foundations of the palace, towers, stables and other buildings were uncovered. The moat is also still visible. 

A walk from the forest leads to the summit where the partly restored ruins also have information panels on the history and architecture of the castle. Legend tells that the Virgin of Mount St John was transformed into a snake. Every seven years she awaits her saviour. 

The departure point for the walk to the castle is Rue du Chateau Fort and the panoramic tower is open from May to September Monday to Friday from 7.00 to 19.00 and at weekends from 10.00 to 19.00.

The Stahlhuth-Jann organ at Saint Martin's Church
The Stahlhuth-Jann organ at Saint Martin's Church
Photo:LW Archives

Some of the artefacts found at the Mount are housed in the town’s municipal museum including pottery, coins, firearms, and brooches. The museum is free and located at 5 rue du Commerce. It’s open Monday to Saturday from 13.00 to 17.00.

St Martin's Church in the centre of town dominates the little square of Place Frantz Kinnen. It was built between 1894 and 1900 and is the third largest church in Luxembourg. In neo-Gothic style, it was designed by architect Henri-Alphonse Kemp. The stained glass windows at the entrance, as well as the small triangular windows, were created by artist Frantz Kinnen, whilst those in the apse illustrating St Martin, St Barbara and St John the Baptist, were made by Emile and Joseph Probst.

The stations of the cross were created by local impressionist painter Dominique Lang. The walls are adorned with polychrome murals of early Christian and Byzantine inspiration, produced by the Benedictine painter Notker Becker de Maria Laach. They give the church plenty of colour and grandeur. The church also houses an old Stahlhuth-Jann organ dating back to 1912, which is used in the annual organ festival.

Frantz Kinnen was born in Dudelange in 1905 and grew up in Schmelz. He was a painter, sculptor and creator of stained-glass windows known for working in the post-war period in pure abstract. A circuit invites you to discover his works, taking in the metal sculpture and stained glass window in the former post office, both on rue Jean Jaurés, St Martin's Church, the Parish Centre, and more sculptures at Wolkeschdahl, amongst other sites. You can find a map of the walking tour here.  

Oscar Thilges was appointed as the town’s notary in 1906, and a year later started building his new villa (known as Villa Thilges). Unfortunately he died in 1911 and the state took over the house intending to use it as an orphanage and retirement home. Instead the villa served as a sanatorium for women until 1941. Today the villa is a school administrative building.

The CNA (Centre National de l’Audivisuel) has a cinema, media centre, recording studios, and photo archives. It hosts exhibitions and concerts, and runs workshops for adults and children in photography and film.

The water tower and pumphouse now house exhibitions
The water tower and pumphouse now house exhibitions
Photo: LW Archives

The historic water tower and pumphouse used to house the Steichen photography collection The Bitter Years but now hosts temporary exhibitions from the CNA in the galleries at its base and in its tank. From the tank you get brilliant panoramic views of the town and surrounding countryside.

There’s a weekly fresh produce and flower market every Thursday morning at the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville taking place from 8.00 to 12.30.

Districts - Brill, Little Italy and Schmelz

The different neighbourhoods of Dudelange reflect the history of the locality. The Boudersberg district at the foot of Mount St John has a rural past, whilst the Brill district sprang up during the industrial era.

Little Italy and the Schmelz districts are near the former steelworks. Italian immigrants came to work in the steel industry.

Unlike the planned Brill district, Little Italy grew up haphazardly in the late 19th century on the slopes between the steelworks and the multiple mine entrances. The Italian workers built their homes in Mediterranean style, and the district’s charm comes partly from the jumble of houses in nooks and crannies linked together by a network of winding streets. 

Italian steelworkers district
Italian steelworkers district
Photo: Guy Jallay

This was a dense district, perhaps even overcrowded, filled with shops and cafes, which remained predominantly Italian until the 1960s, when the demise of the steel industry saw many leave, and the arrival of new immigrants from Portugal and Cape Verde. 

Today you can stroll through the quarter, and Dudelange’s old factory train station that houses the Centre of Human Migration. The latter organises thematic exhibitions on migration in the economic, social, geographical and historical context. It’s only open when there are exhibitions from Thursday to Sunday from 15.00 to 18.00.  

The old director’s villa now houses the Museum of Forced Conscription and the Nei Liicht Art Center, dedicated to contemporary audio-visual art and photography. It’s open from Wednesday to Sunday from 15.00 to 19.00. The nearby Emile Mayrisch Park has water fountains and a large playground.  

In 1898 Emile Mayrisch started construction on an estate to house workers in the iron and steel industry, known today as the Brill quarter. The worker’s settlements or "Aarbechterkolonien" provided low-rent housing for those who worked at the factory. Seventeen houses containing two semi-detacthed units intended to house four families, were built before the First World War. The brick facades were decorated with modest freizes on the upper floors.

After the war, ARBED ran a competition for Luxembourgish architects to enlarge the estate, which was won by Leon Muller, who constructed 101 individual dwellings in the style of a British garden city. The district was renovated in 1979.

The machinery park testifies to the heritage of the city and is located near the high school. Installed in 2012, it displays different types of machines used for processing ore after extraction, such as the iron mould for ingot casting, the pump, the converter, and the rolling mill.

The Dominique Lang Art Center housed in the old Dudelange Ville railway station is a contemporary art space and is open Wednesday to Sunday 15.00 to 19.00.  Dominique Lang was a local artist inspired by the Munich School and French Impressionism. 

For more art, Atelier D, an initiative from DKollektiv, was founded at a locomotive maintenance facility on the rolling mill site at Dudelange. It invites artists, designers and historians to consider the past and future of industry, and shows a wide range of exhibitions, and hosts performances and discussions. You can join them on Saturdays from 9.30 to 12.30 and 14.00 to 17.00. 

Dudelange, like many of its southern counterparts, has a rich music festival heritage, with festivals such as the Zeltik Celtic music festival, and the Jazz machine festival, both hosted by cultural centre Opderschmelz. It also hosts a popular Medieval Festival. 

Haard reserve and Parc L’eh

Dudelange is surrounded by forests, with plenty of hikes. The Haard nature reserve is part of a 600 hectare natural site, extending towards Kayl and Rumelange. There are plenty of walks and educational trails. The largest nature reserve in Luxembourg, it’s made up of former open-air mining sites. Reclaimed by nature, the underlying terrain has layers of ore and limestone.

Treetops circuits for in Parc L'eh
Treetops circuits for in Parc L'eh
Photo: Lex Kleren

Parc L’eh has a treetops activity centre, with circuits for children as young as 18 months, plus a tarzan swing. The Dudelange interactive trail also starts nearby and puts your motor skills to the test. Children are encouraged to jump and  balance over 11 stations which help them to discover the woods but also learn about Dudelange’s fascinating cinema  history. The trail ends in a maze and the nearby circus-themed Emile Mayrisch park.

Also near the activity centre is a barefoot sensory park with 19 stations covering 550m, designed to awaken your senses and promote motor skills.

Walking, hiking and mountain biking

There are two blue flag circuits. The first is 10km and starts at Parc L’eh, following the Sentier du Sud into the forest. Walkers then climb Ginzebierg and pass the RTL transmitter mast returning to the starting point following the edge of the forest.

The second one is shorter, at just over 8km and starts at the shopping centre in Dudelange. It crosses through Little Italy, before climbing the slopes of Laangebierg to the Haard plateau and the old iron ore mines.

A narrative trail or Lauschterwee, starts at Place Gymnich in the Boudersberg district. It tells of a bewitched princess, a bizarre snake, and fire embers that turn to gold, on a walking tour that takes about 1.5 hours, and runs through the woods around Mount St John. Ten stations, each with a QR code, allow you to listen in Luxembourgish, French, German or with sign language to this story.

The Minette cross-border circuit is 10km and can be walked or mountain biked. It is designed to show the common heritage of Dudelange and Volmerange-les-Mines (in France), and the trail is marked with a red ring on a white background. It departs from parking Boulodrome and  you can download a map here.

You can also do a station to station walk which starts at Dudelange station and returns from either Rumelange or Tetange stations. It passes open-cast iron ore quarries and includes several climbs providing panoramic views around the Haard nature reserve. It’s almost 8km in length although you can take some signposted shortcuts to make it closer to 6km. You’ll pass by the ruin of the fortified castle and chapel at Gehaansbierg, and Kolscheed park with several monuments.

The 8.6km red butterfly education trail through the Haard reserve
The 8.6km red butterfly education trail through the Haard reserve
Photo: Anouk Antony

An educational trail marked with red butterflies departs from Boulodrome P&R and takes an 11.2km circuit through the Haard nature reserve with 17 information panels and the chance to view an old open pit mine. A shorter blue butterfly loop departs from rue St Joseph in Rumelange, and is just under 10km.

The Ginzebierg 4.5km circuit travels through the forest to the RTL transmitter, and starts from the parking on the Volmerange road.

The Redrock MTB course has two marked mountain bike trails that traverse through the Haard nature reserve. The red level is 24.5km and the black one 27.6km. The former is a good track for beginners, as it is not particularly demanding, but has numerous viewpoints to stop to take photos. The latter has narrow paths with stones, roots and hollows, and sharper climbs and descents. Both start at the Parking Boulodrome. You can find a circuit map here and watch a video clip of the trails below.

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