Afternoon out: Ettelbruck
The gateway to the Éislek, with its green valleys, Ettelbruck straddles the juncture of the north and south of the Grand Duchy, with the rivers Alzette and Sûre. The town is pedestrianised in places, with beautiful squares and flowered terraces.
The Patton Memorial Museum and monument, the Church of San Sebastian, the CAPE cultural centre, a host of local trails and longer hiking paths, and the annual agricultural fair, make this a town worthy of an afternoon excursion, with plenty of restaurants, cafes and places to get ice-cream.
The name Ettelbruck comes from the original Indo-German name Atilbriga, which means fertile ground. The town itself was destroyed three times by fire in 1532, 1778 and 1814, and was thus granted the right to hold 11 markets or fairs a year to raise money to rebuild what was destroyed by fire.
Discover Ettelbruck by foot
A short 2.2km walking circuit through the old town takes you through the history of Ettelbruck, as you follow marked blue panels with a cartoon logo of Attila the Hun (the story behind this image is not given).
The entire circuit is accessible to pushchairs and wheelchairs, and across 15 educational panels you can learn about the town from 901 to the present day, passing by the City Hall, the Church of Saint Sebastian, the Sainte-Anne private school, Place de la Resistance which was formerly the butter market and is home to Bottefra (a statue by Wil Lofy depicting a farmer’s wife selling her diary products, whilst trying to shoo away a dog with a ladle).
The tour then goes past the Synagogue, the monument to the Strike of 1942, the Aschenhiwwel from the fire of 1778, Place Marie Adélaïde, and the arts centre Ed. Juncker.
Agricultural fair, weekly market and Haff Ditgesbaach
The first agricultural exhibition in Ettelbruck was held in 1883 and inaugurated in the presence of King Wilhelm III. The biggest of Luxembourg’s agricultural fairs, it usually takes place on the first weekend in July at the Deich meadows next to the town. Farmers, winegrowers, horticulturalists and scientific researchers come together to present their produce and farm animals, and there are shows and prizes.
Ettelbruck has three statues created by Marie Josée Kerschen, representing the three strengths of the city – agriculture, business and education. The farmer’s hand points to the desirable height the wheat should grow, the shopkeeper puts his finger into the hollow of his hand to emphasise that financial transactions should be correct, and the teacher points his fingers at the other figures to stress that money and riches are not the ultimate aim in life.
A fresh produce and artisan market takes place weekly on a Friday from 7.30 to 13.00, with around 15 stands, offering fruit and vegetables, meat, cheese and other local produce, in the pedestrianised area of the town. Haff Ditgesbaach has a shop open from Monday to Friday 8.00 to 17.00, and Saturday 8.00 to 12.00, offering organic and Fairtrade products grown or made on site, including jams, pickles, sauerkraut and Bissen Tricentenary chocolates.
Like Esch, Ettelbruck has offered its town to street artists since 2017, with the first project, a fresco by French artist Mantra, which was produced as part of the Kufa Urban Art project, in Place de la Liberation.
Vision 2030, calls on urban art to make Ettelbruck the creative capital of the north, and is designed to make art accessible to all. In addition to urban artworks, it includes the Ettelbrooklyn Street Fest and HARIKO, a place for artists, musicians and young people to create together.
In 2019 illustrator Alain Welter redesigned the façade of the General Patton Memorial Museum, whilst Sandra Biewers, a young artist, created her biggest ever work in Place Marie-Adelaide. Berlin illustrator, Vidam, used aerosols to paint a school-squirrel in 2020, located near the Aschenhiwwel monument. Last year, Luxembourg’s best-known graffiti artist, created the country’s largest open-air gallery under the Deich bridge, exhibiting 14 internationally-renowned artists including Alexone, Collin van den Sluis, Dave the Chimp, Niark1, Nilko and many others.
You can find the gallery, plus works by Eric Mangen, Raphael Gindt, Alex McKell and Stick on an interactive map.
Architecture & history
The city hall was designed by architect Sosthène Weis, with an additional annex for a post office, completed in 1907, the date the town was raised to city status by Grand Duke Guillaume IV. It’s built on the site of the old parish church which dated back to 1702. From 1855 until it’s demolition in 1906, the old parish church served as a grain store, town hall and school. At that time, coins and pottery were discovered that proved the original settlement at Ettelbruck was very old.
The assembly room of the city hall has a panel of three stained-glass windows, by artist Gust Zanter, which retraces the city’s history to 1709. Stone sculptures adorn the façade of the post office building.
The old synagogue and Jewish cemetery are looked after by Al Synagog Ettelbréck asbl. Both are a testimony to Jewish heritage and life in Luxembourg. The synagogue was built in 1870 on rue de Warken, and survived Nazi occupation. Plans are in place to restore the building. There is a Jewish cemetery created in 1881 about 1.2km from the site, and a Jewish school which opened in 1890. The last religious ceremony was in 1962, after which the synagogue became a carpet store, and later a centre for Catholic migrants. In 2017, the synagogue became a national monument managed by the non-profit association. It isn’t open to the public except on heritage days when visitors can attend a tour.
Saint Sebastien church was built in Romanesque style in 1841, completed in 1851 and consecrated some 13 years later. Inside are several paintings, including an oil painting entitled "The Ardent Bush" by Joseph Probst, an African sculpture, and several windows representing a panorama of Ettelbruck.
The Villa Huberty, now a children’s creche, is named after the doctor Nicolas Huberty who became the personal physician to the Grand Ducal family at their palace in Colmar-Berg. During World War Two, he provided medical assistance to the injured crew of a military aircraft shot down by the Germans, and he went on to assist more than 300 Luxembourgish conscientious objectors who had gone into hiding. He died in 1976.
WWII and Remembrance
Patton Square pays tribute to General George Patton Jr, commander of the 3rd US army which liberated Ettelbruck on Christmas Day 1944. Together with commemorative plaques, the square has a giant statue of the general, erected in 1970 in front of the Sûre bridge, and a Sherman M4-A1 tank from the brigade he commanded.
The base of the statue has a martial sword to symbolise peace, and an eagle, a symbol of the USA. The statue was created by Earle Freaser although the original is at the Westpoint Military Academy in America. Patton Square is the starting point for the Escapardenne Lee Trail (more about that later).
Ettelbruck also has an anti-aircraft bunker. Although it is not accessible to the public, you can take a virtual tour here.
The Patton Memorial Museum, reopened this year on 17 January after refurbishment, and is located at 5 rue Dr Klein. It’s open Tuesday to Sunday from 10.00 to 17.00. In addition to paying tribute to the famous general, it also covers the most significant events for Luxembourg during World War Two, through photos, documents and objects, which illustrate the German invasion in May 1940, occupation, and then liberation by American troops in 1944. It consists of a few rooms, and a video about Patton’s life in English.
Walking and hiking trails
Forest bathing has been lauded as good for your mental as well as physical well-being, and is known as “Shinrin-Yoku”, an officially recognised Japanese therapeutic practice. It allows you to recharge your batteries by being at one with nature and the trees, breathing in fresh air, and using our sense of smell, touch, taste, sight and hearing. The trail was created in Ettelbruck which has a diversity of forest trees including beech, oak, and Douglas fir. It starts at Camping Ettelbruck and covers 2.5km, during which you are invited to try different exercises at six stations in the Wëllerbesch forest.
Ettelbruck has two blue flag pedestrian circuits, the first also starts at the camping ground and is about 9.8km. The second starts near the cemetery, and is 9.4km. At the start, the trail climbs to give panoramic views of the city, before crossing a marshy forest and descending into the Gebranntebesch forest to the village of Schieren, then returning back to the cemetery.
The Adrien Ries national trail is 48km and connects all the municipalities of Nordstad – Bettendorf, Colmar-Berg, Diekirch, Erpeldange, Ettelbruck and Schieren. It passes watchtowers on ridges, fields and forests, and the Grand Ducal residence at Colmar-Berg. Its climbs and descents make it popular with mountain bikers, and hikers can take three shorter loops. Adrien Ries was a Luxembourgish economist and author, who worked for the European Commission until 1986. He wrote several travel diaries and newspaper articles and was passionate about hiking.
A 3km educational circuit runs around the Haff Ditgesbaach, with ten discovery stations inviting you to learn about the biodiversity of the orchards, fields and forests, and a panoramic viewing platform. You follow the signs of Amélie the bee to learn about the orchard and the hive. You can get translated versions of the panels (in English, French, German and Portuguese) from the farm shop.
The Um Kalleksuewen educational trail of 5.8km invites you to discover the ruins of the old limestone quarries, cross the Schoofsbreck bridge in Warken and return to the city through the forest. You can find more information on both trails here.
There are a further five trails in the area. The 7.5km Trail A starts in the city centre and takes you to Karelshaff, through a forest, and up to a panoramic viewpoint.
Trail B, 7.2km, takes you through the Wellerbesch forest from Camping Ettelbruck, whilst Trail C visits the limestone quarries, and Trail D takes you to the Patton Monument and via a fitness trail. Trail E, at 5.3km, leads you to Nuck and some panoramic city views, before following the river back to Ettelbruck.
None of these trails are recommended for small children or people with reduced mobility as they have fairly steep climbs and follows the road in places. Good walking shoes are recommended.
For something a bit more challenging, the 52km Escapardenne Lee Trail showcases the steep paths and rocky ridges of the region, divided into three days of walking, with the first stage taking you the 17.8km from Ettelbruck to Bourscheid-Moulin.
PC15 follows the river Alzette, from Bereldange to Ettelbruck, and you can also follow PC16 from Ettelbruck to Reisdorf near Wasserbillig or northerly to Kautenbach. There’s a mountain bike trail from Ettelbruck cemetery and you can take a shorter version suitable for children that’s 6.5km. Bicycle rental is available from Camping Ettelbruck at 88 chemin du Camping.
There are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat, take a leisurely three-course meal, or just get a coffee or ice cream. You can find an interactive map with a full list of places here.