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Afternoon out: Grevenmacher
Weekend

Afternoon out: Grevenmacher

by Sarita RAO 10 min. 13.08.2022
Watch butterflies leave their cocoons, learn about the revolutionary printing press, visit a wine cellar, or just stroll along the Moselle
The Moselle Promenade at Grevenmacher tells the story of several legends from the town
The Moselle Promenade at Grevenmacher tells the story of several legends from the town
Photo credit: Guy Jallay

Famed for its Crémant producers, a butterfly garden, a printing and card game museum, and a number of notable buildings and statues, Grevenmacher is well worth an afternoon out.

As with much of the Moselle valley, Grevenmacher was first populated during the Roman era.  Set in fertile land, the original town was located behind the Cross Chapel at a place called Buerggruef.  

Some thousand years later, the Counts of Luxembourg chose it as the place to protect their lands against the archbishops of Trier. A town sprang up in the 13th century under Count Henri. Its name comes from the words "Greven" which means count or earl, and "Macher" which comes from the Latin word maceria or "very old walls".  

Today Grevenmacher has a population of more than 5,000 representing some 78 nationalities. The commune covers 16.5 square kilometres and has 57 hectares of vineyards.

You can take a path along the surrounding town walls and on the Moselle promenade, or if you prefer, there is a well-marked and easy walking trail of 2.3km that covers the heritage and culture of the town. It begins at the church tower or belfry and you can download a GPX of the route here.

Historical buildings in Grevenmacher

The parish Church of Saint Laurent was built in the 1780s, but the stone belfry was once a guard tower and keep. The parish house was built in 1708, and in 1777 belonged to the last lord of Grevenmacher, François de Baxeras. It was bought by the church in 1892, and 100 years later transformed into a modern parish centre, which is now listed as a national monument.

Mathias Schou, Grevenmacher's visually impaired minstrel, born in 1747
Mathias Schou, Grevenmacher's visually impaired minstrel, born in 1747
Photo: Lex Kleren

De blannen Theis is a brilliant depiction of Mathias Schou, born in Grevenmacher in 1747 visually impaired. He made his living as a minstrel singing songs in Luxembourgish at fairs and markets, but died in poverty in 1824. He’d be all but forgotten if it wasn’t for Wil Lofy’s sculpture for the town, erected in 1991.

At the entrance to the Ruelle de la Tour, you’ll find a replica wash house, known as a “Kundel”. Housed in a barn, on the first floor you can also take a look at the discoveries from excavations carried out in 2003 in the Baxeras gardens.

The washing area, known as the "Kundel"
The washing area, known as the "Kundel"
Photo: Anouk Antony

Turgaass is an open air gallery, located next to the Kundel, in an alley along the wall of the old town, that has six illustrated panels which give details of the historic events of Grevenmacher. The wall surrounding Grevenmacher had 28 towers and four gates, and in the middle was the keep (now the church belfry). In 1357 Duke Wenceslas granted a weekly fair to the citizens, which helped hugely with the town’s economic development. The panels also cover the devastating town fire of 1822 which destroyed 147 houses, 80 stables and 39 barns. You can still see the remnants of the original city wall and the tower and perimeter wall on the west side, together with two arches, that have been restored.

The Cross Chapel is known for its 18th century cross that’s found above the altar. In 1956 the chapel was declared a monument to the dead of the town. Located on a hill, with beautiful greenery and vineyards surrounding it, you’ll get great views of the town from it.

You'll get great views over the valley from the Cross chapel
You'll get great views over the valley from the Cross chapel
Photo: Anouk Antony

The Prosteneek fountain shows two men carrying grapes on a pole, and marks the original spot on the Trier to Luxembourg and Trier to Thionville crossroads. It takes its name from the Mathis Prost store that first opened in 1847, and is the work of Guy Charlier, inspired by a motif from the painter Jean-Pierre Beckius, an impressionist painter whose favourite subject was the Moselle. In 1939 Beckius presented nine watercolours to the Grand Duchess Charlotte while visiting Grevenmacher, as part of a centenary of Luxembourgish independence. They include one of the Cross Chapel.

You can also walk along the Moselle River path of legends. These include the Longkaulemännchen, made from Corteen steel, who appears with a bag full of money. Legend tells he originally lived between Grevenmacher and Machtum in a place called Longkaul. During a violent storm he perished in the Moselle. His companion Felsefrächen, spins wool (in her cave at a place called Fels). She allegedly killed a child and was burned at the stake. 

You can also spot the devil himself, dragging a heavy stone. When he learnt that a church was being built at Trier, he danced so furiously on the stone, he left his footprints. A white cross recalls the bloody attack against the town in 1552, whilst the Muselhond, was a large but friendly dog, who kept children away from the sometimes dangerous water.

Grevenmacher has an outdoor fitness centre nearby, with various equipment, designed to cater to teenagers and pensioners alike. It includes an elliptical trainer, a quadriceps pusher, and bike. There is also an outdoor pool, located on the banks of the Moselle, which has a children’s pool and slide. 

Museum of Printing and Playing Cards

Head to the Kulturhuef, and the Luxembourg Museum of Printing and Playing Cards for two fascinating exhibitions. Entry is free, and children can get a bag which contains puzzles, educational games, a notebook and pencils for €7.

Try your hand at printing on old presses in Grevenmacher
Try your hand at printing on old presses in Grevenmacher
Photo: Anouk Antony

A new permanent exhibition on the history of printing, “Gutenberg revisited” was given a European cultural heritage label, and extends over two floors. The first floor presents the history of printing chronologically, from the third millennium BC to the 21st century. Milestones in the story are visualised, using a frieze with didactic panels, illustrations and original objects. Modern printing began with the printing of the bible by Johannes Gutenberg in 1452, but there are clever parallels drawn between the invention of the movable press and digitisation, representing two major turning points in history.

On the ground floor you’ll find an impressive collection of historic presses, including the Linotype, which revolutionised printing, and the Heidelberg platen press. But printing is a living craft, so works created by artists, sometimes on the museum’s presses, are also exhibited, and visitors can print their own souvenir on a hand press. It’s open Tuesday to Sunday from 14.00 to 18.00.

The card game museum is dedicated to Jean Dieudonné. He founded a dynasty of card makers, who settled in Grevenmacher in 1754. Most of the products were destined for foreign markets, and his successors continued to produce cards until 1880. Following the French Revolution and annexation of Luxembourg in 1795, it was forbidden to represent crowned heads on playing cards. Two years later, the French government introduced a tax on card games. The Dutch government that succeeded abolished the tax, but it was reinstated in 1905, after the Dieudonné factory had closed.

The museum has a mini-cinema which you can rent for parties but which also has screenings, and a bistro with a lunchtime menu for the week and an evening one that includes burgers, salads and pizza.

Up to 40 species of tropical butterflies
Up to 40 species of tropical butterflies
Photo: Jardin des Papillons

The Butterfly Gardens

A firm family favourite for many, and a good outing if you visit this town, the butterfly garden is managed by the Yolande Coop Co-operative, and is housed in a garden that belonged to the Bernard-Massard family. A societal impact company, the garden is a workplace for people with special needs.

It will take between 30 minutes to an hour to see the tropical garden of 600sqm, which holds hundreds of exotic butterflies and is kept at a constant temperature of 28°C and a humidity rate of 70-80%. 

Watching them emerge from their cocoons is a highlight
Watching them emerge from their cocoons is a highlight
Photo: LW Archives

You can spot about 30-40 different butterfly species, and find out about the life cycle of a butterfly. The gardens also have a variety of tropical plants, and is home to Chinese quail, chameleons, turtles and bees. Reviewers say a highlight is seeing the butterflies emerge from their cocoons.

You should book your tickets in advance to guarantee a space. It’s open from 9.00 to 17.00 (not in the winter months).

 If you fancy a cruise on the Moselle River, you can hop aboard the MS Princesse Marie-Astrid in Grevenmacher (the office is at 10 route du Vin). There are sailings daily in June, July and August from 8.00 to 17.00 on weekdays, and 10.00 to 15.00 at weekends (Saturdays only in June). You can also sail from September to December on weekdays. You’ll find the schedule, including a Moselle or panoramic cruise, and even one to Bernkastel in Germany, here.

Wine tours and tasting

There are two wine cellars you can visit in Grevenmacher, responsible for producing the most well-known brands of Crémant – Poll Fabaire and Bernard-Massard.

The Cave de Grevenmacher is the oldest winery and cooperative on the Moselle and produces Poll Fabaire. Founded in 1921 by Paul Faber, it’s open Monday to Friday from 8.00 to 12.00 and 13.00 to 18.00, and at weekends from 9.00 to 17.00 with a one-hour break for lunch. You can book a tour of the cellar and a wine tasting that lasts about an hour.

The Bernard-Massard cellars produce 4 million bottles per year
The Bernard-Massard cellars produce 4 million bottles per year
Photo: Gerry Huberty

The other wine cellar belongs to Bernard-Massard, and you can again take a tour and taste not only the Crémant, but the Rieslings, Pinot Blanc and other wines produced by them and only on sale at their shop in Grevenmacher. A family-managed company, it’s been around for 95 years, and currently produces around 4 million bottles a year. You can read a column written about a visit and tasting at Bernard-Massard in 2016, here.

Walking and cycling

There are two blue flag circular walks in Grevenmacher. The first is 8.1km and meanders alongside the Moselle to the valley of Kelsbaach, which it traverses before heading back via the Cross Chapel. The second 6.1km loop takes in the vineyards and views of the Moselle valley. Starting in the town centre you climb to the higher vineyards for the views, then continue through the Gruussfooscht forest in an arc, passing fields, until you return to Grevenmacher.

Take a 2.3km circuit to discover the history and culture of the town
Take a 2.3km circuit to discover the history and culture of the town
Photo: Anouk Antony

For something a little shorter take the 4.3km Nature and Wine Discovery Trail to find out more about viticulture in Grevenmacher. The trail starts in a protected nature area at the pavilion, which you can reach from a short access path at the cemetery. You’ll be hiking 2,000 year old tracks past an area that was filled with mills and mines, through the protected Kelsbaach nature area. Fifteen stations provide details on the dry chalk cliffs, dark gorges and unusual biotope.

Cycle path PC 3 runs from Schengen to Vianden via Grevenmacher, and is known as the Three Rivers path, because it follows the Moselle, the Sûre and the Our, through a varied landscape. You can download a map of the MTB trail in Grevenmacher that is 14.5km and starts in Potaschberg near the archaeological site, exploring the valley down to Grevenmacher, and passing through pretty villages along the way. You’ll find 20 or so more bicycle trails in the area here.


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