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Cities to visit near Luxembourg
Weekend trip

Cities to visit near Luxembourg

2 by Sarita Rao 13 min. 31.07.2021
Dusseldorf's Little Tokyo, Maastricht's illusions museum, Brussel's comic strip heritage, Beethoven's birthplace in Bonn - city breaks in the surrounding regions
Cologne Cathedral despite war ravages is still a highlight of the city's skyline Photo: Shutterstock
Cologne Cathedral despite war ravages is still a highlight of the city's skyline Photo: Shutterstock

If you are spending summer in the region, here are a few city break destinations not too far from the Grand Duchy. 

Unfortunately some of these cities were affected by recent flooding, so please check with local tourist offices before heading off - we've provided contact details for each city. 

Belgium & The Netherlands

Maastricht

Explore the cobbled streets of Maastricht and the lovely Vrijthof Square. Browse books in the nearby Selexyz Dominicanen Bookstore, a 13th century Dominican church converted into a shop, which The Guardian called the "best bookstore in the world".

Take a quiet moment in the Basilica of Saint Servatius or light a candle in the Basilica of Our Lady, walk around the fortifications to spot Hell's Gate built more than 800 years ago. Younger children will enjoy the Natural History Museum that contains the remains of dinosaurs and giant turtles, an aquarium and a working beehive. Older kids might prefer the Museum of Illusions, with plenty of Instagram opportunities in the upside down room, the Beuchet chair illusion and the "head on a platter". 

Just outside the city, you can visit the town of Valkenberg with its famous castle, velvet caves, cable car and year-round toboggan ride. 

You can contact the Maastricht tourist information office on +31 43 325 2121. You can find more ideas for day trips to the Netherlands here

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Brussels

An even larger number of European Institutions are housed in Brussels but that’s not all the city has to offer.

The UNESCO listed cobble stoned square of Brussel’s Grand Place, surrounded by sumptuous guildhalls is a good place to start, just make sure you’ve been to the bathroom, otherwise the Manneken Pis (just off the square) will have you crossing your legs.

You can take a virtual tour (with headset) that takes you back to the Grand Place in the 17th century with dramatic cannonball fire. There’s even a version for kids under 12 years. You can pick up your headset from the City Museum, which houses art, sculpture, and monuments from the 13th century onwards, and the original 400-year-old statue of Mannekin Pis.

The Gothic Cathedral Notre Dame du Sablon contains a Madonna statue with healing powers. There’s a Botanical garden, costume museum and of course the Royal Palace, the official residence of the Belgian Royal family.

There’s plenty to keep kids interested including a comic strip mural art trail, which will also take in some amazing art deco architecture, including the Comic Strip Centre. The Hergé Museum has all things Tintin.

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

Outside town to the north, families can visit Atomium, an odd silver structure designed in the form of an iron crystal magnified billions of times. Five of the spherical rooms have exhibits including one on air travel and another on the surrealist art of René Magritte. Nearby, Mini-Europe allows you to take a whistle-stop tour of Europe’s capitals in miniature including the Berlin Wall and a chiming Big Ben.

The Brussels Card gives you access to museums and tourist sites, free public transport and discounts on bars and restaurants.

You can contact Visit Brussels on + 32 (0)2 513 89 40 or email tourist@visit.brussels. For more ideas for days out in Belgium, read our article here

France

Strasbourg

Setting of the European Parliament for six months, Strasbourg is a great place for a short break. The city's Cathedral Notre Dame soars over the old town and kids will love its famous astronomical clock.

The clock has animated figures which come out each day at 12.30pm to present the stages of life, from childhood to old age, who all "parade past death," according to the city's tourism website.

Nearby Place Kléber, with its water fountains, is a good traffic-free space for kids to run about while you stop for lunch. If you like a bit of history, take a stroll around Petite France's narrow canals flanked by half-timbered houses. Try an Alsatian delicacy or sit in a cosy beer snug.

Children can run off some steam in the Parc de l'Orangerie, which boasts several play areas, a lake where you can rent boats and a free mini-zoo with flamingos, monkeys, goats and the ubiquitous stork, the symbol of Strasbourg.

Strasbourg has a tram system and a 24-hour 'trio' ticket that provides unlimited travel for three people. It costs less than €10. Children under five travel for free.

You can contact Strasbourg's tourist information office on +33 3 88 52 2828.

Dijon

A bit further afield but full of charm, Dijon makes for a great family break, with the bonus of a string of beautiful historic villages and towns nearby.

The Musee de la vie Bourguignonne (free entry) has life-size displays of how the streets, shops and a family kitchen might have looked like in Burgundy a few hundred years ago.There are plenty of hands-on activities to keep the children entertained, such as dressing up in 19th century clothes or colouring in pictures of one of the display scenes.

Dijon is home to Boeuf Bourguignon Photo: Shutterstock
Dijon is home to Boeuf Bourguignon Photo: Shutterstock

For lunch, you can taste the region's signature dish, Boeuf Bourguignon, while the kids run around the fountain-filled and traffic-free Place de la Liberation. Need to walk off that lunch? Then the Jardin de l'Arquebuse, Dijon's Botanical Gardens, is a lovely place for a relaxing stroll. Situated at the edge of the Gardens is the Natural History Museum (free entry).

Weather permitting, you can rent bikes or zip wire through the trees (ages six and up) at Parc de la Colombieres, which also has farm animals and a jungle gym.

Fancy something very different? In nearby Alesia, you can visit the new Gallo-Roman Museum , which provides children's audio guides in several languages, re-enactments from both the Gaul and Roman perspectives, and the chance to try out sword fighting.

If your children are too small to appreciate the history of Vercingetorix, you can check them into the free crèche filled with toys and craft activities.

You can contact Dijon Tourism on +33 (0)3 80 44 11 44  

For my family fun days out in France, read our article here

Germany

Bonn and Cologne

Much of Bonn was destroyed during World War II, but there are still some historical remains and the fantastic German National Museum of Contemporary History. The car of former Chancellor Willy Brandt, pieces of the Berlin Wall, and a tiny fragment of rock from the moon are among the 7,000 objects on display.

Beethoven's birthplace in Bonn Photo: Shutterstock
Beethoven's birthplace in Bonn Photo: Shutterstock

You can also pop along to Ludwig van Beethoven’s birthplace which houses a permanent exhibition of objects from his life or inspired by it. The tour of 12 rooms will give you an insight into the great composer’s life. If plants are more your thing, then the Botanic gardens at the university hold some 11,000 specifies over 13 hectares, open daily in summer and Monday to Friday in winter.

Not in town but further south of Bonn you’ll find Sea Life (Konigswinter) and the Haribo factory outlet and mini-exhibition, perfect for entertaining children.

Fans of pop art should head to the Museum Ludwig in Cologne which includes work from Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein as well as collections of abstract and surrealist art, including one of the largest collections of Picasso’s work in Europe.

If you've got a sweet tooth, visit the Chocolate Museum housed in a stunning glass building on the Rheinau Harbour. Nine exhibitions will take you on a fantastic journey through the history and culture of chocolate starting with the Aztecs and Mayans. Over the bridge you can visit the Mustard Mill, over 200 years old and now home to a museum.

History and architecture lovers will not fail to notice Cologne Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site, whose foundation stone was laid in 1248. During the Second World War the cathedral suffered severe damage from 70 firebombing hits. Fortunately, the medieval windows survived. Today, it houses many amazing religious works of art including the epiphany and three kings’ shrines, paintings, sculpture and murals.

Kids will love Cologne Zoo, with its elephant park, hippodum, camels, monkeys, and aquarium. If you’ve got the stomach for it, older children will appreciate the world’s fastest, multi-launch rollercoaster, Talon, at Phantasia Land which is close enough to Bonn and Cologne for a side trip.

You can contact Bonn's tourist information office on bonninformation@bonn.de or by calling +49 228 775000 (from 10.00 until 14.00). You can contact Cologne's tourist information on +49 221 346430. 

Dusseldorf

It’s not all finance in this chic city, you can gaze at some amazing architecture and relax in the rejuvenated harbour area or brush up on your history in the old town with its beautiful gabled houses.

Begin in Burgplatz and the last vestiges of the castle, a tower with sections dating back to the 13th century. The castle tower has a museum dedicated to the history of this port town and of inland shipping in Germany. In the corner of the square you’ll find a bronze sculpture showing a scene from the Battle of Worringen in the Middle Ages, when Dusseldorf rivalled Cologne. If you’re planning a night on the tiles during your city break, then the old town has more than 300 pubs, bars and night clubs, in an area known as Längste Theke der Welt or the Longest Bar in the World.

If it’s some high-end retail therapy you’re after, head to Königsallee and a kilometre long street filled with Chanel, Cartier, Tiffany’s, Burberry, Gucci, Prada and the list goes on.

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For an art fix, head to the two venues that make up Cologne’s Museum of Modern Art. K20 is housed in a black granite building and has exhibitions on Expressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, Pop Art and more with works from Klee, Kandinsky, Braque, Pollock and Warhol. K21 is housed in the neo-classical parliament building, with a glass roof and exhibits on modern art, prints and installations.

Dusseldorf is also home to one of the biggest Japanese communities in Europe. The streets of Little Tokyo, as it is referred to, are filled with izakayas serving authentic cuisine and Ramen bars, for a unique Japanese atmosphere. You'll find it between the main station and the city centre along Immermannstrasse and Klosterstrasse. For more Japanese culture, you can also stroll through th Japanese Garden in the Nordpark to the EKŌ-Haus in Niederkassel, where you can marvel at the Buddhist temple.

Families can head to Wildpark, an animal park east of the city set in a 200-year-old beech forest with walking trails and several species of deer, wild boar and raccoons. Also east, is the Neander Valley, where the first Neandertal man was discovered in 1858. A museum dedicated to this has models, fossils, and an exhibition on the evolution of man, with audio guides available in English.

You can contact Dusseldorf's tourist information on +49 211 17 202 867. 

For more ideas for family fun days out in Germany, read our article here


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