Europe is back to being everyone’s go-to destination for both sun and culture now that all health-related border curbs have been lifted. From France’s Eiffel Tower to Italy’s world-renowned Romanesque monuments, the continent is once again awash with tourists.
Though the Old World is at the front of the world’s tourism revival, a majority of vacationers continue to willingly limit their movements to only a handful of nations, namely Europe’s most famous and over-touristed spots.
Little do they know there is a lesser-known, underrated European country with fewer tourists that will not only quench their thirst for culture, but prove incredibly easy to explore.
One Of Europe’s Smallest But Prettiest Nations
At only 998 square miles, Luxembourg is a small sovereign state and Grand Duchy entirely surrounded by the much larger France, Belgium, and Germany.
Often bypassed by tourists on their way from the French capital to Belgium, or Belgium to Western Germany, the tiny ‘Lux’, as it is commonly called, is one of Europe’s most important countries, being home to a number of European and international institutions.
A Quaint Capital City
Its capital, Luxembourg City, is one of the three capitals of the European Union (EU) alongside Brussels, in Belgium, and Strasbourg in France, housing the European Parliament, though its modern geopolitical relevance is easily overshadowed by its historic appeal.
Luxembourg City sits at the heart of Western Europe, and it is a gorgeous small capital spanning the confluence of the Alzette and Petrusse rivers, with a pastel-colored Old Town known as ‘Grund’, traversed by the former.
It is one of the smallest EU capitals, with a population of just over 130,000 inhabitants, and it feels more like a pacate town than a cosmopolitan, influential global capital, though it is very much one at heart, as Luxembourgers comprise only 30% of the capital’s workforce.
Dominated by Luxembourg Castle, an imposing fortress perched on a clifftop lining the Grund, it is a quintessential European city that has yet to turn its back on its medieval origins and tradition in spite of the ongoing globalization.
Much like the wider Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the ‘City’ is incredibly easy to explore, being perhaps Europe’s greenest and most walkable capital, though you should beware of its hilly nature.
You can see pretty much the whole city in a day, as commuting between any of the main landmarks, such as walking downhill from the Luxembourgish Parliament to the Grund, or the Notre-Dame Cathedral to the ruined Luxembourg Castle, will usually only take 15 minutes tops.
A compact, small capital city is not the only reason why Luxembourg is easy to visit.
Free Public Transportation Across The Entire Country
Yes. Even If You’re a Tourist.
The whole country – and we do mean all of it – enjoys free public transportation. This means you can travel anywhere within the Grand Duchy without paying for a seat in trains, buses, or other means of transport.
There is no catch here.
You can truly simply hop on a train, take an unreserved seat, and travel all around the country without spending a penny. This applies to both locals and tourists alike, and other than spot identification checks, you should expect free, seamless travel within the country’s national boundaries.
The whole country is well-connected by rail and bus connections, and traveling from the far South to the extreme North, near the borders with Belgium or Germany, will take on average an hour and a half, while going from West, near France, to East, near Germany, takes about an hour.
It is simply the perfect long-weekend destination as lots of attractions in different locations can be crammed into a single day due to the relatively short travel distances, and you’re awarded with unlimited travel to discover the country at leisure, at your own pace, without thinking too hard about pre-defined itineraries.
Step Into A Fairytale
Luxembourg is mostly rural, dotted with lush forests, sweeping natural panoramas, and smaller towns and villages best known for their quaint atmosphere, making it an ideal destination for slow-paced travelers looking to escape Paris’, or Milan’s hustle and bustle this summer.
Some of the best day trips from Luxembourg City include:
- Vianden, a medieval town in North-Eastern Luxembourg famous for its landmark castle, arguably one of the prettiest in Europe;
- Esch-sur-Alzette, a European Capital of Culture;
- Echternach, popular for its lake, Roman-era villas, and towering basilica;
- Mullerthal, a nature reserve full of hiking and camping spots, nature trails, and stunning waterfalls
- Larochette, a small medieval village easily distinguished for its cobbled alleys and ruined castle
- Schengen, a wine-making town near the tri-border shared by Luxembourg, France, and Germany*
*Europe’s Schengen Area is named after Luxembourg’s Schengen
The fact that Luxembourg hosts fewer tourists than its neighbors also makes it easier to explore, as you’ll hardly be battling for a place in the crowd when attempting to watch a summer event or waste several precious hours trying for the perfect picture amid a swarm of visitors.
Last year, the capital’s tourist office counted only 102,960 visitors, nearing pre-pandemic levels but still far below Western Europe’s average. A majority of visitors hail from Germany (26%), followed by the French, and the Dutch – Americans are nowhere to be found in the top five.
Getting To Luxembourg Is Easy
Though there are no nonstop flights connecting the U.S. or Canada and Luxembourg, it is incredibly accessible as it is situated close to the exact ‘center’ of Europe, bordered by four larger countries.
You can travel to Luxembourg by train from Paris in France, Brussels in Belgium, numerous stations in Germany, most notably Frankfurt, or of course, fly to Luxembourg City from all over the continent, as well as select Middle Eastern and African hubs.
Americans can stay in Luxembourg visa-free – and the wider Schengen Area, which comprises 27 European countries – for 90 days out of any 180-day period.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com