Three is my magic number. Wherever I go, and for however long I’m gone, I always try to fit three countries into a trip. New countries, to me, are like Pringles—I really can’t have just one… (entire can all at once). I need more, MORE! And that’s the magic of Europe—tiny countries, incredibly easy transportation systems. Well, that and 3-hour naps that follow 3-hour lunches.
Last year a blogger friend and I booked a spur-of-the-moment trip to Amsterdam as a result of an airfare sale, the way you do. Within the hour we had decided to throw Belgium in there for good measure. And what do you do immediately after booking plane tickets? Buy the guidebooks, of course! And it just so happens that one of the guidebooks I bought—the Rough Guide to Belgium—actually includes the country of Luxembourg because apparently the two go together like bagels and schmear or like Pringles and my mouth any hour of any day. (I realize this is starting to sound like a Pringles ad but I assure you it’s not. This is just my life. *frantically writes down “contact Pringles ASAP”*)
It wasn’t until a few days into our Amsterdam-Belgium-Luxembourg trip (a purely coincidental 3-country combination) that we learned we were actually touring a fabled land called ‘Benelux’. What sounds like a new fancy car model is actually a special political, cultural, and economic region of Europe comprised of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. It’s kinda like “Scandinavia” or “Westeros” (⇠ I think? I pretty much forgot what the whole thing was about as soon as Jon Snow dropped trou’.) So thank God for our day trip to Luxembourg. Would I have been upset to learn I only visited 2 countries out of a 3-piece set? That I watched only two movies of a trilogy? Or never knew what happened if I said “Beetlejuice” only twice? Absolutely. Would you be satisfied never knowing if Frodo gets the ring to Mordor? Methinks not.
Luxembourg is one of those tiny, can-barely-be-called-a-country countries in Europe—the 7th smallest country in Europe actually. In addition to being only about the size of Rhode Island, which just happens to be the smallest US state, it’s also one of the least populous countries in Europe with a 2016 population of just 576,249—about half of those being foreigners (the rest a mixture of Journeys, Bon Jovis, and Def Leppards, I presume). Instead of a president, a king, a prime minister, or whatever David Bowie was in Labyrinth, Luxembourg is run by a Grand Duke making it a Grand Duchy—the world’s only remaining one, in fact. It’s sandwiched between Germany, Belgium, and France and, because of this, has three official languages: German, French, and… Luxembourgish. Because being called a Duchy wasn’t adorable enough.
Worth noting: While ‘Duke’ is pronounced dook, ‘Duchy’ is pronounced Dutch-y, not dook-ey. Just want to make that clear.
I hadn’t really heard or read anything about Luxembourg (especially nothing about traveling there) until I read a thriller(ish) fiction novel by Chris Pavone called The Expats a few years ago. It was through that that I learned Luxembourg is one of those financial capitals where rich people go to swan dive into their money pits, like Switzerland or wherever George Clooney’s yacht is parked at the moment. It wasn’t until today that I read Luxembourg actually has one of the world’s highest GDP per capita which, loosely translated, means “$$$ AH-OOO-GA $$$”! Picture my eyes popping out of my head here with dollar signs where pupils should be. Boi-oi-oing!
Regardless of what life is like here for the residents (mani/pedis all day, I assume), a day trip to Luxembourg is a great way to sample dat sweet life. Luxembourg City itself (because what else are you going to name the capital of a country you can walk across before lunch) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and within the boundaries of this 998-square-mile country sit a mindblowing 130 castles. That’s like, a castle per family.
DAY TRIP TO LUXEMBOURG
After finding out that taking a day trip to Luxembourg is something people do when they visit Belgium, it took all of 3 seconds for me to add that to my plans. There’s a good chance I broke a pencil or a nail in the process.
Being able to take “a day trip to a new country from a place I already am” is basically my bread and butter. And by that I mean, that’s all I eat sometimes so I can afford to take trips to fancy-ass countries. However, though the country itself is one of the richest around, my day trip to Luxembourg was actually a lobster tail trip for a bread-and-butter price.
Not wanting to deal with all the logistics myself for once (train schedules, blech!), I checked Viator and found this ⇢ Luxembourg Day Trip from Brussels: Two Countries in One Day. Fine, take my money! The 11-hour trip consists of your own tour bus there and back (3 hours each way), a tour guide who knows everything about the towns (and will have a beer with you later), a tour of Luxembourg City, free time to explore on your own or, in my case, eat and drink beer, and a stop in the adorable Belgian town of Dinant on the way back (for more beer). The entire day trip to Luxembourg actually cost less than your gel mani/pedi. (You can get 10% off a Viator tour by signing up for their newsletter, just FYI. Money saved so you can get that gel polish removed in two weeks. 🙄 F*ck me.)
As for the tour, it was perfect for a day trip to Luxembourg. Our group met in Brussels city center and boarded the bus (a couple blocks) from there. I remember nothing of the drive there so that means I was most likely asleep. We toured Luxembourg City on foot with the best guide and got a good sampling of what this tiny country is about. After our walking tour we had a good amount of free time to explore on our own. I have no idea what everyone else did but Julianne and I had but three things on our agenda: get lunch (and beer), attempt to get our passports stamped, and not get lost/left behind in a foreign country full of private jets and money pits. Wait–what were we thinking? Dammit, missed opportunity. The results? 1) Wild success, 2) total failure, and 3) hey, I’m here writing this blog post and not backstroking through gold coins, am I not?
As promised, on the way back to Brussels from Luxembourg we stopped in the little riverside town of Dinant, Belgium—an adorable city you’d probably never otherwise get to experience. Dinant is the birthplace of Adolphe Sax, inventor of the Saxophone, and the home of Leffe, inventor of the Leffe Blonde. I covered bunches of stuff you might care to read about Dinant in my last post: 4 Cities in 4 Days in Belgium, Oh My! It’s okay, you can click on that—it opens up in a new tab.
On the way from Dinant to Brussels we made yet another stop, this one completely unscheduled and, as it happens, just right there on the side of the highway. Were we being robbed by bandits and brigands? Nope. Were we all about to shout a collective “AWWW!”? You betcha. Our bus driver noticed a small dog trying to cross the busy highway at rush-hour and pulled over our full-size tour bus to grab him. And, somehow, he did—which defies everything I thought I knew about chasing after strange dogs. We took the dog to the next rest stop and waited for the police to come get him while the driver made jokes about the trouble-making dog being obviously French.
HOW TO TAKE A DAY TRIP TO LUXEMBOURG
Before deciding if a day trip to Luxembourg is for you, take a look at a map. Where on that map are you going to be (should all your plans go accordingly and, if they do, for the love of God tell me your secrets)? There are four major cities that are within a reasonable distance (even by a stretch) that would make sense for a day trip to Luxembourg: Brussels (2.5 hours away by car), Cologne (2.5 hours), Frankfurt (3.5 hours), and Paris (4.5 hours). Four and half hours (each way) is definitely stretching it for a “day trip” but, shit, I’ve done it here in the US so I’m not ruling it out on the grounds of: the insane things we do in our youth in the name of rock concerts. Keep in mind that a day trip to Luxembourg doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go there and return to where you started. Remember to keep it in mind in terms of being “on the way” to somewhere else. Maybe on the way from Paris to Frankfurt, trading in snails for schnitzel.
Since we were already going to be in Brussels, a day trip to Luxembourg seemed almost mandatory. It’s in the title of the guidebook for Pete’s sake. Here’s a quick guide to getting to Luxembourg from Brussels:
BY ORGANIZED TOUR
Obviously I’m advocating for the organized tour because that’s what I chose and whenever possible I like to reassure myself that I’ve made wise life decisions. I took a stab at planning our day trip to Luxembourg from scratch but, without renting a car of my own (seriously, is there an American under the age of 40 who still knows how to drive a stick?), that 2.5-hour drive time often doubled with public transportation. As invaluable as Europe’s trains and buses are, they aren’t always the fastest or most direct.
Exploring Luxembourg via an organized tour meant we’d get there as fast as possible and that some other schmuck would be doing all the planning. We had a private tour bus and didn’t have to rely on (often unreliable) pre-set schedules or indirect routes. It’s true that getting back took a little bit longer than anticipated but WE SAVED A DOG’S LIFE so get over it.
RailEurope offers roundtrip tickets from Brussels to Luxembourg, some direct, some with a connection, averaging between 3 and 3.5 hours. HOWEVER, these train tickets start at $58 (USD) each way. That one way price is what I paid for my entire Day Trip to Luxembourg Viator tour. Another important note: the train trips that include connections allow only SEVEN MINUTES between trains. If you’ve never experienced a quick connection in a European train station, I’ll just go ahead and tell you that this is a frighteningly short amount of time. And who wants to get stuck in Liege? Just kidding, I hear they have a pretty bomb waffle.
If a Eurail Pass is something that interests you or you already have one for this trip, know that even though these passes can be pricey, Benelux counts as one country.
The great thing about using the train for a day trip to Luxembourg is that you’re allowed total freedom over your schedule. You don’t have to follow a timeline or a leader, and you don’t have to stress about never finding the tour bus at the end of the day and being forced to sleep on a Luxembourgish park bench even though it’ll probably be the nicest bench you’ve ever slept on.
Well, I keep seeing ads for buses that go from Brussels to Luxembourg for only 15€ but on every site I’ve searched it says there are no buses available… for any of the dates I chose, so… I definitely wouldn’t anticipate using a bus for a day trip to Luxembourg.
I’ve rented a car in Europe many times—usually to get from one country to the next as quick as possible and/or because I want to stop somewhere awesome along the way. Renting a car can be invaluable as you have full control over where you go, how you get there, and how long it takes you to figure out how to pay for your coffee at the gas station. (Plus, European rest stops are God’s gift to road-trippers. I’m lookin’ at you, Autogrill!)
If you’ve already rented a car to get from, say, Bruges to Basel, a day trip to Luxembourg will be an easy stop along the way with no added expense (with the exception of all the chocolate bars you buy at the Swiss border). Renting a car solely for a day trip is usually more hassle than it’s worth but you can check rates for your dates here. However, all of this is moot unless you KNOW HOW TO DRIVE A STICK. And do you?
WHAT YOU CAN SEE ON A DAY TRIP TO LUXEMBOURG
Taking a day trip to Luxembourg via an organized tour you’ll visit the capital city and see its highlights on a guided walking tour. You’ll see the 17th century Notre Dame Cathedral, the Royal Palace of the Grand Duke, the historic old town and modern new town, great views all over, a mermaid, and a royal guard who we were told guards absolutely nothing. After the walking tour you’re given a couple hours to explore on your own when you can: go inside any of the spots you saw from the outside on the tour, do some shopping, eat lunch, hit up a museum, whatever you want.
Julianne and I opted to spend our free time eating lunch (my first cheeseburger in 10 years which I now refer to as “the Luxemburger”) and enjoying some local beer (a “Luxembeer?”) on a sun-smothered patio. Afterwards we wandered through the streets of the modern part of town, strolled a flea market, then stopped again to drink cappuccino with our pinkies in the air. For what all we saw on our day trip to Luxembourg, see: every single photo in this post.
If your day trip to Luxembourg is taken independently, your options are as wide as the Duke is rich. Entire days in Luxembourg can be taken up visiting art and history museums, castles, WWII/Battle of the Bulge sites, Luxembourg’s wine and hiking regions (not one in the same, disappointingly), and so much more. If you have a name ending in a roman numeral or a membership to the Rolex of the Month Club, maybe you could even get free jet parking?—lemme know what you hear. Most of what Luxembourg has to offer is covered on the Luxembourg card that even comes in a 1-day version. Time-Budget Travel win!
WHAT YOU WILL NOT SEE ON A DAY TRIP TO LUXEMBOURG
- All the things. You must choose.
- Someone stamping your passport. I don’t care what the internet tells you (says the person whose livelihood depends on the internet telling people things), no one at the Luxembourg tourist office is going to stamp your passport. They will, however, give you a map and a look like you must be crazy.
SHOULD YOU TAKE A DAY TRIP TO LUXEMBOURG?
So, should you take a day trip to Luxembourg or shouldn’t you?
NO, DON’T TAKE A DAY TRIP TO LUXEMBOURG IF…
- …you prefer to take your time and travel at a slower pace. (By all means, spend two or three or four days there then; I don’t care.)
- …you’ve come to realize how amazing Amsterdam is and refuse to give up that extra day. (That I can understand.)
- …you’re one of those “You can’t spend a day in a country and say you’ve been there, ugh!” types. (Choose your battles, really.)
- …the passport stamp is all you’re really after. (I mean, you can try. Maybe you’ll have better luck.)
YES, TAKE A DAY TRIP TO LUXEMBOURG IF…
- …you’re simply looking to “sample” the country to decide if you’d like to go back. Maybe on the way from Amsterdam to Austria, who knows?
- …you’re looking for a quick and easy way to scratch another new country off your map. (Haters gon’ hate.)
- …you’ve ever been curious about this tiny, you-never-hear-about-it-in-the-news nation.
- …you’ve got some money to invest, I’m guessing.
- …you’re into visiting noteworthy WWII sites.
- …you’re already visiting the Netherlands and Belgium. Come on, you can’t have snap and crackle without the pop! You can’t play rock and paper without scissors! Leaving a party just two sheets to the wind is a big, fat failure. Would the Luxembourgers even let you play if you’re only wearing two-thirds of a three-piece suit?