Luxembourg

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Introduction to Luxembourg

Not even big enough on most maps of Europe to contain the letters of its name, Lilliputian Luxembourg makes up in snazz what it lacks in size. It has a wealth of verdant landscapes crisscrossed by rivers and dotted with the sort of rural hamlets that most people associate with fairy tales.

Its charms are myriad and its people are justifiably proud of their heritage. The nation's motto is inscribed everywhere throughout Luxembourg City, the capital - Mir wëlle bleiwe wat mir sin - 'We want to remain what we are'. After a visit, you're sure to hope they do.

A respected member of the European Union, a role model of international finance and a benchmark in comparisons of quality of life, Luxembourg enjoys a prosperity that nations many times larger aspire toward and envy.

The north of the country lures outdoors enthusiasts with sylvan settings promising fabulous skiing and hiking. The Moselle Valley, just east of Luxembourg City, is one of Europe's most idyllic wine-producing regions. And the capital is no more than an hour's drive from anywhere else in the country, so you can truly get a sense of the lay of the land without spending eons running around.

Full country name: Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (Luxemburg, Letzeburg)

Area: 2,586 sq km

Population: 454,000

Capital City: Luxembourg

People: 70% nationals (Celtic stock, with French and German), 30% resident foreigners (mostly Belgian, French, German, Italian and Portuguese)

Language: Luxembourgish; Letzeburgesch, French, German, English

Religion: 97% Roman Catholic

Government: constitutional monarchy

Head of State: Grand Duke Henri

Head of Government: Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker

GDP: US$21.94 billion

GDP per capita: US$48,900

Annual Growth: 3%

Inflation: 1.5%

Major Industries: Banking, Insurance sectors, Agriculture, Iron and steel, plastic and rubber, chemicals, mechanical and electrical equipment, tourism

Major Trading Partners: EU (esp. Belgium, France, Germany, UK, Netherlands)

Member of EU: Yes

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Traveler Facts

Visas: Citizens of many countries - including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the USA and virtually all of Western Europe - require only a passport to enter Luxembourg for stays of up to 3 months.

Time Zone: GMT/UTC +1

Dialling Code: 352

Electricity: 220V ,50Hz

Weights & measures: Metric



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Events

For a small country, Luxembourg is big on festivals. The liveliest national events are Carnival, held six weeks before Easter; Bürgsonndeg (Bonfire Day), the following week; and National Day, on 23 June, which is celebrated with parties and revelry akin to those on New Year's Eve, particularly in Luxembourg City. Also in the capital and definitely worth catching are Octave, a Catholic festival held from late April to early May that climaxes with a street parade headed up by the royal family; and Schueberfouer, a fortnight's worth of fair-type fun held in late August that features a cavalcade of decorated sheep joining in the streetside revelry.

East of the capital, the Müllerthal town of Echternach celebrates Whitsunday (the 7th Sunday after Easter) with a handkerchief pageant in honor of St Willibrord, a local boy made good, whose remains you can visit in the town's basilica. That same weekend, up in Ardennes, the town of Wiltz celebrates its yearly Broom Flower festival with parades and colourful floats. The Moselle Valley's wine festivals begin in August and run through November's 'New Wine' celebration in Wormeldange.

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Best time to Visit

Springtime, the choicest time of year to visit, brings a riot of wildflowers and ushers in celebrations and folk festivals nationwide. The weather from spring through fall is usually good for outdoors activities - so long as you don't mind rain. Winter is not as extreme in Luxembourg as it can be in nearby countries, so if you find yourself visiting during the colder months, you needn't weigh yourself down with polar gear.



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Currency / Costs / Approx. Spending

Currency: Euro

Meals

Budget: €4-6

Mid-range: €6-15

High: €15-30

Deluxe: €30+

Lodging

Budget: €20-30

Mid-range: €30-50

High: €50-80

Deluxe: €80+

Though Luxembourg is not Western Europe's cheapest destination, a shoestring traveller should be able to eke by on about US$30 a day. Travelling in comfort, sleeping in mid-range places and letting your belly get the better of your budget, you could easily bump your total to more than twice that. Double it again if you want luxury.

Banks are best for changing money, and all major credit cards are widely accepted.

Note that a 15% value-added tax (abbreviated in French as TVA) is slapped on just about everything except for hotel, restaurant and campground prices, which are taxed at a much gentler 3%. Tipping is not obligatory, and haggling is considered downright rude.

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Attractions

Luxembourg City

Perched high on a promontory overlooking the Pétrusse and Alzette Valleys, the Grand Duchy's capital solemnly sits like a thousand-year-old gargoyle. In 963 AD, on a rocky outcrop known as the Bock, Sigefroid, Count of Ardennes, laid the cornerstone of a fortress that would become Luxembourg City.

Although Sigefroid's fortress no longer exists - after nine centuries of attacks and occupations, his castle and most of its fortifications were blown up by the townsfolk in the latter half of the 19th century - the views and what little remains of the original structure continue to inspire.

Ardennes

Known as the Eisléck or Oesling, the Luxembourg Ardennes are the Grand Duchy's northernmost - and most spectacular - region. Winding valleys, fast-flowing rivers, verdant plateaus and towering castles combine to make the region hugely popular among visitors and residents alike.

Of the three main towns, Clervaux is the most accessible, Vianden is the most touristic, and Wiltz ... well, that has the bonus of being very nearby to the hamlet of Esch-sur-Sûre, which attracts a staggering number of visitors solely because of its location.

Moselle Valley

Wine tasting, especially sweet, fruity whites, is the obvious attraction of the Moselle Valley. The valley's Route du Vin begins at Waserbillig and follows the Moselle River south through the wine region's capital at Grevenmacher and beyond to some picturesque villages.

The Cellars of Poll-Fabaire in the hillside village of Wormeldange are worth a visit, as are the larger Caves Bernard-Massard in Grevenmacher and St Martin in Remich. All three are open for tours and tippling from late spring to early autumn.

Müllerthal (Little Switzerland)

This region is where Luxembourgers come to play. Centered around the old Christian town of Echternach, in a pocket of woodland northeast of the capital, the area's hiking, cycling and rock climbing also make it one of the most touristed areas in the country.

If you head west of town, you'll come to the walking paths, which wind through rocky chasms and waterfalls to Berdorf, 6km (4mi) away, and on to the crumbling remains of Beaufort castle.

If you're in Echternach on Whitsunday (the 7th Sunday after Easter), wave your hankies with the locals celebrating the pageant of St Willibrord, Luxembourg's only saint, who lived in town in the 8th century. His mortal remains now lie in a white marble sarcophagus in the town's basilica. Behind the basilica, there's also an interesting Benedictine abbey.

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Disclaimer: We've tried to make the information on this web site as accurate as possible, but it is provided 'as is' and we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by anyone resulting from this information. You should verify critical information like (visas, health and safety, customs, and transportation) with the relevant authorities before you travel.

Sources: CIA FactBook, World FactBooks and numerous Travel and Destinations Guides.

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