Tag Archives: official languages

Impressions of Luxembourg

We recently visited Luxembourg after leaving France.  It’s a small place, so it didn’t take long.  We visited the only major city, creatively called Luxembourg City, in this tiny country of just over 2500 square kilometers.  Here are some of our impressions.

  • Luxembourg is a landlocked country surrounded by France, Belgium, and German.  It only takes about 45 minutes to drive across the entire country.
  • Officially, it isn’t actually a country at all, but the world’s only remaining sovereign Grand Duchy.  It’s a constitutional democracy, but has a Duke as a monarch rather than a king or queen.
Flag with 3 stripes -- red over white over blue

Luxembourg’s Flag

  • Luxembourg has about half a million people, and the world’s 2nd highest GDP per person.  No wonder their motto is “We want to remain what we are”.
  • Luxembourg has historically been considered independent by the major nations of Europe, although it was invaded by Germany in both world wars.  With an army of only 800 people, it can’t really defend itself anyhow.
  • The people of Luxembourg are called “Luxembourgers” (‘bourgers’ is pronounced like the last part of ‘hamburgers’).  They speak 3 official languages – French, German, and Luxembourgish.   The first years of primary school are taught in Luxembourgish before switching to German.  Secondary school is taught in French.  Students must have proficiency in all three languages to graduate from high school.  In addition, English is also compulsory throughout school, so must Luxembourgers speak English also.  Why can’t Canadians learn just 2 official languages when Luxembourgers can master 4?
  • The large majority of Luxembourgers are Catholic, but over 20% are atheists.
  • Luxembourg sells the most alcohol in Europe per capita, but most of it is sold to people from other countries who shop here because Luxembourg has lower taxes. Of course, we bought our share to help keep their stats up.
  • Luxembourg City is a very attractive city on the top of a hill surrounded on several sides with steep cliffs to river valleys below.  We ate a picnic lunch on a bench at the top with a great view below.
Walls of Luxembourg City with river below

Walls of Luxembourg City

  • Luxembourg City was the sight of castle, one of the strongest fortifications in Europe for hundreds of years, and around which a city developed.  Luxembourg City is still extremely safe, ranking first in a 2011 Mercer survey of over 200 cities worldwide.
Luxembourg City walls with openings for cannons

Some of the many Casemates of Luxembourg City

  • The cliff walls around Luxembourg City are honeycombed with casemates (small rooms from which cannons could be fired).  We went on an unguided tour of the same, and it was easy to get lost in the many levels of twisting tunnels.  Thankfully we could always stick our head out an opening to get a sense of where we were.
Diane standing beside cannon in Luxembourg casemates

Diane standing beside cannon in Luxembourg casemates