- Flickr/Wolfgang Staudt
The small landlocked nation of Luxembourg is bordered by France, Germany, and Belgium, and while it is mostly known for its tax breaks for big companies, the tiny country has many perks to offer.
The area of the whole country is 998 square miles, and as of January it counted 562,958 inhabitants.
Luxembourg has a stable political landscape and is the ninth-least-corrupt country in the world.
For 19 years until 2013, the country was led by the head of the Christian Social People’s Party (CSV), Jean-Claude Juncker, who is now president of the European Commission.
The world’s last grand duchy – a territory whose head of state is a grand duke or grand duchess – Luxembourg is like no other place on earth.
1. Location location location
- Google Maps/Skitch
Located in the heart of Western Europe, Luxembourg offers easy access to every big and small city around.
With up to nine flights to London on some days, the financial hub of the world is only a one-hour flight away. Paris is not even an hour away by plane and is two hours away in TGV. Brussels is a three-hour train ride away, and it takes just two hours to fly to Berlin.
And while the plane tickets when flying from Luxembourg’s only airport, the Findel, can be quite pricey, there are a few airports close-by in neighboring countries where low-cost companies fly from.
2. Castles are everywhere
Though the country gained its full independence only in 1839, Luxembourg City’s roots go back very a long way.
The first mentions of the city go back to the year 963. It is also around that time that the construction for the city’s fortification began.
Throughout the country, vestiges of the country’s medieval history are also displayed in different museums and can be seen in the Casemates underground tunnels (built for the defense of the city in the 1600s), in the numerous castles, and in the architecture of many towns throughout the grand duchy.
Most of the castles are located in the north of the country; the three biggest castles are the ones in Vianden Clervaux and Bourscheid.
3. Luxembourg City is like no other
While it doesn’t have the most creative name, the country’s capital is a superb example of the juxtaposition between the old and the new as well as natural and man-made.
Built in the middle ages, the city center is full of small, old buildings and remnants of its medieval past. The valley in the middle of the city boasts a river surrounded by greenery.
Other parts of the city, such as the financial center, Kirchberg, are home to glass skyscrapers and big avenues. The city is also the cultural heart of the country and is host to many museums, art galleries, bars, and restaurants.
4. Different cultures to experience
Already an exception in many areas, the country continues on that streak when it comes to immigration. Of Luxembourg’s population, which stood at 562,958 at the start of 2015, almost 46% are foreigners.
This allows Luxembourg to be home to many cultures despite its small size.
Making up 16% of total population, Portuguese people are the most predominant foreign nationality; next in line are the French and the Italians. Most other foreigners are also European.
5. Parlez-vous Français? Or do you prefer English?
Most Luxembourgish people are multilingual, speaking Luxembourgish, German, French, and English, as people schooled at Luxembourgish state schools are taught all four languages.
So as long as you speak one of those, you should be able to get by, though Luxembourgers will love you if you make the effort to learn their language, as only about 300,000 people speak it anymore.
Luxembourgish, French, and German are the three official languages of the country. Portuguese is also widely spoken because of the large number of Portuguese people living in the country.
6. World-class food
Luxembourg’s culture centers very much on eating and drinking, and the capital is the city with the most Michelin restaurants per capita in the world.
The local food is also worth the trip: Gromperekichelcher (crispy potato fritters), Rieslingspaschtéit (meat and wine pie), Judd mat Gaardebounen (the country’s national dish, which consists of pork and broad beans), Quetschentaart (plum tart) and Kachkéis (runny cheese) are all staples of Luxembourgish cuisine.
Furthermore, Luxembourg is free of many chains that line the high streets of most big cities.
Though a few chains such as McDonald’s and Pizza Hut have found their way to the country, Krispy Kreme, Chipotle, KFC, Taco Bell, and Five Guys are missing. And until January 1, 2016, the country will also remain Starbucks-free.
7. And if you like beer and wine …
- Matt Lewis
Not counting the microbreweries, Luxembourg produces five beers: Mousel, Battin, Diekirch, Bofferding, and Simon, which are very popular throughout the country.
It also produces a lot of wine, considering the size of the country. With a few exceptions, most of the wine produced is white wine and sparkling wine, or crémant as it is called in Luxembourg, as well as some specialty wines.
Luxembourg also produces some liquors that are commonly found in Europe, like Mirabelle and Kirsch. The castle in Beaufort, a village to the northeast of the capital, produces a blackcurrant liquor that Luxembourgers are very fond of.
8. Driving, smoking, and drinking is cheaper
- Thomson Reuters
Though the ban on smoking in bars, cafés, and clubs was implemented on January 1, 2014, taxes on cigarettes remain lower in Luxembourg than in most European nations.
As of March, the average prices for a pack of 20 cigarettes was $6.08, compared to $8.51 in France and $14.22 in the UK.
Lower taxes on alcohol and petrol also lead people from all over Europe to travel to Luxembourg to purchase those goods.
9. A true power center of Europe
- Wikimedia Commons
The small nation is, along with Brussels and Strasbourg, a power center of the European Union’s institutions.
The European Court of Justice, the European Court of Auditors, the Secretariat of the European Parliament, the European Investment Bank, the European Investment Fund, and the European Stability Mechanism are all located in the country.
The institutions, along with some big companies, make for an interesting mix of people from all over the world who come together in the tiny nation and ensure the grand duchy is known to at least a few people outside Europe.
10. Wages are good
Luxembourg is the second-richest country in the world when looking at per-capita gross domestic product, with an annual average of $79,593.91, and, though not spared by the recession, it is still one of the countries in Europe where pay is the highest.
This partly explains the large number of people from surrounding countries coming to work in Luxembourg on a daily basis but living outside the nation (more than 160,000 in 2013).
11. Easy to do business
- Tak, Wikimedia Commons
Though small, the country is home to many big companies.
Among the most notable ones are ArcelorMittal, Cargolux, and the RTL Group. In the financial sector some of the most notable institutions are the Banque et Caisse d’Épargne de l’État, ranked as the ninth-safest bank in the world, KBL European Private Bankers, and Kulczyk Investments.
Other big companies have their corporate headquarters for Europe in Luxembourg because of the tax breaks the country is known for.
12. The hiking is glorious
- Barbara Tasch
If all else failed to convince you, the beautiful landscapes of the Luxembourgish countryside will appeal to your inner hiker.
From the dense and hilly Ardennes forests in the north of the country to the Müllerthal region, commonly named Little Switzerland, further south, and everything in between, Luxembourg’s scenery will leave you wishing you had extended your stay.
Even the Pizza Hut is fancy:
- Business Insider