Across the border from the Belgian province of Luxembourg, the
Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
is one of Europe's smallest sovereign states, a tiny independent principality with a population of around 420,000. As a country, it's relatively neglected by travellers, most people tending to write it off as a dull and expensive financial centre, but this is a mistake. Compared to much of Europe, its attractions are indeed fairly low-key, and it is pricey, but it does have marvellous scenery in abundance: the green hills of the Ardennes spreading over the border to form a glorious heartland of deep wooded valleys spiked with sharp craggy hilltops crowned with castles.
The capital, dramatically-sited
, is almost impossible to avoid if you're not travelling by car. Home to something like a fifth of the population, it is the country's only genuinely urban environment, and well worth one or two nights' stay. The
part of Luxembourg is, however, even more spectacular, rucking up into rich green hills and valleys that reach their climax in the narrowing
of the country around
, a tiny town dominated by its ancient abbey, and
, with its magnificent castle.
Once part of the Spanish and later Austrian Netherlands, Luxembourg today is an independent constitutional monarchy. Although everyone speaks the indigenous language, Letzebuergesch - a dialect of German that sounds a bit like Dutch - most also speak French and German and many speak English too. Indeed, multilingualism is one of Luxembourg's most admirable features and different languages are favoured for different purposes - French is the official language of the government and judiciary, the one you'll see on street signs and suchlike, whilst German is the language most used by the press