The Top Ten Castles of Luxembourg

Lego CastleI decided to finally put my doctorate in Medieval Construction and Castleology* to better use than building medieval towns with Legos®, so we set about identifying and exploring the best castles in Luxembourg. Because the only thing cooler than making a castle with Legos®, is seeing a real one in person.

(I hate those ® things. If I write Legos without the ® are they going to sue me? Lego! Lego! Lego! Ha! Bring it on you crazy Danish peoples!)

Anyway, there are about 130 castles in Luxembourg. We needed to narrow that down, so we made a list of the important criteria necessary for such a vast and complicated expedition. The list is as follows:

  1. Find it on a map and drive to it.

Once armed with these strict guidelines, we put the pedal to the metal and criss-crossed Luxembourg to check out these amazing medieval sites. Of course, Luxembourg is only 82 km (51 miles) long and 57 km (35 miles) wide, so it only takes about an hour to get from one end to the other (20 minutes if you pretend Germany’s autobahn extends into Luxembourg), but still, it was a massive undertaking, eclipsed only by the logistics needed for the Battle of the Bulge, because, y’know, all they needed were nuts.

You’ll only get that if you know your trivia about World War II.**

So let’s start out with these first five, carefully presented to you in no order whatsoever.

Useldange Castle

IMG_2644Useldange Castle is thought to have been built in about the 12th century. The castle and its chapel were damaged during a war between France and Burgundy. France obviously won, because Burgundy is now only a wine, a color, and an anchorman, not a country.

It is mostly in ruins but they did a nice job of restoring various parts of the castle, including installing a metal spiral staircase which allows you to climb to the top of the tower for some great views of the little town.

IMG_3353The town of Useldange sports a bustling population of just over 600 people, which means it’s not much useldange to anyone anymore.

Beaufort Castle

Beaufort Castle was kind of a bust to visit since it is closed to visitors in the winter. Such is the lot of Castle Hunters such as ourselves. Still, it is an impressive castle, dating back to the 11th century. It fell into complete disrepair in the 18th century, but was restored in 1893 and opened to visitors in 1928. Just not to us, because it wasn’t summer. I wonder if that ploy worked against invading armies? “Sorry, but put your stupid catapult away, we’re closed!”

The bustling town of Beaufort has a population of just under 1,500.

Bourscheid Castle

Bourscheid Castle sits on a site with archeological evidence of structures dating back to Roman times. It is estimated to have been built around the year 1000 (or as they called back then: “Y1K.”) It is one of the most important medieval castles in the area, as well as the largest.

The castle is open to visitors, unfortunately we got there 15 minutes before closing time and watched the lady operating the entrance desk spot us and then hurry to slam the door shut and flip the sign to “Zougemaach” (which is Luxembourgish for “closed”) before we could make it to the door. Oh, well. Not a big loss because it’s mostly open air anyway, so we stuck our faces up to the fence and saw it for free. Ha!

We enjoyed the cute conical caps, making us think of gnome hats. Despite our not being able to go through it, we could see that it is a reasonably impressive castle, earning itself a well-earned place in the top ten castles of Luxembourg.

The town of Bourscheid counts a little over 500 residents as its bustling populace.

Mersch Castle

IMG_2669Well, yeah, as you can see by my expression, Mersch was kind of a bust. That’s just part of the deal with castle hunting, sometimes you see something amazing, and sometimes you see something that used to be a castle and now houses the administrative offices of the county, or maybe just looks like a pile of Lego pieces because it’s in ruins.

But it’s relevant to this list because it’s also one of the castles that belongs to the famous “Valley of the Seven Castles.” There are even signs on the highway pointing to a drive where you see all seven castles. But they didn’t pick the seven castles for anything other than they were all castles in the same general vicinity. It’s not worth making that drive, except to cherry pick the better castles. Except that the tower on the left sort of looks like a surprised Pinocchio, so there’s that.

But unlike all of the other bustling metropolises with their populations of 500 or 600 people, Mersch has over 3,000! We could barely stomach the traffic congestion.

Clervaux Castle

IMG_2586Clervaux Castle dates back to the 12th century.

IMG_2578As you can see, not all castles look medieval and like they were only built for combat. In fact, Clervaux Castle was built in a kind of bowl, with hills looming above on all sides… meaning it was one of the rare times we didn’t get any kind of a view from a castle.

IMG_2563The castle was the site of a pitched battle during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, and was destroyed by fire. It was subsequently rebuilt.

IMG_2579The neighboring Church of Clervaux.

IMG_2558Clervaux Castle doesn’t look very castley from this angle, but neither does this umbrella-wielding knight look very nightie.

IMG_3318A monument to the Battle of the Bulge, which is still a pretty big thing around these parts.

IMG_3315Which is why they erected this monument. I guess he won because he’s not fat.

IMG_3314However, due to the Coronavirus scare, the poor little town, with its bustling population of just under 1,500, was seemingly deserted. We talked to a proprietor (one of a multitude of Portuguese expats we encountered) who said that normally it was busy with people year round. Little did we know that was just the beginning of a long, sad tale of quarantines and limited travel around the entire world.

Next up: The best of the rest.


* I got my doctorate in Medieval Construction and Castleology from Trump University. Which means, of course, that I’m lying, which is about the only thing anyone could have learned from that defunct con job of a school. I just thought it would be funny for anyone who happens upon this entry by searching on “The Top Ten Castles of Luxembourg” to think they’d really struck gold with such amazing expertise and knowledge! But nah, we’re just a coupla Yanks who like castles.


** Nuts!



Where we take our lives into our hands by flying the riskiest way possible.

Boarding RyanairNo, I’m not talking about flying during the Coronavirus pandemic. I’m talking about flying Ryanair.

If you read the blog entry preceding this one, you’ll know that I poked a whole lot of fun at Ryanair for the way they recoup their money after advertising a 19 euro fare to Luxembourg.

Turns out, the joke was on us. Ryanair really is that bad. I won’t bore you with all the grimy details, but suffice it to say Ryanair does everything in its power to remind you that you’re flying on the damned-cheapest-airline around.

Like most airlines, they charge you for luggage. But unlike any other airline I’ve experienced, they don’t let the employees at the gate take your payment: they make you go to another line across the terminal to pay for said luggage before you can even check in… after you’ve already waited in line to check in. Because a helpful sign or employee might cost Ryanair something, and we can’t have that!

I think they captured the laughing faces on the sign by asking the models where Ryanair’s customer service was. There are actually three real employees at the counter in this picture, but only one of them is helping a customer, and she’s doing that very, very slowly.

Once you’re in the new line, they make damn sure not to be in any hurry whatsoever. We went from getting to the airport in plenty of time to ending up walking right into the boarding line with barely enough time for a preflight visit to the restroom, and that was despite a lighter-than-normal security queue.


There’s more, but I’ll just leave it with this: I’ll never book another flight on Ryanair again. Not only is the aggravation they dole out not worth whatever savings you might gain, by the time they’ve tacked on all the other expenses, it may even be more expensive. If you’re flying with only a backpack or something… maybe. But I’d still worry about how many other corners they may cut in their efforts to be the CHEAP airline.

Abuse sign
They actually had three of these notices posted on their single counter. Y’think Ryanair employees encounter some of these behaviors much?

Be that as it may, when it was all said and done, we didn’t regret the trip for an instant. Luxembourg is a wonderful little country (actually a Grand Duchy… the only one in the world).

So try as they might to aggravate us, at least Ryanair got us there in one piece, and so far anyway, coronavirus free as well (not that Ryanair deserves any credit for that, I wouldn’t be surprised if they start selling seats based on the amount of disinfectant they’ve applied).

We were, in fact, very lucky to get in and out of the country when we did. Within a week of our return, borders were closing, airlines were cutting routes, and most countries were basically going into full lockdown mode.

If we would’ve been booked to leave a week later than we did, we’d probably would have not made the trip.

IMG_2415Which means we would’ve never seen this: the view of the “Grund” from The Walls of the Corniche, which have been called “the most beautiful balcony in Europe.” The Grund is basically the old city.

IMG_3153It’s quite a ways down; the walls we were standing on here were considered so impregnable they were called “The Gibraltar of the North.” But not anymore, because we were able to impregnate them easily.

IMG_3144We didn’t go down there because it looked like it went uphill both ways, and all the guides I read basically used adjectives like “charming” and “quaint,” which are usually travel euphemisms for “boring.”

IMG_3150But the views were spectacular.

IMG_3154The Grund is also a popular nightlife area, which means nothing to us because the world “nightlife” at our age actually means, “What’s on the telly tonight?”

IMG_3142This is also the place where they have the Casements du Bock, a 21-kilometer network of underground passages hewn from solid rock. Unfortunately, the tunnels were closed for the winter, so we could only wistfully imagine how exciting it would have been to be stuck in a bunch of tunnels while the hoards were attacking outside.

IMG_3158I can just picture a befuddled army lolling about down there asking each other, “How the hell are we gonna get up that?”

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 11.20.54 AMThis is in front of the Grand Ducal Palace. It is the official residence of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and where he performs most of his duties as Luxembourg’s head of state. Here, he’s seen also providing the security, due to the country’s current financial straits.

IMG_2401Actually Luxembourg is swimming in dough. If you need a loan or something, just go there and start asking Luxembourgers for money. Luxembourg’s GDP per capita is third in the world, only behind Qatar (“We’re so rich, we gave away the ‘u’ in our name”), and the former Portuguese territory of Macau (who can crow about having a gambling industry seven times larger than that of Las Vegas). The US ranks tenth in GDP per capita, in case you were wondering. Portugal is 42nd, but no one wonders about that.

IMG_3138Built in the early 17th century, The “Cathédrale Notre-Dame” is Luxembourg’s only cathedral. And it hasn’t even burned down yet!

IMG_2396This is a building.

IMG_E2394Simon and Garfunkel would have loved this bridge if it were over troubled waters.

IMG_2400-revisedIt’s obvious here that I fell in love with Luxembourg. Or maybe I have a thing for flagpoles.

IMG_3161One of the interesting things about Luxembourg is that they basically grow up speaking four languages: French, German, English, and Luxembourgish, not necessarily in that order. I didn’t know there was even a language called Luxembourgish until we got here. Actually, English isn’t on the official language list, because once they’ve put three languages on a sign, they’ve pretty much run out of room. There is also a lot of Portuguese spoken because there are a lot of Portuguese in Luxembourg, mainly because the pay in Luxembourg is a lot better. Of course, everything is more expensive than in Portugal, too.

The sign above is only in German, so I shot this photo in order to translate it. Unfortunately, Google Translate left me more confused than I was before: “Here you will find so large with grace, so much seriously associated with loveliness that there is nothing to be desired, Poussin had worked his wonderful talent in such spaces, goethe über Luxemburg, campagne in France.”

Uh huh. Oh, well, someone who actually speaks German might help me translate that better.

IMG_3159At least UNESCO leads with English. There are over 1,000 UNESCO heritage sites in the world. We’ve got a long way to go to see ’em all, but we’re trying!

IMG_3147Because a sunglasses-wearing harp-playing bird is exactly what this wall needed.

IMG_3134The Gate of the Day.

IMG_3132Some of the streets were a little barren, presumably due to the coronavirus. Not much else seemed overly affected, really, especially since it was our first time and we had nothing to compare it to. But it did seem less crowded than it otherwise would have been.

IMG_3128Kind of a cool old building they’ve turned into a think tank lab or something.

IMG_3127Because nothing screams “selfie” like a fountain in a park.

IMG_3166We heard this was a good way to keep the coronavirus at bay. So far it’s worked!

Luxembourg City is rather small, with just over 120,000 inhabitants, 70% of which are foreigners. When we rented our car I chatted with the gal behind the desk, and I asked about her French accent. I was wondering if she had the accent of Luxembourgish, which is pretty much a cross between French and German. She kind of laughed and told me she was French, and that no Luxembourger would ever work behind a counter anyway. Well then. Must be nice to be a Luxembourger!

The car came in very handy, as you’ll see in our next posts where we visit a number of the over 100 castles in the small country. Plus we got to go to Germany and Belgium, because as soon as you start driving out of the city, you can pretty much accidentally go over a border. The country is smaller than Rhode Island, the smallest state in the US (and the most weirdly named because it’s not even an island).