I 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:
- 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 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.
The town of Useldange sports a bustling population of just over 600 people, which means it’s not much useldange to anyone anymore.
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 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.
Well, 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 dates back to the 12th century.
As 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.
The 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.
The neighboring Church of Clervaux.
Clervaux Castle doesn’t look very castley from this angle, but neither does this umbrella-wielding knight look very nightie.
A monument to the Battle of the Bulge, which is still a pretty big thing around these parts.
Which is why they erected this monument. I guess he won because he’s not fat.
However, 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.