La Ville Basse

From above

Us

Pretty much anywhere in Luxembourg City is close to a cliff.

The heart of the upper town (la Ville Haute, which I’ve explored in my previous post) is built on a network of long fingers of rock that tower over the low town (la Ville Basse) and the two rivers that run through it.

Quieter than the city above, and invitingly different, la Ville Basse is no less interesting and indeed has a curiosity amongst its quietness, giving an opportunity for a long, meandering and interesting walk following the course of the rivers.

We took an afternoon to follow this route, starting out up the hill at the lovely forest tracks (left) around the Dräi Eechelen museum, itself not far from the city’s European Union buildings and offering great views across town.

Though a hike up or down the hill is not the only option of switching between the high and low towns. In a marvellous nod to both practicality and unnecessary opulence, you can at one point in town take a lift – which is a surreal experience and makes me think that Luxembourg will be the first city in the world to bring in escalators on hilly roads.

Underground galleryThe lift, incidentally, is accessed at the lower level through a long tunnel (right), at the end of which you can find public loos, a small art space, and a security guard, who is presumably watching to make sure you don’t nick the paintings and flee to the higher levels of the city via the lift.

Dropping down from the EU quarter and museum to ground level, through more forest tracks, we hit the river Alzette, the bigger and wider of the city’s two rivers, and began our walk.

We meandered our way past the attractive little settlements of Grund and Pfaffenthal, effectively distinct districts that form the low levels of the city, but towered on either side by the cliffs and fortifications that blended into each other in a rather Tolkienesque spirit and were betopped by the spires of castle and churches in the high town.

In a remarkable twist of fortune early on in our walk, a moment after we decided it was lunchtime and beer o’clock we stumbled across the bright and modern Hostelling International youth hostel, discovering to our delight that their surprisingly pleasant restaurant boasted lovely hot sandwiches and beer on tap.

BridgeWe pressed on under imposing bridges and past houses, streets and churches that snuggled alongside the gentle river, making for a thoroughly relaxing afternoon’s stroll. Despite it being a Sunday in late autumn, there were still a few folk about – tourists out taking photos, locals walking the dogs, and the occasional cyclist or jogger.

The low level felt more like the peaceful countryside than the bustling and historic capital city to be found at the top of the cliffs. At one point the smaller river Pétrusse branches away from the Alzette, and we followed this back to our hotel, just a short climb back up to the high town.

It was noticeably cooler down in the depths, with the cliffs of course limiting the amount of direct sunlight, but it was a nice way to see a quieter, more peaceful side to the city.

It was interesting to think that there were two sides to Luxembourg City, and satisfying that we’d explored a little of both of them.

If you’ve missed them, the rest of the Luxembourg photos are here.

Riverside

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