Since 963 when Count Siegfried first built a castle on a rocky outcrop overlooking a sharp bend in the Alzette River, various European powers have battled for control of the tiny state of Luxembourg. At times, the Burgundians, Spanish, French, Austrians, Prussians and Germans have all held sway over this scenic nation wedged between France and Germany. Despite a tumultuous history of almost permanent siege, this pint-sized nation has survived to modern times and now is one of richest per capita countries in the world. Luxembourg boasts excellent walks including the city-based Wenzel Walk and a superb nature walk in an area called Little Switzerland.
The delightful and well-signposted Wenzel walk (either guided or self-guided with a pamphlet) in the main city of Luxembourg and named after a 14th century duke captures elements of this history and culture, leading past ramparts, fortresses, tunnels, towers, bridges and walls, intermixed with bustling streets and panoramic views. The narrow valley gorges plunge sharply and deep from the rocky plateaus of the city, connected and spanned by various bridges and viaducts, ingeniously protecting and guarding this challenging terrain.
The walk starts at Bock Promontory and the scant remains of Count Siegfried’s Luxembourg Castle that started this rich history. The view from this point includes the Alzette river slicing the ancient district of Grund into two. Jacob’s Tower includes an audio-visual display describing the history. Underneath the Bock are a warren of tens of kilometres of damp tunnels (Bock Casemates) that allowed soldiers access to different parts of the city without surfacing and held provisions in past times. The various invading forces extended and added to these fortifications throughout the years and were utilised as recently as World War 2 as bomb shelters. Accessible for less than two Euros, they make for an eerie passage with a combination of small natural openings, weak electric lights, twisting staircases and occasional dead ends. These remarkable fortifications earned Luxembourg the title of Gibraltar of the North and have earned UNESCO heritage listing.
Some defensive openings to allow for guns or cannons offer stunning vistas of the Luxembourg countryside, the picturesque Old Town or river valleys.
The walk leads via the Corniche lined with stately pastel-coloured historic houses, through old protective city gates, over a medieval footbridge to the impressive Wenzel Walls and its moat. These fortifications were part of a three-ringed system of walls guarding the prized higher parts of the city and major crossing of the river.
The walk finishes near the city’s oldest parish Church of St Ulric with a walk along the green waters of the Alzette and the remains of an old lock system that could be used to dam the rivers as an extra obstacle for invading forces.
Descriptively promoted as 1000 Years in 100 Minutes, the Wenzel Walk, in under two hours, unveils part of Luxembourg’s historic battles for domination and the ingenious defensive fortifications built to protect this strategic historic city.
The tourist office has an excellent self-guiding brochure.
Map (without red lines): © Service des Sites et Monuments Nationaux / Luxembourg City Tourist Office