Day 1: From London City to Luxembourg City
Moien! Steven was invited by the Visit Luxembourg tourist office for a short weekend cycling experience that covered a mix of sightseeing around Luxembourg City on an e-bike, learning about the country from a historical perspective and a challenging guided MTB excursion around the now-defunct Esch-sur-Alzette iron ore mining region.
After catching an overnight coach to London from Manchester, a quick taxi ride to London City Airport was needed to catch the Luxair flight to Luxembourg. Our group consisted of several representatives from different cycling holiday companies and we met Debbie from Visit Luxembourg at the Luxair check-in desk.
The flight left on time and as Luxair is a full-service airline, we enjoyed free coffee, juices and a breakfast snack on board. With a quick stamp of the passport, we were in!
Getting to know Luxembourg
I didn't know much about Luxembourg before arriving and due to its small size, it is easy to generalise the capital, Luxembourg City, with the rest of the country. I knew that Luxembourg was one of the richest countries in the world, its inhabitants spoke several languages and the city is home to several key European Union and banking institutions, but little beyond that.
Upon arriving at the recently opened INNSiDE Melia hotel, we got to know the group and met our hosts from Visit Luxembourg who explained our itinerary in more detail over the next few days. After lunch, we took the bus into the city centre and paid nothing for the journey. We weren't evading the fare as public transport is free for the whole country with the aim of reducing car usage.
Guided sightseeing around the city centre
For the next few hours, we were given a comprehensive cycle tour on an electric bike by a knowledgeable local guide called Marco from Sightseeing.lu. Luxembourg City is a compact city centre but has different sides. The focal point atop the fortifications of the Casemates du Bock is the Chemin de la Corniche which is described as 'the most beautiful balcony in Europe'.
We took our e-bikes on a 3-hour tour that went up and down the hilly streets and stopped off at several highlights such as the Grand Ducal Palace, the bridges over the river and the pedestrianised Old Town. We also took the new funicular railway up to the Kirchberg District to see the modern side of the city with the banking and European Union offices.
The e-bike city tour was excellent and informative with plenty of background into how the city was shaped by various wars, the steel industry and the international nature of the population.
Day 2: An early start to Esch-sur-Alzette
On Friday night, we went out for a nice meal with our hosts and headed to the nearby busy streets for a drink afterwards. The city centre was lively, good-natured and full of young people drinking (expensive) cocktails. Interestingly, they weren't taking loads of selfies or phone scrolling which is unusual these days. We went back to the hotel using the free local bus network to the outskirts of the city centre. No expensive night out Ubers are needed here!
On Saturday morning, we were picked up at 0900 and driven 20 minutes to Luxembourg's second-biggest city, Esch-sur-Alzette. The former industrial area is now home to the new University of Luxembourg campus and the decommissioned blast furnaces have been turned into a monument to the steelmaking industry.
Cycling over Europe's longest dedicated cycling bridge
We were given a brief tour of the university building and then proceeded to the top of the former blast furnace. Standing at a height of 40 metres, it offered us a breathtaking panoramic view of the former steelworks, the massive ArcelorMittal factory still actively producing steel, and the nearby French border. In the distance, we caught sight of the MTB tracks nestled within the forest.
Our cycling objective for the day was to complete a circuit of the Red Rock MTB trails situated near Esch in the Minett region. This area witnessed extensive iron ore mining from the 19th century until the late 20th century but experienced a significant decline in the 1980s. To reach the trails, we had to cross Europe's longest cycling bridge, stretching 1.2 kilometres, which spanned over the railway line and the colossal steelworks.
Mountain biking around former iron ore mines
Our electric mountain bikes were a decent match for the challenging MTB trails that at times resembled Nevada or Utah due to the reddish hue of the terrain. The routes were moderately difficult and we rode for several hours in the hot sunshine. Everyone in the group had a great time on the e-bikes and our expert ride leader, Gregory, gave us insights into his own life in Luxembourg as someone with Italian heritage.
We were transferred by minibus to the spa town of Mondorf-Les-Bains on the French border. We stayed at the Mondorf Parc Hotel & Spa and this has to be one of the best spa hotels that I've visited with numerous pools, saunas and relaxation facilities to enjoy. On a super hot Saturday afternoon after several hours of dusty mountain biking, this was an unbelievably relaxing experience.
Day 3: Visiting Schengen and the Moselle Cycle Route
After breakfast on Sunday morning, our guide Roman took us on a 40 km e-bike tour through picturesque Riesling and Pinot Gris vineyards on quiet lanes with some challenging ascents and descents. The roads were beautifully smooth and we all enjoyed cruising along on our powerful electric bikes to the village of Schengen on the Moselle River.
The village is internationally famous for the signing of the Schengen Agreement in 1985 which opened borders across 26 European countries. We were given a tour by the manager of the European Museum who explained the history of the agreement and the difficulties that the open borders policy faced during Covid, especially for a country like Luxembourg which relies on seamless cross-border travel.
Crémant wine tasting and heading back to London
We continued cycling along the excellent Moselle Cycle Path to the popular resort town of Remich. We stopped for lunch at the Pavillion St. Martin for probably the most impressive all-you-can-eat buffet I've ever seen. Normally, there is just a mix of mass-produced 'cash and carry' foods to take at a buffet, but here everything was well crafted and presented including luxury foods such as oysters, horsemeat and an incredible choice of cakes.
We later went for a wine-tasting session in the adjacent Cave St.Martin where we learnt about the famous Luxembourg wine called Crémant which is similar to champagne in taste and production.
We left the bikes in the van as we were taken back to the airport about 20 kilometres away in time for our flight home. There was a huge thunderstorm over London and Northern France, but we managed to avoid the poor weather as we made the steep descent into London City Airport over Central London.
Final thoughts on Luxembourg
After returning to London, I had time to reflect on my few days in Luxembourg. Overall, it was an illuminating experience that gave me a better understanding of the country, which is the aim of the tourist board trip.
Luxembourg is a wealthy country and this is evident in the quality of its infrastructure, as a hub for significant business and political institutions, and a youthful, multi-lingual population. The decline of the steel industry could have left Luxembourg with a multitude of post-industrial scars. Still, unlike some former industrial regions around Europe, the Grand Duchy has emerged stronger economically than before.
For cycling, it was a bit of an unknown entity for me. However, I can honestly say that it is one of the best countries for cycling I've visited in Europe. The signage is excellent, the road surfaces are great and despite some traffic in the city centre, most routes were segregated away from cars and the tram network.
We have a cycle tour that starts in Luxembourg City and heads over the border towards Koblenz along the Moselle and the route will give you a chance to experience some of the things I saw over the past few days. You'll also pass through the lively riverside town of Remich which is close to Schengen on the Moselle Cycle Route.
Overall, this was an excellent tour to go on and we had a great time experiencing the different sides of cycling in Luxembourg. Our hosts were extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the country. Importantly, the electric bikes and hotels were excellent too. Luxembourg is definitely recommended as a cycling destination!
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