Length 5.8 km (3.6 miles), terrain: a few hills, total gain 133 meters
Luxemburg City (also spelled Luxembourg, or Lëtzebuerg in the local dialect) has one of the most unique and dramatic locations in the world: throning on the cliffs above the serpentine Alzette River gorge below, with arched viaducts connecting it to the other sides. It was once one of the most heavily fortified places on earth, called the "Gibraltar of the North," with the fortifications gradually extended by Spanish, Austrian, French and Prussian occupiers. The cliff faces are still holed with openings for canons, connected by a maze of tunnels. The panoramas from above are breathtaking, and the views from below are equally impressive.
This route tries to capture some of that visual drama, from above and below. It follows the old city walls, by either running along the ramparts themselves or through a park where a section of walls used to be, or running along the foot of other walls, as they go over the river at different spots.
|Running along the valley bottom, beneath the old town|
Luxemburg is a place with an identity problem, because the country is basically German-speaking (the other -- French-speaking -- half of Luxemburg was swallowed by Belgium long ago, a place with its own identity problems), but the public life in the city and all the street signs are in French.
We'll start the run in the heart of town, at the Grand-Duke's palace, on Rue du Marche-aux-Herbes. Luxemburg is the last grand-dutchy surviving in Europe. The reason it exists as a separate country is mainly because France and Germany both wanted it, and didn't want the other to have it (it's such a great spot for a fort, after all). So they agreed to let it be a separate country, out of the control of each of them. And after fortified castles lost their military importance, everyone just sort of forgot all about it.
|Start of the run at the Grand-Duke's place|
|Empty Place d'Armes in the early morning|
Now just run down this pleasant shopping street for four blocks until you come to the Luxemburg town park, Parc de la Ville, on the left side. Turn in there, to the left.
This park was once the outer earthen defensive walls of the fort. It curves towards the south, as you pass all those normal, wonderful things that make up a nice public park: flower beds, benches, pigeons, a great playground, a couple of museums and a pond with fountain.
|Fountain in the Parc de Ville|
Now cross the street from the park, Avenue Marie-Thérese, and take the winding footpath that serpentines down below the blue bridge: we're headed to the valley floor! Continue following the serpentines of Rue de las Semois as far to the right side as possible, taking the path that goes towards the bottom of the valley.
There is construction work as I write this, as I mentioned, and some parts of the path are used by the construction team, but they have provided boardwalks for pedestrians to get around it all. Normally, you can take one of either trail lining each side of the stream at the bottom, heading east.
You'll run under a second viaduct bridge.
|View from Grund, at the riverside|
|Running along the ramparts next to the third viaduct bridge|
Now follow the path to the left, with the ravine down below your left side as it curves around the small plateau. The buildings on your right formed an old barracks for the former fort garrisons. Now they have been nicely restored around a green square, but the security guards are eager to tell errant joggers that they aren't welcome there, so just stick to the path around the perimeter.
Leave the barracks area by running out through the gate-tower at the northeast corner of the neighborhood, and turn left to follow the street downhill towards the river again, the Rue de Treves. But don't follow the serpentines: at the first curve, continue straight through the next gate in through the fort walls and immediately turn right and take the steps down to the next ramparts that cross the river.
You are now running towards the castle area, which sits on the cliffs right in front of you. The big holes in the cliffs are called the Bock Casemates, all connected with tunnels to the castle above.
|Running below the Bock Casemates|
Turn right and run below the bridge and now follow the trail as it heads downhill below the cliffs on your left. The town center is above you as you run northwards downhill along Rue Weis. You will soon come to the next lower town, Pfaffenthal.
|View upwards, on the way to Pfaffenthal|
|Running through Pfaffenthal: turn left at the tower ahead|
NOTE: The hillside across the river is covered with other fortifications, and if you follow the roads up there to the top of the Kirchberg, you'll be in the modern quarter full of European Union buildings.
|Running across the Beim Beinchen ramparts, over the river|
Turn left and then run southwards out of Pfaffenthal.
This time, though, when you pass the last house, don't continue along asphalted Rue Weis, but take the cobblestoned street to the right that climbs more steeply back towards the cliffs above, on Rue Montée de Pfaffenthal.
|Take the right-hand cobblestoned street back up to town|
|The Three-Towers gate|
Then just turn left to end the run at the Grand Duke's place again a block ahead. Hopefully, the duke has put some coffee on, otherwise you'll have to wander back towards the Place d'Armes and pay for one there.