It's with the acquisition by Siegfried of the "Lucilinburhuc" - Luxembourg Castle - that this small grand duchy, (among the smallest countries in the world) was born, back in 963, even if its importance dates back to the Roman Era, when the zone was crossroad of important streets for commerce. Together with its first market and surrounded by fortifications, the city slowly developed, even if, in 1443, it was taken by the Burgundians because of its strategic value on the European chessboard. During four centuries, several military engineers by occupiers such as Bourbons, Habsbourg and Hohenzollerns, transformed the city in a fortified wonder - surrounded by three girdles of battlements - that was to be known as the Gibraltar of the North. With the defeat of Napoleon, Prussia and the Netherlands disputed the territory and the Congress of Vienna decided that Luxemburg was to be a Gran Duchy, in union with the Netherlands. In the 19th century its territories were reduced after the Belgian Revolution and in the next years the Grand Duchy affirmed and reaffirmed its neutrality by the first and second treaty of London. If the king of the Netherlands had been the Grand Duke of Luxemburg too, when the Dutch throne passed to Wilhelmina, the grand duchy passed to Adolph of Nassau Weilburg, because of the prohibitions of the Salic law. During the world wars, Luxembourg was occupied by Germany and, in the Second, it joined the Allies in order to fight the aggressor. Its next political choices concerned the foundation of the United Nations, Nato, European Economic Community, and Benelux Customs. Today Luxembourg is still among the smallest countries, but it's the one that has the highest standard living, at least in EU. It's capital (Luxembourg City) is the heart of life of the country, where the government and the official residency of the Gran Duke is. Many European institutions also find their HQ here, as the General Secretariat of the European Parliament, the European Court of Justice, the European Investment Bank and the Court of Auditors, to name a few. All those buildings are in the Centre Européen and Kirchberg neighbourhood. As powerful financial center, Luxembourg hosts around 168 financial institutions, which are nestled in a capital that remains small and tranquil and the Banque et Caisse d'Epargne de l'Etat is one of them, just nearby the Vallée de la Petrousse. With an history of more than 150 years, the bank has been able to answer to the needs of its clients and it's today renown at an international level. Inside, two museums can be found: the first one is the Musée de la Banque, where several items will clearly show what to be a banker meant and means today. The second one is the Galerie d'Art Am Tunnel with themed exhibitions by famous artists.
At the heart of the city, in the Old Town - a mainly pedestrianized zone - lies the Palace of the Grand Dukes, city residence of the Grand Ducal family, since 1890. Nearby, the Hotel de Bourgogne hosts the Ministry of State and the Presidency of the Government, while in the same zone the Town Hall and the Parliament can be visited too.
Highlights of Luxembourg is the Forteresse - with its underground tunnels (the Casemates) - whose construction began in 1644, during the Spanish domination. The galleries are 23 km long and after the dismantling of parts of the Fortress in 1867, 17 km remains. During the World Wars, these constructions were used in order to give shelter to the population. They can be visited and they are under the World Heritage of Unesco as other parts of the Fortress. Always part of the Fortress are the Echauguettes Espagnoles, the Trois Tours, the Wenceslas Wall and the Corniche, known today as the "most beautiful balcony of Europe": when the fortress was in part dismantled, after the first treaty of London, the protecting walls in the zone were cleared, hence disclosing an enticing panorama on the district of Grund and on the Rham Plateau. In order to appreciate the several fortifications, try the Wenzel circuit or the Vauban one.
Several museums can be visited in Luxembourg. The Musée d'Histoire de la Ville de Luxembourg hosts a permanent exhibition that traces the history from ancient times, and the myths connected to the city. The Musée d'Art Moderne Grand Duc Jean MUDAM will invite you for a discovery of contemporary art, giving carte blanche to the artists to reinterpret its spaces. The Casino of Luxembourg is today a forum of contemporary art, organizing exhibitions on new tendencies, and the Musée de la Forteresse will help you understand everything about the military defence buildings scattered all around the city. As well, the Musée National D'Histoire et D'Art hosts Prehistoric objects as well as artistic masterpieces, ranging from Modern and Contemporary art, to ancient. The National Museum of Natural History is a jewel as well: centred on human development, it offers - in its rooms - illustrations on evolution, geology and ecology. The Cultural Meeting Place of Neumünster Abbey offers instead open air concerts, workshop for artists and pieces of theatre. Formerly an abbey, as its name states, it was expropriated in the 18th century and transformed first in a military hospital, then in a prison. Only in 1980 it's present day function began. Once in Luxembourg, do not forget to spend an evening at the Philarmonie, which will offer you a large spectrum of music concerts, from classic to contemporary. And, before leaving - maybe for the tantalizing countryside - remember that the Old Town, with its pedestrianized streets will offer you the chance to shop for anything you could be looking for, from chic to cheap (remember that on every second and fourth Saturday of the month, there is a brocante market too) meanwhile enjoying some national beers such as the ones produced by the Brasserie Artisanale Beierhaascht or pampering yourself with some salty or sweet specialities, such as the Bretzel, the Quetscheflued, the Äppelklatzen or the Streisel...