Besides Luxembourg City, Vianden and in particular its castle, is billed as Luxembourg’s biggest tourist attraction. About an hours-worth of comfortable travel from Luxembourg City, it’s an easily accessible day trip; even for the average weekend tourist. It’s a fairly quaint village (think cobbled streets and time-worn building facades) overlooked by a Hogwarts-esque fairy tale castle atop a prominent hill. Somewhat strangely, the town is particularly popular with motorbike enthusiasts; so if you want to avoid the near constant roar of engines then you might want to visit outside of peak tourist season (we visited in January and had no such problem; plus the castle was covered by a thin blanket of snow which made for great photos).
Getting to Vianden from Luxembourg City is fairly simple. Hop aboard a train towards Ettlebruck from Luxembourg City’s main railway station. You’ll reach Ettlebruck in around 35-40 minutes (each station is clearly announced before you stop so you shouldn’t miss it). Once at Ettlebruck exit the station and cross the road to the bus stop for the 570 bus towards Vianden. You’ll be on the bus for about 25 minutes before you reach Vianden, and if you’re in any doubt, just tell the driver where you’re headed and they seemed quite happy to point it out when we arrived. Just repeat this itinerary in reverse on the way back and you’ll be back in Luxembourg City in about an hour. Easy as pie! If you have a Luxembourg card (see below) then it becomes even easier.
The Luxembourg tourist board operates a handy ‘Luxembourg Card’ scheme which provides ‘free’ access to about 60 attractions across the country (many of which are in Vianden) and means you don’t have to pay extra for public transport (including the train and bus you’ll need to catch). I spent some time working out if it actually provides good value for money and it definitely does if you’re planning to see a few attractions out of Luxembourg City that charge entry (like the castle and chair lift in Vianden). The card can be purchased in advance and sent to you in the mail. If you aren’t an advance planner (like us) then you can also purchase the Luxembourg Card in a whole host of locations throughout Luxembourg City before you get to the train station to head to Vianden (all the points of sale are listed on the website which I’ve provided a link to below).
The Our River runs through the center of Vianden and there are a number of restaurants dotted along its banks. These provide some great spots for lunch (although if you check out Trip Advisor some of the reviews don’t look particularly great – although I typically avoid restaurant reviews on Trip Advisor because some people seem to expect every restaurant to produce Michelin star quality food!) If you’re going in the summer and want to eat along the river then you may want to look at booking in advance. We were told it gets extremely busy and you may end up with nowhere to eat at all!
Vianden Castle: An obvious highlight of a trip to Vianden is the castle; which was fully restored back in the 1990’s. Perched up on a rocky outcrop above the town it really does (from a distance) feel like you’ve stepped on to the set of a Harry Potter movie (although my wife was slightly dubious of this statement; so I’ll let you draw your own conclusions – I personally think it’s all about catching the castle on it’s good side!). It’s fairly easily accessible from Grand Rue which runs through the center of the town; especially if you pick up a map form the Vianden tourist office directly next to the bus stop. If you approach the castle by turning off of Grand Rue and walk up Montee Du Beffroi then you’ll also benefit from great views over the East of the town. On the way out of the castle go in the opposite direction and take a stroll up the 332 road for what I found to be the best panoramic views of the castle (especially if you’re a shutterbug and don’t mind a walk up a hill). The castle itself is free with the Luxembourg Card and has a fairly minimal entrance fee if you don’t have one (with audio tours available for an additional fee). Without the audio tour you’re basically led around the castle by signage and there are various information posts dotted around (although not all of them have English translations). All-in-all, well worth a visit; but for me personally I enjoyed the views of the castle from the surrounding landscape more so than actually visiting the castle (but then I enjoy photography more than history, so don’t take my word for it).
Chairlift: Another opportunity for a scenic vista (I’m beginning to think that if scenic vistas aren’t your thing then maybe Vianden isn’t the right choice for you!). Coming down from the castle on Grand Rue take a left by the bus stop and about 500m up the road is the chairlift; which takes you up on to a hill overlooking both the town and the castle. It’s important to note that the chairlift isn’t open in the off-season which means that if you still want the vista then you’re going to have a pretty steep and tiring climb ahead of you (Disclaimer: I couldn’t be bothered to climb as it was -8C and it felt like ice crystals were forming in my lungs and by this point I thought my wife was going to kill me if she didn’t have a glass of wine in hand in the near future).
Grand Rue: The main artery of the town and where the vast majority of all of the cafes, restaurants, and shops are located (don’t get too excited there aren’t a huge numbers of options). The Grand Rue has an old town charm to it with cobbled street and historic houses. Also on Grand Rue is Place de la Resistance; which is the main town square where you’ll find the Town Hall. Pretty much everything you will want to do and see, and any restaurant you might want to visit will be accessible from Grand Rue (it makes ‘navigating’ the town nice and easy).
Trinitarian Church and Cloister: You guessed it; the church and cloister are located on Grand Rue! Put simply, the Trinitarian is a gothic style church with a small cloister; worth peaking your nose in but you won’t exactly be spending much time here (that should be reserved for the castle).
City ramparts: Yes, I’m going to offer up another vista! Most of the ramparts that you can see dotted all the way around the town are now all but ruins. However, if you walk between Rues 58 and 60, then you’ll find your way to a bell tower that you can climb for views over the town.
Luxembourg Card Website: http://www.visitluxembourg.com/en/luxembourg-card
Vianden Castle Website: http://www.castle-vianden.lu/english/index.html