UNESCO heritage in Luxembourg: history, art, traditions and nature

Are you a fan of UNESCO tourism? In Luxembourg, you'll find impressive architecture, inspirational photography, unique dances, as well as traditions, music and nature. With the recent recognition of three new heritages at the end of 2023, the country now has nine certified treasures covering a wide range of fields: World Heritage, Intangible Heritage, Memory of the World, Biosphere Reserves and Global Geoparks.

World heritage - Luxembourg City, old quarters and fortifications

Given its strategic position in the heart of Western Europe, from the 16th century until 1867 when its walls were dismantled, the Fortress of Luxembourg was one of Europe's greatest fortified sites. In fact, the country was coveted by great powers for a long time and the city witnessed many transfers of powers: the emperors of the Holy Empire, the House of Burgundy, the House of Hapsburg, French and Spanish kings and finally the Prussians. Consequently, the fortifications underwent a wide range of reinforcement work for several centuries and, at present, represent a splendid example of military architecture. The old town and fortifications have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994.

A walk through the remains of the old fortress offers an opportunity to explore the Grund and the Bock rock with its casemates. Since 2019, this heritage site can also be visited by bike, by following a 9.5km route through the Pétrusse valley and the Clausen and Pfaffenthal districts of the city.

Luxembourg City, old quarters and fortifications
© 2014 SIP, all rights reserved
The Family of Man, Château de Clervaux - © CNA/Romain Girtgen, 2013

Memory of the World - "The Family of Man" photography exhibition

"The Family of Man" is an exhibition of legendary photography that has been on the Memory of the World Register since 2003. It was created by Luxembourg-born photographer Edward Steichen for the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. It consists of 503 photographs by 273 photographers from 68 countries, including renowned artists such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Brassaï, Robert Capa and Dorothea Lange.

The exhibition is a manifesto for peace and the fundamental equality of human beings, crafted through humanistic post-war photography. It was presented for the very first time in 1955 and, after touring the globe, was permanently housed in Clervaux Castle.

Intangible heritage - Through five Luxembourg traditions

Following the inclusion of three new traditions at the end of 2023, the Grand Duchy now has a total of five intangible universal heritage inscriptions on the UNESCO list:

  • The hopping procession of Echternach or Sprangpressessioun. ​ It takes place on Whit Tuesday and attracts around 8,000 dancers every year. Pilgrims line up in rows of five or six and each person holds one corner of piece of white cloth. They hop in tune to a melody which is unique to the event.
  • The musical art of the hunting horn players or Haupeschbléiser . ​ The instrument, which is referred to as natural because it has no valves, is played using very physical breathing techniques, and preferably in nature, where its archaic timbre can resonate freely through the air. The musicians often play without a score and turn their backs to the audience so that the sound of the trumpets can be heard in all its beauty.
  • Transhumance or Wanderschéiferei. This practice of seasonal grazing of livestock by transhumant flocks of sheep not only prepares the land for farming, but also stimulates and sustains biodiversity. Sheep carry insects and seeds from one meadow to another, thus contributing to the diversity of nature.
  • The traditional method of irrigating pastures or Fléizen. Farmers in Luxembourg have been using this agro-pastoral technique since the 15th century. They use ditches to irrigate meadows by diverting rivers and streams. This practice improves hay yields and nurtures biodiversity, as well as protecting against flooding.
  • Midwifery or Hiewanskonscht. The art of midwifery aims to provide comprehensive care for parents before, during and after pregnancy: regular check-ups, care for mothers to encourage body awareness, and childbirth preparation classes.

Biosphere reserve - Minett UNESCO Biosphere

The Minett region, located in the south of Luxembourg, is a densely populated area with an extensive history of iron mining and steelmaking. Featuring Luxembourg's largest nature reserves, the region is now working to diversify its economy, reconvert certain parts of its industrial heritage and protect its natural environment.

By becoming a member of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere programme's world network of biosphere reserves in 2020, the region has become a model for sustainable development, and visitors can enjoy the rich biodiversity of the rehabilitated land. Various tourist and cultural events are available to help visitors explore the Minett UNESCO Biosphere.

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Mëllerdall UNESCO Global Geopark

UNESCO World Geopark – Natur- & Geopark Mëllerdall

Did you know, over 200 million years ago, there was a sea in the Natur- & Geopark Mëllerdall region? The sandstones that formed the seabed still reveal many traces of that era and provide a unique insight into the history of the region. At present, the orography of the park plays a vital role in the supply of drinking water, the presence of certain animal and plant species, and land use.

In this historically remarkable setting, the Natur- & Geopark Mëllerdall joined the network of global geoparks in 2022. This network includes the sites of international geological significance managed in line with a concept of protection of nature and sustainable development.

Discover good environmental practices and green tourism in the Natur- & Geopark Mëllerdall.