The old quarters and fortifications of Luxembourg City have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites since 1994. The Grand Duchy is also home to the exhibition The Family of Man, which is listed on UNESCO's Memory of the World Register. It also hosts the Echternach Hopping Procession, recognised as an intangible cultural heritage. Are you a fan of UNESCO tourism? If so, Luxembourg will be worth your while. Let's go!
Luxembourg City, old quarters and fortifications - World heritage
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 saw many transfers of powers: 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, in our day and age, represent a splendid summary of military architecture.
Discovering the traces of the ancient fortress through a walk is also the perfect opportunity to explore the Grund area and the natural environment of Luxembourg's capital city, through which the Alzette river runs. Make sure you also visit the Bock promontory and its casemates. It used to boast a 23km underground network and they are still full of mysteries.
Since 2019, the UNESCO World Heritage site 'Luxembourg, old quarters and fortifications' can also be visited by bicycle. The 9.5km trail passes through the Pétrusse valley and the city's lower districts of Clausen and Pfaffenthal as it threads its way past 80 sites and monuments that often go unsuspected. It's a pleasant ride, and is possible effortlessly using an electrically-assisted bike provided by the vel’OH scheme. Download the map featuring extra information available in five languages, and set out to discover 1,000 years of history with ease!
'What makes the concept of World Heritage exceptional is its universal application. World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located'. UNESCO.
The Family of Man, a photography exhibition - Memory of the world
In 2003, UNESCO recognised the value of Luxembourg's heritage once again by listing a legendary photographic exhibition in the Memory of the World Register.
The Family of Man is an exhibition created by the famous Luxembourg-born photographer Edward Steichen for the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA). It consists of 503 photographs by 273 photographers from 68 countries, including artists as renowned 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 circling the globe, Clervaux Castle became its permanent abode in 1994.
Visiting this exhibition implies that you will not only discover this wonderful collection, but also the town of Clervaux, located in a deep and narrow valley on the banks of the Clerve, in the heart of the Ardennes.
'The Memory of the World Programme guards against collective amnesia. It aims to ensure universal and permanent access and to preserve documentary heritage'. UNESCO.
The Hopping Procession of Echternach - Intangible heritage
The Hopping Procession of Echternach takes place every Whit Tuesday. It is difficult to establish the origins of this practice that was mentioned for the first time in the late 15th century. Some think its origins are rooted in the processions of the Flagellants in the 13th and 14th centuries, pointing to the dance as a way to prevent or cure certain nervous disorders. Others see it as a converted pagan rite where dance symbolised the people's gratefulness for St Willibrord's blessings.
Whatever its origins, the fact is that the procession has subsisted to many prohibitions and brings together around 8,000 dancers each year. The atmosphere is striking: pilgrims form rows of five people and, linked by handkerchiefs folded into triangles, move forward by hopping to the rhythm of marching bands that play a folk melody. The procession takes them to the alleyways of Echternach, leading them to Willibrord's grave in the crypt of the basilica.
It is a long-standing Luxembourgish tradition, the significance of which was recognised by UNESCO 2010, inscribing it on the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
'The importance of intangible cultural heritage is not the cultural manifestation itself but rather the wealth of knowledge and skills that is transmitted through it from one generation to the next'. UNESCO.
Luxembourg 2020 - celebrating 25 years of world heritage
Are you keen on Unesco tourism? If so, 2020 is the perfect year to discover Luxembourg's heritage. In fact, a wealth of festivities has been organised to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the listing of Luxembourg City's old quarters and fortifications as world heritage sites.
You can therefore visit Luxembourg's three UNESCO heritage sites and take part in a wide range of activities throughout the year: conferences, training sessions, puppet shows and even a creative workshop on our traditional Péckvillercher - trilling clay birds - which are on display and available to buy in Nospelt, in the Guttland region as part of the traditional Éimaischen festival.
Minett, Luxembourg's UNESCO future?
Based in the south of Luxembourg, the Minett is a densely populated region with a long history of steel mining and steel industry. Featuring Luxembourg's largest nature reserves, the region is now aiming to diversify its economy, reconvert certain parts of its industrial heritage and protect its natural environment.
So stay tuned to this application that could show yet another UNESCO heritage site in Luxembourg!
For more information
- Unesco Visitor Center: a first orientation to discover Luxembourg's heritage
- All about UNESCO heritage in Luxembourg
- Download the brochure of the Bock casemates
- Unesco Bike tour Luxembourg, old city and fortifications
- The Family of Man, Memory of the World
- Discover the festivities of 25 years of World Heritage in Luxembourg