UNESCO World Heritage in Luxembourg - a safe bet History, art, traditions and environment through UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Grand Duchy

Are you a UNESCO tourism lover? Impressive architecture, photography, dance, music and nature await you in Luxembourg. The old quarters and fortifications of Luxembourg City have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites since 1994. After this first recognition, the Grand Duchy was awarded five more UNESCO labels, for a total of six UNESCO World Heritage sites covering a wide range of fields: World Heritage, Intangible Heritage, Memory of the World, Biosphere Reserves and Global Geoparks. 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!

© 2014 SIP, all rights reserved

'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 Family of Man, Château de Clervaux - © CNA/Romain Girtgen, 2013

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.

© SIP / YW, all rights reserved

'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.

Hauspeschbléiser - musical art of horn players - Intangible heritage

The musical art of the trumpet players was born in the 18th century at the French Royal Court. Since then, it has become a living tradition in several regions of Europe.

In Luxembourg, the musicians are called Haupeschbléiser, after their patron saint Hubert. The instrument, called 'natural' because it has no valves, needs very physical breathing techniques, preferably in nature, where its archaic timbre can resonate freely. Musicians often sound without a score and turn their backs on the audience to make them listen to the sound of the trumpets as well as possible. Singing also plays an important role in the transmission of this musical know-how.

In December 2020, the musical art of horn players and its instrumental technique linked to singing, breath control, vibrato and the resonance of places was inscribed on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The multinational candidacy with France, Belgium and Italy testifies to the essences of this tradition: conviviality, meeting with other countries' horn players, the link with nature and the sharing of these values across borders.

© Immateriellt Kulturierwen zu Lëtzebuerg, all rights reserved

Would you like to discover this musical art?

Videos are available on the website Immateriellt Kulturierwen zu Lëtzebuerg!

You can also follow the activities of the Benelux Trumpet Federation (Fédération des Trompes du Bénélux), which includes two Luxembourg sound groups: Trompes de la Vallée des Sept Châteaux and Les Trompes de Chasse St. Hubert de Luxembourg.

Minett Unesco Biosphere – Biosphere reserve

The Minett region, also known as the Land of the Red Rocks, is located in the south of Luxembourg. It is a densely populated area 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.

In October 2020, Minett Unesco Biosphere officially became part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves of the UNESCO's 'Man and the Biosphere' programme. The region has thus proven to be a model for sustainable development and visitors can enjoy the rich biodiversity of the converted lands.

"The 'Man and the Biosphere' programme predicts the consequences of today’s actions on tomorrow’s world and thereby increases people’s ability to efficiently manage natural resources for the well-being of both human populations and the environment". UNESCO.

The South is waiting for you! An astonishing place, where man and nature meet, a place of learning, a changing space for a better quality of life. The Regional Tourist Board of the South offers you many activities to discover this land of contrasts.

Natur- & Geopark Mëllerdall - UNESCO Global Geopark

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.

Against this remarkable historical backdrop, the Natur- & Geopark Mëllerdall officially became part of the UNESCO Global Geopark network in April 2022. These are clearly defined areas of internationally significant geological sites, managed according to a concept of nature protection and sustainable development. An essential feature of geoparks is the involvement of local populations, which makes this UNESCO programme a flagship of participatory management, both in terms of raising awareness among the general public and in terms of local products, gastronomy and ecological tourism.

Many of the geoparks in the UNESCO network help to raise awareness of geological hazards such as volcanic risks, earthquakes and tsunamis, and as part of this, develop hazard mitigation strategies within local communities. UNESCO Global Geoparks keep records of climate change in recent years. They act as educators for the changes that are taking place and help to adopt good environmental practices by promoting the use of renewable energy and green tourism.

'This heritage allows people to become aware of and find the keys to respond to the geodynamic context of the planet we all live on'. UNESCO.