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Home | Features | Luxembourg: Europe’s pint-sized capital

Luxembourg: Europe’s pint-sized capital

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The heart of the city: shopping on Grand-Rue

Where to go for good food and drink after hours

With a permanent population below 100,000, Luxembourg is the pint-sized capital of the eponymous country, itself no larger than an average English county. The city's diminutive stature means most places are within walking distance.

Luxembourg City’s USP is its spectacular setting. Straddling two gorges, which divide it into distinct areas, there are stunning views everywhere. To the west is the real centre, the UNESCO-listed Old Town. To the south is the slightly shabbier Gare station area. To the east is Kirchberg plateau, home to the business district and several European institutions. Down in the valley are Grund and Clausen, both with thriving nightlife. 

The city is a major financial centre and many EU institutions are based here. Thanks to its favourable taxation system, it is also a favourite European headquarters for multinationals, most notoriously Amazon, which has recently been accused of tax avoidance in other European lands.

One thing Luxembourg isn’t, however, is a haven for craft beer. Bars are dominated by Brasserie Nationale’s Bofferding, with its single serious rival the AB InBev-owned Diekirch, and there’s only one brewery in the city. 

The market is overwhelmingly bottom-fermented lagers. Most bars do serve a handful of superior German and Belgian imports, the most common being the Belgian Trappist, Orval. Unless stated, don’t expect much variety. There are however, plenty of good places to drink. Below are ten of the best.

And whisper it quietly. We know you’re here for the beer, but the country produces some excellent white wines and sparkling crémants. Don’t miss them.

Brauerei – Big Beer Company
12 Rives de Clausen
www.bigbeercompany.lu

Don’t be fooled by the crest saying “Since 1511”. That refers to the old Mousel brewery on this site, which closed years ago – this place opened in 2011. It’s in the former brewing hall, with high wooden ceilings, and a mezzanine for diners. Some of the old brewing equipment has been retained. As the beers come from the Clausel microbrewery next door it can ‘almost’ lay claim to being a brewpub. 

The house beer is a reasonable German-style Helles, served in both filtered and more interesting unfiltered ‘Zwickel’ versions. Avoid the Picon – it is beer with orange syrup added. Food is hearty and Germanic, with sauerkraut and pork to the fore, and pretzels for bar snacks.

Go Ten
10 Rue du Marché-aux-Herbes
www.gotencafe.com

The décor here goes for a half-Japanese, half-woodland feel, with spongy moss on one wall and wood bark everywhere. Kind of Go Zen really. The calming relaxing feel is slightly spoiled by the fact smoking is allowed when food (Japanese-inspired, lunchtimes) isn’t served. Sit on the terrace if that thought offends, but don’t miss out as this is the city’s best beer joint. It’s the only central place serving the beers of Wiltz-based Simon, including Okult Quaffit Stout. They also stock beers from the Simon-owned Ourdaller nano-brewery. 

Scott’s Pub
4 Bisserweg
www.scotts.lu

This popular mock British pub in Grund has traditional Chesterfield furniture and a dartboard. Upstairs is louder and more of a club at weekends. The large riverside terrace has fabulous views. This is a rare example of a Luxembourg bar with a beer list running into double figures. Most are big name imports from Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic and Ireland. If you’re hungry, they can rustle up a pizza, although in Italian food terms that ranks a pretty poor second to the Michelin-starred Mosconi restaurant across the road.

Bistrot de la Presse
24 Rue du Marché aux Herbes
www.bistrotdelapresse.lu

Opposite the Grand Duke’s palace and the parliament building, this may have illustrious neighbours, but it’s a down-to-earth local’s bar - there’s usually a group of regulars sat at the bar debating the issues of the day with the landlord. This place is friendly and no frills, and the walls are lined with patriotic photos of royalty, past and present. Daily food specials are served on weekday evenings, and beyond that there’s a short menu of sandwiches, salads or pasta. 

Zanzen
27–29 Rue Notre Dame
www.zanzen.lu

Exceedingly popular with the local after-work crowd, this large café gets packed in the early evening. The interior lighting changes to match the mood and the time of day. They also have entertainment most evenings, ranging from magicians to fortune-tellers. You can order tapas in the bar. There’s a restaurant adjacent to the bar, but the food there isn’t particularly good value for money and the service is questionable. You can find better elsewhere.

Urban
2 Rue de la Boucherie
www.urban.lu

Just up the road from the Grand Duke’s palace, Urban is enormously popular with the expat after-work crowd. It gets crowded when the nearby offices close for the day, and drinkers spill out onto the street in all but the foulest weather. Inside has a sports bar feel, with large TV screens showing (predominantly British) rugby or football. If you’re lucky enough to find somewhere to sit, they do have a food menu with daily specials and burgers. 

Café ‘Am Français’
14 Place d’Armes
www.hotelfrancais.lu

The modern pastel-shaded bar and restaurant here may put you in mind of a hotel breakfast room. That’ll be because that’s precisely what it is, every morning. But the selling point is the large terrace out front on the city’s main square, a good place for people watching. The beer list isn’t great but they do stock Belgium’s Orval. Among a slew of eateries on the square – most aimed at unsuspecting tourists – this is one of the better options, serving a range of Luxembourg classics and European crowd-pleasers.

Café des Artistes
22 Montée du Grund
(No website)

This characterful drinking establishment in Grund comes with dim candlelight, smoke-darkened poster-strewn walls and ceiling, and more chairs and tables than the cramped space can handle. The bar has an arty feel, but without pretentiousness, and it’s hard not to use the word ‘bohemian’. There’s live piano music most evenings. A warning though: the absence of any food means smokers abound and it can get fuggy. But in a way that’s part of the charm - it’s the sort of place you couldn’t imagine without a pall of smoke hanging in the air.

Mousel’s Cantine
46 Montée de Clausen
www.mouselscantine.lu

Down in Clausen, this was the ‘canteen’ of the former Mousel brewery. It’s a back-to-basics affair with wood being the predominant feature of the décor. If you want to eat, they serve hearty Luxembourgish dishes in a relaxed, friendly setting. Most of the remaining ex-brewery site has been redeveloped into the Rives de Clausen entertainment district, with wall-to-wall bars, but besides the Big Beer Company (above), they cater mainly to a young, hip crowd who sup cocktails while dancing to ear-splittingly loud music. Stick to Mousel’s if you prefer the traditional.

Art Café
1a rue Beaumont
www.goeres-group.com

The predominance of mock leopard fur, red velvet curtains, mirrors, and the odd chaise longue all combine to give this the feel of a tart’s boudoir. If the decadent gaudiness becomes too much, go for the terrace outside. The food is good value, and at lunch runs to salads, wok dishes, pasta and more. After 2pm you’re limited to bread-based meals. Bear in mind this place shuts at 8.30pm, so it’s one for an aperitif, not a nightcap.

Tim Skelton is a Benelux-based freelance writer. He is the author of two books: the Bradt Guide to Luxembourg, and Around Amsterdam in 80 Beers. He is also a regular contributor to Fodor’s travel guides.

 

 

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