Luxembourg is a hilly sort of place. The capital city, which shares its name with the country, is built on a number of high plateaux, separated by the steep-sided river valleys of the Alzette and the Petrusse. Luxembourg is very far from the sea, so these are very young rivers, or 'streams', as they are sometimes known.
The high position was what gave Luxembourg its coveted place as a fortified city in centuries gone by. In modern times, it means that traffic is conveyed around the city using many tunnels and bridges.
Bridges in Luxembourg City
The Red Bridge
To use its proper name, the Grand Duchesse Charlotte Bridge is a massive slab of red steel connecting the main city centre with the Plateau de Kirchberg, home of several important modern European institutions and many international banks. One of the European Parliament buildings can be found at the Plateau de Kirchberg, as can the European Court of Justice, the European Court of Auditors, the European Investment Bank and Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.
The Red Bridge's stark geometric lines and vivid colour, coupled with its sheer size, make it a landmark visible from many parts of the city. It was built in the early 1960s, is 355m long and stands 85m high. Some years ago, it had a reputation for having things - and people - thrown off it1. There were even signs on the roads beneath warning drivers of falling objects.
This has now been curtailed by curving plastic walls on the outer sides of the walkways. At the city end of the bridge is the Robert Schuman monument. Schuman was one of Luxembourg's most famous sons, and is regarded as the father of the modern European Union. Grand Duchesse Charlotte ruled from 1919 to 1964, after her sister (Marie-Adelaide) abdicated because of perceived German sympathies during the First World War.
The best way to appreciate the Red Bridge is to drive or walk underneath it.
The Vauban Bridge
Sitting in the shadow of the Red Bridge, the Vauban was constructed by the French architect Sébastien Vauban (1633-1707), whose influence can still be seen throughout much of the city's older quarters. Interested tourists can follow a Vauban Trail walking around some of the remaining sites. The bridge is a three-arch stone construction with a stone watchtower at either end.
The juxtaposition of the Vauban and Red bridges provides a visual metaphor for modern Luxembourg - old and new side by side, contrasting styles and histories, a richness of diversity and an artistic pragmatism.
The Pont Adolphe
Connecting the city centre with the Gare district is the stunning single span stone Pont Adolphe. Built in 1898-1903 and named after Grand Duke Adolphe, the 85m span was once the longest stone span in the world. It is best viewed illuminated at night, from the Place de la Constitution.
Passerelle Viaduct into the St Esprit tunnel
This is a 44m high vaulted viaduct that crosses the Petrusse valley and leads into the St Esprit tunnel. The city centre is a pedestrian zone, and outside that is a 'one-way' ring: to drive around the city, drivers must come south down the Boulevard Royal (on to the Pont Adolphe) and north across the viaduct and through the tunnel. The tunnel is one way, and emerges at the north side of the city centre at the Côte d'Eich.
Pont Victor Bodson
Making up part of the A1/A6 ring road around Luxembourg City, this is one of its most stunning pieces of modern architecture. This is also one of the images you are likely to see at the start of any TV broadcast about Luxembourg, and it appears on the cover of the Luxembourg equivalent of the Yellow Pages.
It is a suspension bridge over the River Alzette, connecting the plateaux of Hesperange and Itzig on the city's south-east corner. The two sets of 16 cables radiate from a central pillar, and range in size from 42m to 140m. It is one of the few bridges which is actually impressive to drive over, not least because it is right next to the Howald Tunnel. This means that you approach the bridge either immediately on exiting a tunnel, or you enter the tunnel straight after crossing the bridge.
Bridges outside Luxembourg City
Outside the main city, Luxembourg's rivers and mountains result in more exciting bridges.
Bridges at Grevenmacher and Remich
The River Moselle forms Luxembourg's eastern border with Germany. Functional traffic-carrying bridges link the two countries at the towns of Grevenmacher and Remich. The flow of traffic on these bridges can be very slow, especially at peak times. In addition, on Saturday afternoons, many Germans cross the border to fill their cars with (cheaper) Luxembourg petrol (most garages are shut on Sundays).
The old five-arch stone bridge at Echternach crosses the Moselle into Germany. The town of Echternach itself is very pretty, and the walk across the bridge affords some beautiful views of the riverside landscape.
The town of Schengen is at the junction of three countries, where the south-eastern corner of Luxembourg meets both Germany and France at yet another bridge over the Moselle. Schengen was chosen as the site for the signing of one of the most historic agreements of the European Union, which permits visitors to cross borders without the need for passport control. This, coupled with the Euro currency, makes travelling in and around western and central Europe very easy. The UK did not sign up to the Schengen agreement, hence the requirement to go through passport control on leaving and (more stringently) entering Britain. A useful point to bear in mind even if you are just catching the Eurostar for a day trip.
The new Schengen viaduct is currently2 under construction, and will extend the autoroute A13 all the way across Luxembourg's southern border to Germany.
The N10 runs alongside the Moselle from Schengen to Wallendorf. Aside from the half a dozen or so road crossings , there are a large number of pretty wooden pedestrian/bicycle crossings.
Autoroute to Trier
The E44/A1 autoroute towards Trier crosses the Moselle valley at Wasserbillig on a huge blue viaduct. Unimpressive when driving along it, the viaduct is best appreciated from beneath, driving on the N10.