1. Bock Casemates/Luxembourg Castle
Bock Casemates, in the centre of the capital, is where the country’s obsession with castles all began. Built by Count Siegfried back in AD 963, it inspired the development of Luxembourg City and was deemed so well fortified that it became known as the ‘Gibraltar of the North’. In 1867, as part of the conditions for the country’s independence, the demolition of the fort was ordered – an unfortunate edict that cost 16 years and 1.5 million gold francs. Fortunately some of the casemates and gates couldn’t be blown up without also destroying parts of the city, so there’s still 17 km of real-deal tunnels and staircases to wander through.
2. Beaufort Castle
This castle, which boasts an impressive moat, dates from the 11th century and is particularly interesting for the various renovations and extensions that its succession of owners have made. Passing from the Beauforts to the Orleys to the Velbrucks, the castle had to be sold following destruction incurred during the Thirty Year War (1618–48) and Johann Baron von Beck came out as the successful bidder. Governor of the province of Luxembourg on behalf of the Spanish King, von Beck ordered its revamping in the Renaissance style that was all the rage at the time before expiring from battle injuries. Passing into his son’s hands, the castle fell into disrepair and even served as a quarry for a time until Henri Even and Joseph Linckels, evidently thinking it deserving of greater glory, painstakingly restored it.
Built between the 11th and 14th centuries, Vianden Castle features Gothic, Renaissance and Romanesque style architecture and exists as one of the largest fortified castles west of the Rhine. As is generally the fate of all Luxembourg’s castles at some stage, the castle fell into disrepair from the 17th century, helped none by a buyer’s decision to rip off and sell its tiles, windows, doors and furniture. Restoration began seven years later when the King bought Vianden back, and these days the castle ranks as one of Europe’s most important historical monuments.
Relatively small and modest in comparison to many of Luxembourg’s other castles, Esch-sur-Sûre is cleverly constructed on a neat bend of the River Sûre. The fortress is really only approachable from one direction – which rendered it pretty difficult to attack. A charming little town soon sprung up around it, and strolling along its riverside boulevards by evening with the illuminated ruins in the background makes for a very pleasant experience indeed.
5. Wiltz Castle
Don’t be thinking Luxembourg’s castles are all just about history, rubble, lords and dungeons – because there’s also Wiltz. Sure, the castle’s past may follow the usual tune – built, defended, defeated, deteriorated, restored – but nowadays it plays host to an annual music festival and houses the National Museum of Brewing. So when it comes to sheer coolness, you could probably say that Wiltz is king of the castles.