Luxembourg may be one of the world’s smallest countries, but there is a lot the rest of the world doesn’t know about it! From its award-winning wine and food to its ancient network of underground tunnels, there is much more to Luxembourg than meets the eye. Here’s a list of interesting facts about this tiny European nation that may surprise you.
Luxembourg has three official languages
Luxembourgers are typically tri-lingual, with the country having three official languages: German, French, and Luxembourgish or Lëtzebuergesch, which has much the same syntax and grammar as German. Students in Luxembourg are taught all three languages in school, being first taught in Luxembourgish, then in German in primary school, followed by the French curriculum in secondary school. While German and French are often used for administrative purposes, Luxembourgish is generally used in conversations.
The cuisine is a fusion of French and German
Luxembourg’s cuisine is heavily influenced by both French and German food traditions. Local delicacies include potato pancakes (gromper keeschelche), plum tart (quetsche tort), and green bean soup with potatoes, bacon and onion (Bouneschlupp). Luxembourg’s national dish of Judd mat Gaardebounen is smoked pork collar soaked in water overnight and boiled with vegetables and spices. It is often served with a side dish of potatoes and broad beans, and a bottle of the beer from Luxembourg, the Diekirch.
Luxembourg has the highest rate of car ownership in the world, with an average of 647 car owners for every 1,000 inhabitants. This is far from surprising when considering that nearly half of the country’s workforce are cross-border workers from Belgium, France, and Germany.
The first EU leader to marry a same-sex partner
Luxembourg’s prime minister, Xavier Bettel, was the first European Union leader to marry someone of the same sex when he married his partner, Gauthier Destenay in 2015. The previous year, 83 per cent of the population voted in favour of same-sex marriage.
Crémant de Luxembourg, a high-quality sparkling wine, won 22 gold medals in the Crémant Awards in 2015. It is produced in the wine region of Moselle in a traditional way, similar to Champagne. The wine goes through two fermentation cycles, with the second requiring nine months of maturing in the bottle. A full list of the most recent award-winning varieties can be found here. While Bordeaux and Burgundy in France, also produce this type of wine, Luxembourg has them beat with the most awards won.
It has the second-highest GDP in the world
From an economic standpoint, Luxembourg has the world’s second-highest GDP per capita, just behind Qatar, at nearly €93,000. It also boasts the highest minimum wage in Europe, and the second-highest in the world, at €1,923 per month. Unemployment in Luxembourg is the lowest in all of Europe and has been for 40 years.
Luxembourg’s National Day is celebrated annually on 23 June and is meant to recognise the birthday of Grand Duchess, Charlotte. However, her actual birthday was 23 January but the date was changed and celebrations were shifted to the summer for the more favourable weather conditions. Now, National Day is celebrated throughout the country with fireworks, live music and other outdoor festivities.
Nearly half of Luxembourg’s population are immigrants
Of Luxembourg’s entire population of 525,000 inhabitants, 43 per cent consist of foreign residents. Luxembourg boasts the highest percentage of expatriates of all European countries and is home to people from over 170 different nationalities. Portuguese residents constitute the largest percentage of the foreign population, at over 15 per cent.
There is a 17km-long underground tunnel network deep beneath the capital city. At some points, the tunnels penetrate up to 40 metres inside the rock face. The tunnels and fortresses were originally built in 1644 and earned Luxembourg the title of “Gibraltar of the North”. The Bock Casemates are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and remain open to the public for guided tours from March until September.
The restaurant with the world’s longest wine list is in Luxembourg City. Restaurant Chiggeri has a wine list of over 1,746 labels which landed it a coveted spot in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2009.