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Due to its small size and determination to retain its natural charm, Luxembourg has an undeniable storybook feel to it. The castles, people from foreign lands, stunning underdeveloped green space, and free-flowing wine also help contribute to the fairy-tale vibe. That being said, there’s more to Luxembourg than just looking cool. Below, we highlight interesting Luxembourg facts that may just surprise you.
It’s a Tiny Country
It may be significantly bigger than other European micro-countries like Vatican City, Liechtenstein, and Monaco, but Luxembourg is still somewhere between small and minuscule. In terms of area, Luxembourg is in the top 20 of the smallest countries in the world. It would take about one to two hours to drive completely across the country, depending on the route. Its population isn’t exactly massive either — about 600,000 people live in the entire country. That’s approximately equivalent to the number of people in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Ever Heard of a Grand Duchy?
We’ll admit that we had never heard of a Grand Duchy either. However, it’s Luxembourg’s governmental structure, meaning the head of state is a Grand Duke or Grand Duchess. They are the only nation in the entire world to keep a Grand Duchy. However, the government is run by a Prime Minister, so officially, Luxembourg is a unitary parliamentary democracy headed by a constitutional monarchy.
Bonus Government Fact!
The Prime Minister we previously mentioned is currently Xavier Bettel. Bettel made headlines when he became the first gay European leader to marry while in office after his country passed same-sex marriage reforms, which came into effect in 2015. Worldwide, he was only the third openly LGBT head of government. Bettel was reelected in 2018, reflecting Luxembourg’s progressive ideologies.
Major European Player
It may be small, but Luxembourg has a huge role in European politics. Luxembourg City, the capital of the country, is one of three European Union capitals, the others being Brussels, Belgium and Strasbourg, France. The city is the official seat of the European Court of Justice, which is the highest judicial authority in the EU. Luxembourg has been a founding member of the United Nations, European Union, NATO, and Benelux — a political and economic union between them, the Netherlands, and Belgium.
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The Capital Has Been Recognized by UNESCO
Luxembourg City is a strikingly beautiful place to visit. The highlight of the city (and the feature on all the postcards) is the Fortress of Luxembourg. The official fortifications that were, for a long time, one of the most strategic places in Europe were torn down as a part of the Treaty of London. However, the area’s foundations are still intact. Much of the historical city falls within what would have been the old fortress. This area in 1994 was named an official UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Old Quarters and Fortifications of Luxembourg City is the country’s only representative.
Anyone or anything from Luxembourg is called either Luxembourgish or Luxembourger. And we get it, that may not be a groundbreaking fact but it made us giggle.
Luxembourgers have a distinct advantage when traveling. The Luxembourgish passport is the 5th best passport to carry as it allows for visa-free or visa-upon-arrival access to 186 countries around the world. They are tied with the US, UK, Portugal, Austria, Norway, and the Netherlands.
Not Exactly a Sporting Dynasty
Luxembourg has participated in 33 Olympic games, which will soon equate to 120 years of Olympic history. And in total, they have four medals to show for it. Only one was gold, which went to runner Josy Barthel in 1952 for the 1500m. Nowadays, the country’s national stadium bears his name. Meanwhile, their soccer team has never qualified for any major tournament.
Luxembourg sells more alcohol than any other country in Europe, per capita. However, much of these sales go to people from other countries, so that doesn’t necessarily mean Luxembourgers are the biggest party-goers in Europe. Luxembourg also has a thriving wine scene, as there are many vineyards in the areas outside of the cities. The Crémant de Luxembourg, a sparkling wine, consistently wins awards in European competitions.
About 45-50% of Luxembourg’s entire population is comprised of foreign residents or immigrants. The largest percentage of expats come from Portugal, but over 170 nationalities are represented in the tiny country. Also, a large percentage of the workforce cross Luxembourgish borders as a daily commute, coming from countries like Belgium and France, although French and German are the most spoken languages. And yes, there is the Luxembourgish language as well.
It is customary in Luxembourg to bring flowers or chocolate to someone’s home when invited over. But, be sure to know that it also tradition to bring an odd number of flowers — and yet, never 13 flowers because that is bad luck.
World Economic Leader
In terms of per capita, Luxembourg has the highest GDP in the entire world. This also helps to contribute to having the second highest minimum wage. Luxembourg even has their hands in the tech boom as Skype has the corporate headquarters in Luxembourg. Other major companies like Amazon and Paypal have their European headquarters in Luxembourg City thanks to the country’s economic stability and its status as a tax haven for corporate entities. We have to wonder if their role in tech development will interfere with the country’s motto, “We want to remain what we are”.
The Flag of Luxembourg
Look familiar? That’s because the flag of Luxembourg is identical to the Netherlands, except that the blue and red stripes are a shade lighter.