With its grand medieval residences, ancient abbeys and nature trails suited to the energetic and lazy, the duchy has much to offer visitors THE GRAND DUCHY of Luxembourg is steeped in history, with castles, abbeys and an intriguing network of underground tunnels that were built to defy the Spanish a few hundreds years ago. The country's smallness makes it handy for short breaks and its efficient rail and bus system makes planning a holiday itinerary easy. Hiring a car is also an option in a country that takes only a few hours to traverse. Luxembourg also has plenty of greenery. In fact, two thirds of the country is lush and green, providing the traveller with plenty of walking and mountaineering options. Pit Gelz, a press assistant at Luxembourg's tourist office, suggested the following ideas for a two- to three-day stay. 'I would first of all recommend Vianden Castle, which is in the northeast of the country. It's a very beautiful mediaeval castle, which was recently renovated. 'In August there is a festival [at the castle] for two weeks, where everybody dresses up as they would have done in mediaeval times. It's great fun and very interesting.' A medieval buffet will be served in the castle on Saturday night August 6 (reservations are required), while a medieval market will be held in upper Vianden town on the weekend of August 13 and 14. Vianden castle was built on a hill between the 11th and 14th centuries. Virtually a pile of rubble by 1974, it has since been restored to its former glory, with few changes from the days when it welcomed kings and queens from the royal houses of Europe. Today, it stands as one of the finest examples in Europe of a feudal residence of the Romanesque and Gothic periods. Mr Gelz said people could take a look at the capital and then head north to the castle. Luxembourg city in the south of the country has several Unesco World Heritage sites. 'The old fortifications of the city are all classified under Unesco,' Mr Gelz said. 'You can see the ruins of the fortifications, stone bridges, and the little tunnels under the city used to pass messages during the Spanish occupation.' Visitors can take a guided tour of the tunnels to experience what it must have been like for the Luxembourgers under siege. 'You can see the old cannons, and how the people lived. The tunnels are also under Unesco protection,' Mr Gelz said. You can jump on and off buses on a one- or two-hour tour of the historical sites of the city or just to soak up the atmosphere of the place with a gentle stroll down cobbled streets. Despite being a country with a rich heritage, Luxembourg is also an important financial centre, as exemplified in its many modern buildings of glass and steel. Along with the main city and Vianden in the north, there is the old town of Echternach, with heritage to appeal to the history buff, plus water sports on a lake that will provide a variety of outdoor pursuits for those looking for more energetic pursuits. Echternach is a popular weekend destination of many residents of Luxembourg, who head for the hiking trails or a tour of the mediaeval abbey during their free time. 'If there's good weather you have to go to Echternach,' Mr Gelz said. He often goes there with friends for a barbecue. 'It's a great place for walks, as are many areas of Luxembourg, because it is so green. 'The paths are suitable for everyone from the mountaineer to the elderly out for a Sunday stroll. 'We also have an area called Little Switzerland which has, as the name suggests, little mountains,' Mr Gelz said. Also known as Mullerthal, or the Muller Valley, the area boasts greenery that is virtually unique in Europe due to a climate that maintains almost 100 per cent humidity all year round. There are also weird and wonderful rock formations in the area left over from the ice age. Their strange outcrops and winding creeks provide an almost fairytale setting with stories of caves, people and other creatures who lived and died there, such as princesses, elves and, a little more eerily, the bogeyman that no fairytale or legend would be complete without. Vianden Castle, which is part of Little Switzerland, is situated in an area of stone bridges, cascading waterfalls and meandering river valleys overlooking a rocky outcrop.