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6 ways to experience Luxembourg’s industrial heritage

Once the industrial hub of Luxembourg, the Land of the Red Rocks in the southwest has been reclaimed by nature, making it perfect for outdoor adventures. Here's just six ways to explore the area...

Things to do in the Land of the Red Rocks, Luxembourg (Studio Fränk Weber)

The Land of the Red Rocks conjures up a Mars-like terrain, an otherworldly landscape tucked into southwest Luxembourg. The gritty reality tells a tale of Luxembourg’s industrial might, a quest for iron-ore that was mined extensively in the 19th Century.

The abandoned quarries, railways and furnaces, left to nature, only add to the otherworldliness of this glowing red landscape. Much of the industrial heritage has been lovingly restored, making for a fun-packed day of museums, train rides and underground exploration.

Here's just six ways to experience this region of Luxembourg...

1. Explore the Minett Park Fond-de-Gras

Ride the train at Fond-de-Gras (Pulsa Pictures/ ORT SUD)

Ride the train at Fond-de-Gras (Pulsa Pictures/ ORT SUD)

Discover the lost world of Fond-de-Gras, a small valley of woodland and open countryside crammed with industrial heritage. It offers an exciting day out in the Grand Duchy. Visit preserved open-cast mines, forges, workshops, warehouses and offices, along with a 19th Century grocery store.

Ride the steam trains at Minett Park (Claude Piscitelli)

Ride the steam trains at Minett Park (Claude Piscitelli)

Here’s just four ways you can explore the park…

1. Jump aboard the 1900 Train
Climb on board and take a trip into the past. The industrial steam locomotive rattles through the Fond-de-Gras mining valley from Pétange, along eight kilometres of industrial history. 

2Ride the Minièresbunn
The four-kilometre narrow-gauge train links the park with  Lasauvage and Saulnes in France.  Ride through the forest. Plunge into the blackness of an old mining tunnel and find out what it was like to work underground.

3. Cycle the track on a rail-bike
For a different rail experience, cycle through the industrialised countryside on a draisine - a rail-bike. The four-seater rail-bikes follow a three-kilometre track between Fond-de-Gras and Bois-de-Rodange.

4. Discover the past in Lasauvage
A living museum to a long-gone mining community - and still thriving neighbourhood – the village of Lasauvage includes workers’ cottages, a church and school. Stop off at the Espace Muséologique, dedicated to the history of the village along with its wartime resistance.

2. See where past and future collide at Belval

Enjoy industrial heritage at Belval (Paul Schanen / Comité Inspiring Luxembourg)

Enjoy industrial heritage at Belval (Paul Schanen / Comité Inspiring Luxembourg)

An ambitious regeneration project has turned an industrial wasteland into a vibrant hub for artists, entrepreneurs and visitors, the desolate beauty of old steel industry sitting side-by-side with ultra-modern architecture.

After dark, when the new town twinkles with the lights of the residence and business quarters, enjoy a cinema viewing, concert, a fine restaurant meal or late-night shopping.

Climb the 180 steps to one of the blast furnaces, with far-reaching views over to France. Head for the Massenoire Exhibition Hall and see Belval laid out in miniature as a 3D model. Take a guided tour and learn about the industrial heyday of Belval, its decline and thrilling rebirth as a town of the 21st Century.

What makes the regenerated Belval so exciting is the contrast between crude industrial infrastructure and slick, futuristic architecture. Here, abandoned warehouses, great furnaces and a mangle of chutes and pipes share the skyline with glassy tower blocks and state-of-the-art leisure facilities.

3. Discover Esch-sur-Alzette, the European Capital of Culture 2022  

Explore the future European Capital of Culture, Esch-sur-Alzette (Claude Piscitelli)

Explore the future European Capital of Culture, Esch-sur-Alzette (Claude Piscitelli)

These are exciting times for Esch-sur-Alzette. Voted European Capital of Culture 2022, Esch is undergoing an innovative programme of rejuvenation. The town of 35,000 residents (Luxembourg’s second largest settlement) still has all the buzz and excitement of a cosmopolitan city – just 17km from the capital. Explore the streets of architectural elegance, the historic churches and the 15th Century Berwart Tower. Shop-’til-you-drop in Luxembourg’s longest shopping street. Visit the National Museum of The Resistance. Amble through Galgenberg Park with its rose gardens, fountains, waterfall and animal park.

Culture enthusiasts can enjoy theatre, cinema and world-class music concerts, the town home to the Conservatoire de Musique. As Esch prepares for its City of Culture status in 2022, enjoy a host of imaginative and innovative arts programmes at the bohemian Kulturfabrik, a converted abattoir.

4. Learn about the rich mining history

Visit the National Mining Museum in Rumelange ( MNM / LFT)

Visit the National Mining Museum in Rumelange ( MNM / LFT)

With so many museums in the Land of the Red Rocks, you can easily spend days absorbing the rich industrial heritage of the region. At the Museum of Cockerill Mine, you can discover how the miners lived and worked. Transport yourself back in time to the pithead washrooms and the iron forge. Peer down vertical shafts. Explore the museum with its historic photographs and mining artefacts. Sign up for a forging course or book a ticket for one of the special event days.

The nearby National Mining Museum in Rumelange has a train you can take through the opencast mines and into the Langengrund Tunnel. Find out how the iron-ore was extracted. Marvel at the industrial tools and machinery displayed in one of the original tunnels, developed over more than a century of industrial evolution. Feel the hand of history in this shadowy underworld, where miners of grit and fortitude supplied the world’s insatiable desire for steel. And exit the underground museum by train.

With almost half of Luxembourg’s population made up of foreign residents, the Documentation Centre for Human Migrations in Dudelange is an important hub for migration research with its archives, libraries and museums. Visit the Italian quarter created at the end of the 19th Century to serve the steel industry. Wander through this ‘museum without walls’ and lose yourself in the covered passageways and steps that link the distinctive Italianate buildings perched on the terraced hillside.

5. Embark on a mountain bike adventure 

The Land of the Red Rocks is perfect for those who are after a cycling holiday (Pierre Pauquay / LFT)

The Land of the Red Rocks is perfect for those who are after a cycling holiday (Pierre Pauquay / LFT)

 

The copper-coloured ground of the Land of the Red Rocks makes for some brilliant natural cycling tracks. PC Route 8 – Cycle Path de la Terre Rouge - takes road cyclists on a 42km adventure from Bettembourg to Pétange. From the saddle of your bike see how the mining industry has shaped this southwestern region of forest, red canyons and limestone cliffs. One minute you’ll find yourself cycling through barren industrial landscapes of blast furnaces and quarries, the next pedalling through sleepy settlements, nature-filled forests and wildflower meadows.

The churned-up earth and rock, open-cast mines and iron-ore quarries offer the mountain biker plenty of thrills and spills. Slam through red dirt tracks, across uneven forest trails and along rocky escarpments. Test your mettle on the steep ascents and descents.

Check out the Ellergronn Trail with its mineshafts, rusting railway track and abandoned wagons. Enjoy the jumps and drops of the challenging Lalléngerbierg-Gaalgebierg Trail as you negotiate the labyrinth of rough tracks and red sandstone cliffs. Pause to take in the views of the Belval blast furnaces.

There are five challenging RedRock trails of various difficulty that take the mountain biker through an ever-changing landscape.

6. Hit the hiking trails

Hit the many hiking trails in the Land of the Red Rocks (ORT Sud/Pulsa Pictures)

Hit the many hiking trails in the Land of the Red Rocks (ORT Sud/Pulsa Pictures)

With trains to whizz you back to your starting point, the station-to-station walks offer superb linear walks through a richly diverse landscape. Ramble from Kayl Station to Esch through open-cast mines, woodland and nature reserves bursting with wildlife. You can split the walk into two parts: Kayl to Schifflange (8km), then Schifflange to Esch (17km). Alternatively, hike from Dudelange Station to Rumelange. The Highlights of this ten-kilometre walk take in panoramic viewpoints such as the Haard Nature Reserve.

Lovers of geology should try the walk at the Prënzebierg Nature Reserve. Take the two-and-a-half kilometre Giele Botter Geological Trail through the iron-rich open-cast mines. After mining was abandoned here, the scarred and barren red earth slowly returned to nature. Now thick with vegetation, its open-cast mines filled with pond water, the reserve is rich in wildlife.  Look out for deposits of iron-ore and fossils in the red sandstone. Walk the paths along the terraced platforms with magnificent views to France and lose yourself in dense woodland.

Main image: Studio Fränk Weber

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