The oldest town in Luxembourg

The first town to be formed in Luxembourg was here at Echternach, after an abbey was constructed in the year 700. It’s a great place to see some history.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


Echternach, Luxembourg

As I made my way across Luxembourg, walking the entire country from north to south, I had a chance to see the variety it has to offer.

The capital, Luxembourg City, has a modern feel in some of the more commercial regions… but here in Echternach, just thirty kilometres away, you can get the best sense of the history of Luxembourg from the country’s oldest town.

The woman in the photo below is walking down the side of the Echternach Abbey towards the stairs which lead to the crypt. The sun shines through the stain-glassed window and is caught on the stone tiled ground… right on to the spot where the town was founded.

The first abbey opened here in the year 700 and it was that which brought people to settle here on the bank of the Sauer River.

Echternach, Luxembourg, oldest city in Luxembourg

The original church was lost in time and the building that stands here today is just the latest in a series of churches which have been built (and then destroyed). The current one was constructed in 1953.

Echternach, Luxembourg, oldest city in Luxembourg

Although the lights inside the church glisten with colour and energise the bland walls and floor, there’s a dullness to the sky outside today. Still, you can’t easily darken the intricate and beautiful details of the design and architecture of Echternach.

In the historic part of the town, where I took all these photos, you can see the Baroque style in many of the buildings.

This is the outside of the church, officially known as the Basilica of St Willibrord, which is considered to be the most important religious building in the country.

Echternach, Luxembourg, oldest city in Luxembourg

And just next door is the old abbey, which is used these days as a high school and has a small (and rather unimpressive) museum in the basement.

Echternach, Luxembourg, oldest city in Luxembourg

The courtyard around the abbey is protected by these wings.

Echternach, Luxembourg, oldest city in Luxembourg

And just over the road is a garden called the ‘Orangery’. It was built in the 1700s and, at the peak, had more than 400 fruit trees in it.

Echternach, Luxembourg, oldest city in Luxembourg

Looking back towards the basilica from the Orangery, you can appreciate the careful attention given to the landscaping by architect Leopold Durand – including the central water basin.

Echternach, Luxembourg, oldest city in Luxembourg

Some statues remain in the Orangery – these feet give away just a few inches. At one point, though, there were a lot more all through the garden and towards the abbey. They seem to have just disappeared.

Echternach, Luxembourg, oldest city in Luxembourg

And finally, just across from the church, is a quaint authentic Luxembourg cafe. A perfect place to rest and have a coffee before we continue on the march across the country.

Echternach, Luxembourg, oldest city in Luxembourg


There’s only a small selection of places to stay in Echternach but most travellers will find something that suits.


A large modern building, the Youth Hostel Echternach is great for backpackers and for families.


Slightly out of town, B&B Alferweiher is a quiet and homely spot with wonderful hosts.



Recently renovated and in the city centre, Hotel Le Postillon has comfortable and quiet rooms of different sizes.


Surrounded by a private park and woods, Hotel Bel Air Sport & Wellness has excellent dining and is a beautiful place to relax.

24 thoughts on “The oldest town in Luxembourg”

  1. For some reason Echternach sounds to me vaguely like the name of a cheese – so I’m already sold. But also I love all these buildings! It seems to be a good town to wander around in – manageable, too. And all the pictures are really good, despite the “dullness to the sky”:) Cool post!

    • Ha ha. Would you like another slice of Echternach? Hmmm… it works, now you mention it. This could be our grand retirement plan. We will buy a dairy in Luxembourg and make a new type of cheese? Nein?

    • I don’t think you would regret a trip there. Especially in the spring, perhaps. If you make a weekend of it, you could go for a long hike through some of the more interesting areas in the east of the country.

    • It does help when the city is so pretty already. I find Europe and the weather to be quite interesting – there are a lot of dreary days (even in summer) but the cities and the countryside can always come alive.

    • It’s the kind of place that you can pop in to for the day, for a couple of days, or even for a week or more. It’s a really cute country and it’s worth taking the time to see a few different things if possible. I get the feeling many people just see the capital or one of the smaller places.

  2. A wonder place to visit stayed in luxenbourg three months. Free transportation bus or train. People were very nice very different from Germany. Echternach Was a beautiful place full of charm can’t miss destination .

  3. Notice that “Lux” doesn’t mean deluxe or anything like that. It’s from a very old word “Luxien” or something like that, which meant “little”…of course.


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