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Luxembourg has the highest minimum wage in the EU – paying workers a minimum of EUR 1,923 per month.

Luxembourg is one of the safest countries in the world. According to a UN survey, you have less chance of being shot in Luxembourg than in any other country in the world. There are around 1,300 police and just two jails in Luxembourg.

Nearly half of Luxembourg’s workforce commutes to work in Luxembourg from another country. Most non-Luxembourg nationals travelling across the border are French (78,500 workers), Belgians (39,400 workers) and Germans (39,100 workers).

14 things you didn’t know about Luxembourg

Today will see the Duchess of Cambridge head to Luxembourg on her second official solo visit to an overseas country on behalf of the British government. What is she doing and why is she going? Good questions both – but a more pertinent query might be one which asks just what Kate can expect to encounter in this little shard of Europe. Quite a lot, actually – as the following 14 nuggets of information will reveal.

1. It’s one of the least happy countries on Earth, apparently

The annual Happy Planet Index ranks 140 destinations according to «what matters most — sustainable wellbeing for all». GDP takes a back seat; instead it’s all about judging «how well nations are doing at achieving long, happy, sustainable lives». Costa Rica took the top spot last year for the second time; Bottom of the pile was Chad, followed by… Luxembourg, despite it being the country with the second highest per capita GDP in the world.

2. It has a significant, but complicated, red-letter date this week

The Duchess will be dashing to the continent to mark the 150th anniversary of the Treaty of London — one of the agreements which established Luxembourg as a sovereign state in the 19th century. Technically, however, this collision of signatures — which was ratified by Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Prussia, Russia and the UK, as well as Luxembourg — should be called the «Second Treaty of London», as there had been an earlier «Treaty of London» pertaining to Luxembourg’s status in 1839. Add in the fact that Luxembourg had formally emerged from the French Empire at the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, and it becomes clear that its evolution into an independent entity wasn’t clear at all.

The 1867 Treaty of London was put on the table to resolve the «Luxembourg Crisis» — a diplomatic dispute between France and Prussia (ie Germany) as to how strong a military bastion this buffer zone between the two powers should be allowed to be. The answer was «not very strong, thanks», and led to the demolition of some of Luxembourg City’s fortifications. Let’s hope Kate has done her homework — there’s bound to be a test.

3. They eat a lot of meat

Exactly 107.9kg per person per year, on average, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Only the US, Kuwait, Australia and The Bahamas eat more.

4. It has a fair amount in common with the UK

Because Luxembourg is a parliamentary democracy under a monarchy. Its official moniker is the «Groussherzogtum Lëtzebuerg» — ie the «Grand Duchy of Luxembourg». The current head of state is Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg. He’s 62, and has been on the throne for almost two decades — from 1998 as regent, and from 2000 in his own right.

5. It’s bigger than popular opinion believes

There is a tendency to view Luxembourg as a microscopic fragment of the European landmass – when, in fact, at 998 square miles, it is roughly the size of the American state of Rhode Island. Admittedly, Rhode Island is the smallest of the 50 constituent parts of the USA, so that’s an awkward comparison – but Luxembourg is nonetheless quite a lot larger than all those other European countries which are generally included in the Not Very Big Club. It’s a lot larger than Andorra (180 square miles), Malta (122 square miles), Liechtenstein (62 square miles), San Marino (24 square miles), Monaco (0.78 square miles) and Vatican City (just 0.17 square miles). It also has a population of more than half a million (576,249 people). In others words, there is more to Luxembourg than you think.

6. And it is even more European than you assumed

And not just because it has three official languages (French, German, Luxembourgish) and three immediate neighbours (Belgium to the west, Germany to the east, France to the south). Luxembourg is home to Schengen, a village in its south-east – near the tri-point where France, Germany and the duchy meet – which gave its name to the open-borders agreement that makes for checkpoint-free travel across much of the European Union. It was signed in this pretty location – framed by vineyards, on the River Moselle – in 1985.

Luxembourg is quite a lot larger than all those other European countries which are generally included in the Not Very Big Club.

7. It has a very lovely capital…

This prettiness extends to Luxembourg City, which has retained some of the appearance and aura of what was once a formidable European stronghold. It was effectively founded in the 10th century by Count Siegfried I, Luxembourg’s first ruler — who took a cluster of Roman ruins, and sparked their transformation into a swarthy armed citadel. Although some of the battlements were torn down as part of the 1867 treaty which defanged the duchy, enough of their magnificence lingers for the city to have earned Unesco status. In 1994, its «Old Quarter and Fortifications» were added to the Unesco World Heritage honour list, hailed as «a fine example of military architecture spanning several centuries».
The city has earned Unesco

8. …in a beautiful location

Some of Luxembourg City’s visual appeal can be pinned to its geography. Remarkably for a place which is often dismissed as a star pupil of flat, faceless European bureaucracy, the duchy’s capital occupies a high bluff above not one but two rivers — the Pétrusse and the Alzette. Together, these waterways are responsible for a gorge, up to 230ft (70m) deep in sections, which has seen the city develop on several levels.

Walking around the centre can be surprisingly tough on the legs, with staircases and slopes rearing up as challenges to the visitor. There are bridges too. The Pont Adolphe is arguably the most impressive, arching its broad back across the Pétrusse, with a drop of 138ft (42m) falling away below.

9. It punches above its weight when it comes to the Nobel Prize

Luxembourg has produced a pair of Nobel Prize winners (Jules A. Hoffmann and Gabriel Lippmann, of course). That puts it third on the list of prize winners per capita.

Most Nobel prize winners per capita

  1. Faroe Islands – 207 per 10m residents
  2. St Lucia – 108
  3. Luxembourg – 35
  4. Sweden – 31
  5. Iceland – 30
  6. Switzerland – 30
  7. Norway – 25
  8. Denmark – 25
  9. Austria – 25
  10. United Kingdom – 20

10. It has a cathedral with a famous name

That name being «Notre Dame». To be truthful, this doughty church cannot match the airs and graces of its Parisian «sibling», but its mixture of baroque and gothic architectural stylings make it an intriguing landmark, elegant pillars rising to vaulted ceiling. It owes its split personality to the three centuries it took to complete it. The cornerstone was laid in 1613, but the last phase of construction was not finished until 1938 — just in time for the World War that is remembered in its cemetery. Here, you find one of three versions of Le Prisonnier Politique, a work in bronze by Lucien Wercollier — a Luxembourg-born sculptor who was imprisoned in the Hinzert concentration camp (just over the border in Germany) for refusing to kowtow to Nazi demands for «Aryan art». A striking creation, it shows a slightly stooped, emaciated figure, with its hands apparently tied behind its back.

11. And a restaurant with very long wine list

Restaurant Chiggeri in Luxembourg City holds the Guinness World Record for longest wine list: 1,746 different labels at the last count.

12. There’s lots of great contemporary art

Culture vultures can find a fair amount to detain them in Luxembourg City. MUDAM, the city’s main modern art museum (Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean; mudam.lu) is a case in point — an innovative institution slotted into the carcass of the onetime Fort Thüngen (part of the old walls). It focuses on 20th and 21st century creativity, showcasing more than 100 artists, including Andy Warhol and the German photographer Thomas Struth — in a building which was designed by the feted Chinese-American architect I. M. Pei. Similarly alluring, the Galerie d’Art Contemporain «Am Tunnel» (see lcto.lu) trains an expert eye on important artistic figures of recent decades — including Luxembourg lensman Edward Steichen, a pioneer in fashion photography in the early 20th century. That it does so from within a tunnel in the defunct fortifications only adds to its aesthetic.

13. Its main square is a compact delight

The Place d’Armes is the focal point of both the duchy and the city — a small square fringed by cafes, eateries and the gentle prospect of quiet summer afternoons where there is nothing more on the to-do list than a bottle of rosé. The bandstand in the middle hosts regular musical performances. And there are markets too — the «flea» variety held on the second and fourth Saturday of every month; the twinkly Christmas variety, in December.

14. It is surprisingly accessible

The duchy has its own international air hub – Luxembourg Findel Airport, which lurks four miles east of the city. This is served by British Airways (ba.com) from Heathrow, by easyJet (easyjet.com) from Gatwick, by Flybe (flybe.com) from Birmingham and Manchester, and by the Luxembourg national carrier Luxair (luxair.co.uk) from London City. It’s weekend mini-break territory, basically. Further details at visitluxembourg.com.