It pays to stop over in Luxembourg
IT'S relatively easy to overlook landlocked Luxembourg due to its size and relative obscurity.
After all, there are far sexier cities bordering it and beyond like Paris, Brussels or Amsterdam. But if you do skip it, it's your loss.
Luxembourg is the only grand duchy in the world (meaning it's ruled by a duke) and is rich in surrounding natural beauty of mountains and valleys, which travellers can access quickly and easily from the city.
Its size is also an advantage - you can experience most of the major sights in a day or two.
For me, Luxembourg's cachet lies in parts of the old town that are registered Unesco heritage sites. If you're also an atmosphere junkie, this place should definitely be a mandatory stop on your European itinerary.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
A smart way to see most of the city is to do the Hop On Hop Off bus tour (www.sales-lentz.lu), which comes with an audio guide.
Some of the notable stops include the Mudam Museum of Modern Art (www.mudam.lu).
There, you can witness the stunning contemporary architecture of Ieoh Ming Pei, whose works include the glass pyramid entrance of The Louvre in Paris and our very own Raffles City.
If you've got kids with you, take them on the Petrusse Express, a charming little engine train that departs from Place de la Constitution every 30 minutes and is a great way to see the city area without boring the little ones.
If you're a history or museum buff, visit the History Museum of the City of Luxembourg. You'll find the most beautiful examples of modern and old architecture combined, under one roof.
Another must-see is the Bock Casemates in the old city, a promontory and lookout point made up of ruins of the old castle of Count Siegfried, built in AD963.
There's a lot of culinary overlap with neighbouring Germanic, French and Latin cultures, so local food comprises mostly peasant-style dishes such as smoked pork collar and cold meats served with chipped potatoes, sauerkraut and sausages.
We were recommended to have a meal at Mousel's Cantine, a neighbourhood establishment. Mousel, incidentally, is the brand of a popular local beer.
We enjoyed very good classic European dishes there, like beef tartare, veal escalope and possibly the best ever - if also the ugliest - apple pie and cream dessert.
To get there, we had to walk across the city centre, down the valley and through lanes of quaint houses, some by a stream with a mallard and its ducklings dabbling around.
Closer to the city centre, the Chocolate House (http://chocolate.lu/) opposite Place de la Constitution is a delightful cafe to take a mid-morning or afternoon break or even for a light lunch of delicious quiche and salad.
Its chocolate blocks on spoons are to die for and make really good souvenirs as well.
Stick them into a cup of warm milk and when the chocolate melts, you have an excellent hot chocolate.
The chocolate comes in a myriad of concoctions and flavours, such as hazelnut, praline and orange.
The writer is a full-time copywriter who blogs about travel and family at www.travellinginthrees.com