This weekend, Hayley and I celebrated our three year wedding anniversary. Both of us have lived in the Netherlands for a few months and we are already missing the mountainous terrains, hiking and scrambling over rocks, so to treat ourselves we headed south to the Vianden in the Luxembourgish Ardennes to cure our Mountain Withdrawal Symptoms! The Ardennes is a mountain range that covers part of Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, and France.
Wandering Around Vianden
On the very morning, we headed out to the town centre on foot and we started to follow the route that a man at the campsite told us to go. However, we soon spotted a mountain footpath across the road. Our instinct kicked in and headed towards it. In fact, the mountain withdrawal symptoms got so bad, we just headed off to the first random path before working out the best route! After 5 minutes into the hike, we decided it was sensible to look at the map and worked out the route. It turned out that we were on the right way!
While we were in the town, we took the opportunity to explore many of the historical streets and their old brick houses. Walking down these streets, it felt like we travelled back in time to somewhere in the 1800s. As we walked closer to the town centre, we also spotted the castle afar on the hill. It was so imposing that you wouldn’t miss it!
An interesting fact about this town was that Victor Hugo, a famous French poet and the author of Les Miserables, took political refuge from France because he spoke against death penalties, social injustice, as well as demanding universal suffrage. However, he was persecuted when Napoleon III seized power in 1851, and he had to take refuge in other countries, and one of the places he stayed was Vianden, for which he felt in love with. One can easily see why.
Of course, one shouldn’t miss the lovely bakeries and delis that are dotted on the streets. The bakery we went to made the most lovely French pastries, cakes and bread; and the deli produced very delicious local smoked hams and salamis. As soon as we walked in, the lovely smell of the cured meat hit all our senses! All I can say the shop was a godsend to all the meat lovers.
Exploring the Castle & Finding Mythical Creatures
The main attraction of the town is no doubt the castle. As we walked up the hill towards the castle, it became evident that many people would go there for a day trip on a bus tour. In fact, it was a total contrast to the tranquillity of the town below. While I’m not saying that it was as bad as China, nevertheless you would notice the increased number of tourists.
The castle itself was first built for the Count of Vianden in the 11th century during the period when the Roman Empire ruled over the lands. Each subsequent owners of the expanded the size of the castle and built additional rooms for their leisure, water tower for the town and various defensive walls. Back then, there was only one bridge that connected one side of the valley to another. The castle is strategically located to oversaw the crossing and made sure the all the merchants who passed the town paid a fee for moving goods.
It was also interesting to hear that William the Silent (William I, Prince of Orange) unilaterally rescinded his support to Spain as a ruler of the land and fought against the Spanish to made Netherlands independent. The Netherland back then covered the present-day territories of Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. William the Silent was later assassinated by Spain in the city of Delft, Netherlands in 1985.
The twist of history meant that the later life of the castle slowly fell into disrepair. In 1820, the William I King of Netherlands sold the castle to a local merchant, who then sold the bricks and tiles of the castles piece by piece. In the late 1970s, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg ceded the castle and passed it to the state with view to restoring the castle to the former glory. In fact, many of what we saw today we painstaking restored by the historians.
- Vianden is located on the River l’Our and on the border with Germany.
- While there are public buses that will take you there, it is best to hire a car (as we did) and drive to Vianden. While many hire car companies in continental Europe will allow you to drive their hire car across international borders without additional supplement, they will, however, place restriction on which countries you are allowed or not allowed you drive to.
- We pitched up at Camping de L’Our. But there are also other campsites available within walking or short driving distances of Vianden. Many of them wouldn’t require prior reservations. Just turn up and ask for a spot. That said, it is worth phoning up in advance especially if you are taking your camper van.
- Entrance fee to the Castle is €6 per person and you can also rent an audio guide for €2. I highly recommend it as it gives very good explanations of the history of the castle.
Have you visited a castle before? Where did you go? We would love to hear your experience and get some inspiration for our next trip. Comment Below!
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