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Geography & Climate
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is located in the heart of Western Europe between Belgium, Germany and France. The Grand Duchy has two natural regions : the Oesling in the north and the Guttland (literally the Good Land), which includes the Moselle valley in the east and the Minette coalbasin in the south.
The country covers an area of 2 586 sq. km, 1 758 sq. km of which are in the Guttland and the remaining 828 sq. km in the Oesling. Its total population exceeds 530 000.
The City of Luxembourg has a population of around 100 000. Visitors never fail to be surprised by the contrast between the modern upper city, perched on a rocky plateau that is a sheer drop, and the three lower old towns, Grund (the Bottom), Clausen and Pfaffenthal. The European quarter that is home to the European institutions has been spreading over the Kirchberg plateau to the north-east of the city since the 1960s. The City of Luxembourg is at an altitude of 300 m above sea level.
The variety of Luxembourg’s landscapes is one of its main attractions, despite being divided into just two main regions: Oesling and Guttland.
• The Oesling, in the north, is part of the Ardennes massif and borders Germany’s Eifel plateau. This wooded region occupies a third of the country and attracts many tourists. It is also the highest region in Luxembourg, rising to some 560 m (Wilwerdange). The Oesling has a harsh climate and is an area of highland villages, lakes and rivers with oak and pine forests covering its steep slopes. Its main towns are Wiltz, Vianden and Clervaux.
- The Troisvierges plateau, to the north of the Oesling, is mainly arable land and has few forests. It is the coldest and wettest area in Luxembourg.
- The Ardennes plateau, crossed by rivers below the Wiltz basin, is the most typical area of the Oesling. Its landscapes are rich in contrasts of form and colour.
The area where the Oesling and the Guttland meet is one of the country’s foremost agricultural regions thanks to its rich and varied soils.
• The Guttland occupies the south and centre of Luxembourg and forms the rest of the country (68 %). It is mainly open countryside and forests. It has six main regions :
- Luxembourg’s sandstone plateau is the dominating feature of the Guttland. It includes some of Luxembourg’s finest forests and is host to the capital.
- Marly depressions are the most widespread and typical landscapes in the Guttland. Extending to the foot of the dogger hills and Luxembourg sandstone, they are made up of sweeping valleys. More than two thirds of the area are given over to farming.
- The Moselle valley is the most imposing valley in Luxembourg, owing to its size and the variety of its countryside. It is one of the main magnets attracting visitors to the country, largely due to its winemaking activities.
- Petite Suisse (Little Switzerland) or Müllerthal lies to the north of the Moselle valley, on the German border. Its main town, Echternach, is one of the oldest in Luxembourg.
- The Terres rouges (Red Lands) are located to the south of the marly depressions. Here industry has moulded the landscape, iron ore having been extracted from the red land. Its main towns are Esch-sur-Alzette – the second largest in Luxembourg – Dudelange and Differdange.
- The Valley of the Seven Castles is a 24-km area that includes the châteaux of Mersch, Schoenfels and Hollenfels,
the two châteaux of Ansembourg and the châteaux of Septfontaines and Koerich. These castles are set in a landscape of meadows and old villages, making them the perfect settings for many enchanting walks.
Luxembourg does not have a clearly defined climate: it varies between the oceanic climate of the Atlantic zone (small seasonal differences and mild, wet winters) and the continental climate of the Eastern European plains (strong seasonal differences, harsh winters and wet summers). The oceanic influence brings rain in every season, while the continental influence brings a biting dry cold in the winter. The average temperature ranges between 0 °C in January and 17 °C in July. The difference in temperature between the north and south rarely exceeds 2 °C.
The river system
The four largest rivers in the Grand Duchy are the Moselle, Sûre, Our and Alzette. The others are the Mess, Mamer, Eisch, Attert and Wark in the west ; the Wiltz, Clerve and Blees in the north ; and the White Ernz, the Black Ernz, Syr and Gander in the east.
The Pétrusse is a stream that crosses the City of Luxembourg, before flowing into the Alzette. With the exception of the Chiers, which leaves the south-west of the country on its way to the Meuse basin, Luxembourg’s rivers are tributaries of the Rhine basin by way of the Moselle.
The country is divided into three districts (Luxembourg, Diekirch and Grevenmacher), 12 cantons, 116 town council areas (communes) and four constituencies. The district of Luxembourg comprises the cantons of Luxembourg, Capellen, Esch-sur-Alzette and Mersch ; the district of Diekirch comprises those of Diekirch, Clervaux, Redange, Vianden and Wiltz, and the district of Grevenmacher includes those of Grevenmacher, Echternach and Remich. The district commissioners have a monitoring role and act as intermediaries between the government and local authorities.