© Pancake! Photographie

The Good Life Faces of Fëschmaart

4 minutes

A bespoke neighbourhood

The fish market or “Fëschmaart” has always been a lively merchant district. It began with fish and spices, and continues today with handmade goods made to measure. The Fëschmaart is a village in the city, shaped and brought to life by dedicated merchants and restaurateurs.

Sylvie Thoma has been holding the fort at the “Fëschmaart” for over 40 years. She greets passersby with a friendly “Moien!” while adjusting a small keychain outside her souvenir shop Butteck Um Fëschmaart. The keychain opens like a fanfold and shows the most beautiful views of the Grand Duchy. Its design probably hasn’t changed since the 1980s. That’s what makes Sylvie’s shop so delightful. Here you’ll find true vintage items that will stir up memories of travels with parents and grandparents.

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The village in the city

“I have many regular customers and even mail them souvenirs from Luxembourg,” says Sylvie. She has also been making “Péckvillchen”, the famous birdshaped, ceramic whistles, since 1982. Every year with a  different motif. She sells the whistles year-round and of course also at the traditional pottery market “Emaischen” that takes place on Easter Monday in the old city. Sylvie loves Luxembourgish traditions. She considers selling Luxembourgish souvenirs an honour, a perspective she already had in her mid-20s when she opened her shop here in 1979. “‘Fëschmaart’ has always been a village in the city. That’s what makes it special,” she explains. People know each other and chat to each other a lot. Even the Grand Duke drops in from time to time. “A lovely person. The whole family is wonderful,” she says. 

It’s a hub that attracts people, from politicians to merchants, travellers to locals. It is not far from the casemates, the fortifications carved out of the rock. Formerly the crossroads of two Roman roads, the “Fëschmaart” is part of the istoric centre of the old town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The first markets were held on the forecourt of the Counts Castle over 1000 years ago. The narrow streets were a hub economic and social activity.  Today, the “Fëschmaart” is home to the National Museum of History and Art (Musée National d’Histoire et d’Art – MNHA), the seat of the State Council and St. Michael’s church, which is over a thousand years old.

Mir Wölle Bleiwen Waat Mir Sin Tower Luxembourg City
© LFT - Roman Schonfeld

St. Michael’s old clock

Until 2011 St. Michael’s was home to Franciscan nuns who cared for people in need and were an integral part of the community. Today, St. Michael’s is the oldest church in the city and a source of peace and quiet in an otherwise lively neighbourhood. It blends Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque influences, bearing witness to the city’s colourful history. The entrance features an eye-catching display case with an impressive clockwork on a wooden base. This clock ticked and chimed in the church tower from 1902 until the mid-twentieth century. Visitors can now admire the former mechanical heart of the church up close. “And that’s wonderful, because it’s the only church clock of this size you can see up close in Luxembourg,” says Georges Jungblut, a master watchmaker. Georges and his wife Nadine run a jewellery store in the Fëschmaart district. Commissioned by the Old Town Committee, he spent 400 hours restoring the clock in 2019.

Fëschmaart - St Michael Church
© Pancake! Photographie

Savoir vivre and craftsmanship

Visit Hans Fellner’s gallery to take a journey into the past. Modern Luxembourgish art is displayed in winding nooks and crannies that lead deep into the belly of the city. “Essentially, this is the former geographic epicentre of the fish market,” says Fellner, gallery owner and urban sociologist. It was important to him to balance old and new when he renovated the rooms made of soft sandstone. “Generally speaking, we continuously face and have to grapple with our history here in the old city neighbourhood,” he explains. Next door you’ll find an art gallery run by Alex Reding and his wife Véronique Nosbaum. The art historian and sculptor likes the historic location, which is so lively at the same time. “This place is not only culturally exciting but also beautiful and full of life. There are great restaurants and bistros that are open late into the night,” says the art lover, who also runs a gallery in Brussels.

Fëschmaart Artgallery
© Pancake! Photographie

Stylishly tailored

Fans of classic fashion will find craftsmanship and needlework par excellence at “Chapette”. Latvian-born, Povilas Zaleskis is a tailor, graphic designer and hobby photographer. Since the ten years he has been together with his wife, who works for the EU institutions, Luxembourg is his adopted home. “I love how peaceful it is here. My five children are growing up in an international country and can learn many languages. It’s ideal,” he says. He likes the shop’s concept and simply approached Pascal Zimmer for a job. Simple, neighbourly, village-like.

Across the street, you’ll find interior decorating shop “Création d’Ambiances” that sells beautiful fabrics made to order. Owners Paola Von Habsburg-Lothringen and Marisca de Changy have been running the store for over 15 years, ensuring their customers find the right curtains, lamp shades and upholstery. “We have many regular customers, both in Luxembourg and abroad. We also ship a lot of items,” explains Paola von Habsburg-Lothringen. The spacious workshop upstairs is used to sew and upholster. “All of this happens here, in the centre of the city,” says Paola, proudly. “In this whole street, everything is somehow made to measure,” adds the interior designer, smiling.

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Just like a living room

Hair stylist Vito d’Attoma also loves the local vibe. He was born in Luxembourg but his family is originally from Perugia, Italy. He has spent his entire career in the Fëschmaart district. “The neighbourhood is special. It represents the traditional side of Luxembourg, and the merchants are like family,” he says, wielding a comb.

Across the street, art restorer and owner of vintage café “Kaale Kaffi”, Mustafa Solak agrees. For the Turkish-born art restorer, who studied in Florence, opening this café is a dream come true. “My concept is “vintage and more!” This is a place of fresh perspectives. Many people work or read here during the day. It’s a bit like a living room,” says Mustafa, serving a juicy orange cake. A glance around the room confirms this. And in the glow of the old-fashioned lamps, everyone is smiling.

Wellness and cosy pampering are also à la carte at the Hôtel Parc Beaux-Arts, a small, comfy hotel with around a dozen suites. It is filled with art mainly by Luxembourgish artists. Three townhouses that are over 300 years old were melded into one to form the hotel. “Everything was redone. It was a lot of work,” says owner Marcel Goeres. He is a veteran of the Luxembourg hotel industry, full of passion and humanity. He likes coming up with new ideas to share his love of the country and the city. The Hôtel Parc Beaux-Arts has been a safe haven in the old town since 2005. Come for the inspiring boutique hotel ambiance and warm, genial staff. Marcel Goeres enjoys his “Wäinzoossiss” on a traditional “Old Luxembourg” plate. The well-known white and blue Villeroy & Boch crockery used to be manufactured in the capital’s Rollingergrund neighbourhood. “Tradition is everything,” says Marcel Goeres. “We value local production.”

Fëschmaart Hairdresser
© Pancake! Photographie
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Artistic rejuvenation

The Casino Display is a breath of fresh air. Formerly known as the “Konschthaus Beim Engel”, its origins trace back to the Middle Ages. Today, it is a place for young artists to exhibit their work, from paintings to video installations. “Artists live here,” says Nadina Faljic, associate curator. She shows visitors around the exhibit. Artists-in-residence use the rooms to experiment and explore their artistic skills. What do neighbourhood veterans think of the new art house? “They are mostly taken aback, because they only know it from before the renovation, with old tiles and it was completely different,” says Nadina. But then they realise the joy of what is on: an artistic rejuvenation of the “Fëschmaart” that proves once again that tradition and modernity belong together here.

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Casino Luxembourg - Forum d'art contemporain
© Eric Chenal

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