Vianden chairlift
© Pancake! Photographie

The Good Life An uplifting experience in Vianden

5 minutes

Floating on a journey through time

Story summary

  • A ride on the chairlift in Vianden is like travelling back in time, reliving memories of past adventures.
  • The chairlift offers magnificent views over the landscape and Vianden Castle.
  • In Vianden you can follow in the footsteps of the writer Victor Hugo.
  • The dam wall on the edge of the town is home to a unique work of art.

A ride on the chairlift in Vianden is like travelling back in time. Slowly floating, gently swaying, machinery softly rattling. At the top, visitors can enjoy a spectacular view of the town and castle. 

I’m standing in front of the ticket office at the valley station in Vianden. Further ahead, two chairs clatter around the corner. They are silver-grey, simple and surprisingly small. That’s exactly how they were back when I learnt to ski. I was just three years old when I sat on one for the first time, on my father’s lap.

It’s exciting! We climb higher, only a thin bar separates us from tumbling down onto the moun­tain. At the same time your gaze wanders over the breathtaking landscape, your nose gets colder the higher you go, and you feel free, filled with happiness, a little excited and secure at the same time.

Later, over the years, chairlifts have become futuristic, all-round oases of well-being. Padded to the hilt, heated, and with streamlined hoods to protect against snow and storms. Sometimes, just occa­sionally, I’ve sat in one of these high-tech armchair lifts, with seven other mountain friends sheltered from the weather and seated on cushions, and quietly missed the old days. The wobbles. The thrills. And now, here in Vi­anden, it’s all coming back to me on Luxembourg’s only chairlift!

The narrow alleyways, the Gothic churches, the outer wall with its fortified towers - every year, thousands of visitors are drawn to the pretty medieval old town of Vianden, situated at the foot of the mighty, restored castle.

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Mint a coin for luck!

In front of me, two tourists buy their tickets for the trip to the lofty heights of Vianden. Should I quickly have a two-cent coin pressed into a souvenir medal? As with other places that attract visitors, there is also a minting machine here. Insert a coin, add a second coin for payment, turn the crank and you have a copper-coloured souvenir with Vianden Castle on it. Of course you have to do it – it’s simply part of the ultimate tourist experience! I slide the freshly minted coin into my wallet.

A few steps further on, I’m stand­ing on a yellow circle with an ar­row pointing to the lift-off area. A nice young woman waves me over, directs me where to stand, pushes the chair under my buttocks, and off I go! Up towards the summit, just me, the sun and a sense of nostalgia.

I float over houses, the river, a miniature golf course that also reminds me of the past, and glide slowly over gardens in my chair. It goes slowly, very slowly. My gaze wanders calmly. Swinging is forbidden – just like on the ski lifts. Below me in the shade are children in a playground.

Just don't drop your phone!

We cross the Our river. I take a photo, tensing up at the thought that my smartphone could fall off at any time and sink into the water of the river. I hold on tight.

Soon I’m hovering over modern houses and forest. I spot a few hikers from above. And further up, diagonally to the left, sits Vianden Castle. The sun is intense. Next time I’ll have to wear a hat. Shortly before the exit, the path becomes steep and I see flowers blooming below. The machinery squeaks and the seat jumps as cables are tugged through the pulley. At the end of the ride, a sign on one of the poles reads: “Please smile in 50 metres!”

And then, bam! A photo is taken. You can buy the photo once you get off - again with friendly help to avoid accidents. I buy the photo, of course, because I want the whole experience. It comes in a small cardboard presenta­tion cover. I can only pay for it in cash - also old school! While rummaging through the coins in my purse, I come across my cop­per coin again. It’s delightful!

Victor Hugo Literary Museum

Vianden © Pancake! Photographie

At the top, I enjoy a cool Coke and soak up the fantastic views all around me. The castle towers to the right and beckons. The path up there is rocky, crosses slate and winds through the forest; it looks wild in places and is impressive. You definitely need sturdy shoes here. I enjoy the impressive castle from afar. I’m not going to visit it today. I climb back down to the town for the last two stops on my journey.

The narrow streets of Vianden are charming. People smile in the sunshine. Like them and now me, the famous writer Victor Hugo once strolled through these streets. He was politically persecuted because at the end of the 19th century he protested against the French government for shooting at its own people during riots. He found his self-chosen and secret exile in Vianden, having already fallen in love with Vianden as a traveller.

Vianden town
© Pancake! Photographie

At the end of the walk, cross the bridge from the castle into the town.

With sand and coffee grounds

The great Victor Hugo is re­membered, among other things, in the name of a restaurant and hotel which looks out over the river and, of course, the house where he lived for a few weeks.

It was here that he wrote a poem dedicated to the city and at the same time to the suffer­ing of children in Paris. But he also created other works. Victor Hugo created around 60 drawings during his time in Luxembourg. I enter the house, which is now a museum, and walk up the stairs to his study. A life-size sculpture sits at his desk, gazing thoughtfully into the distance. His eyes are fixed on Vianden Castle, a landmark which he adored and, of course, immortalised in paintings.

Victor Hugo was an original man: he painted and drew sometimes with ink, sometimes even with sand and coffee grounds. He was open to new ideas, inquisitive, loved nature, respected stinging nettles and weeds just as much as cultivat­ed roses. I wonder how often he walked to the castle and whether he would have liked the chairlift. He would probably have enjoyed the journey, discovering new details in the landscape. Special plants, wandering people, drink­ing bottles lost in the forest that can be seen from above.

Vianden dam
© Pancake! Photographie

The metre-high portraits of workers on the dam wall are a “reverse graffiti” artwork by Dusseldorf artist Klaus Dauven.

Vianden Castle is one of the main attractions in the Éislek region. The castle towers mightily over the town. The armoury, crypt, chapel, knights’ hall and many other rooms transport visitors to the Middle Ages.

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Giant portraits on the dam wall

Another art form that fascinated Victor Hugo was photography. If you stroll further around Vian­den, you will discover something that brings past and present to­gether in a wonderfully original way with the help of architecture and photography.

On the outskirts of the town, I walk along the river, past the picturesque cemetery – and suddenly find myself standing in front of the gigantic dam wall of the pumped storage power plant. Emblazoned on the wall are metre-high portraits of the workers who helped build the pumped storage power plant. The portraits are the work of Düssel­dorf artist Klaus Dauven, who painted the photos on the wall with a few helpers and high-pres­sure cleaning equipment, on the initiative of the ViArt ASBL art association and in collaboration with the SEO (Société Electrique de l’Our).

I have to smile. My uncle Walter, a civil engineer from Austria, was one of those who construct­ed the site in the 1950s. For a long time, I’ve wanted to look for a picture of him and the dam in the archives. I think of him again. Travelling with him, perhaps I once made a coin as a child. Coming here to Vianden has been a real journey through time.

Victor Hugo Literary Museum

Vianden © Pancake! Photographie

The thinker picks up his pen, looks into the distance, gazes at the castle, then writes a line of poetry or prose.


  • The chairlift takes visi­tors 440 metres above the Our valley. During the summer season from April to the end of October it runs daily starting at 11am. At the top station, visitors can enjoy snacks and drinks before making their way down on foot.
  • Fancy a longer hike around Vianden in the beau­tiful Éislek in the north of Luxembourg? Check out the Éislek Pied circular hiking trails. Choose from different distances and levels of diffi­culty. What they all have in common are fantastic views and peaceful places to take a break.
  • Follow in the footsteps of the great writer Victor Hugo by visiting the house where he lived for several months in exile in Vianden. Here you will find his writ­ing as well as drawings and paintings.
3 results
© Travel With Bender
with theLuxembourgCard
Chairlift Vianden
Fly over Vianden by chairlift
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© Visit Éislek, Visit Éislek
Éislek Pied
Éislek Pad Vianden
Distance: 9,25 km
Duration: 3:15 h
Difficulty: medium
Find out more
© Pancake! Photographie
with theLuxembourgCard
Victor Hugo House - Literary Museum
Victor Hugo Museum: follow the traces left by the writer in Luxembourg!
Find out more

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