Everyone knows the "Place d'Armes", "Plëss d'Arem" or the '"Plëss" - but where did the name come from?
The "Plëss d'Arem", as the '"Place d'Armes" is named in Luxembourgish, is part of the capital's pedestrian zone in the city centre. Surrounded by cafés, restaurant terraces, shops and offices arranged around a band stand, the leafy square is overseen by the "Cercle Cité" administrative building and regularly hosts musical performances, as well as the traditional Christmas market.
The square dates back to the 17th century, when Dutch governor Comte de Monterey collaborated with the military engineer Louvigny in order to strengthen Luxembourg's fortification walls, resulting in the demolition of some 95 houses in the lower city. The residents of these houses were moved to accommodation in the upper city, replacing the Franciscan and Jesuit gardens. The Place d'Armes was inaugurated on 10 August 1671, along with the new streets built around it. The central square, which was bisected by a tree-lined avenue in the past, was used for military purposes until the 19th century. At one end of the square stood the former German main guard, built in 1827 and demolished in 1902, when it was replaced by the building now housing the Cercle Cité. Up until that point, civilians were forbidden from the area outside the main guard. The square was monitored by guard soldiers.
Opposite the guard stood a house belonging to the military governor, with the empty space in between the two buildings used for the German army's military parades. Until 1867, there was also a well in the square, dug in 1741 to supply drinking water to the fortress. Nowadays, the well shaft is still there, but covered by a remembrance plaque.
After the German troops withdrew from the Grand Duchy, the guard was taken over by the Luxembourg hunting battalion, followed by the police and the fire brigade settling in the building, until it was demolished in 1902. The guardroom was purchased by Joseph Heintz-Michaelis, son of the founder of the Heintz Van Landewyck tobacco factory, who had it rebuilt near the factory's premises in Hollerich.
The first bandstand was constructed in 1875, where a concert tradition was quickly established by the garrison band, the capital's marching bands, and company orchestras belonging to the Mercier champagne producers and the Paul Wurth manufacturing business. It was replaced by a larger and more prestigious bandstand in 1936.
Throughout much of the 20th century, the quiet square was used as a car park, until it was completely closed to traffic in 1969. A pedestrian zone was established around the area, linking Rue Chimay (Dräikinneksgaass) with Rue du Curé (Paschtoueschgaass). The traditional businesses and institutions around the square, such as the Beffort printhouse, Café Jentgen, Glod-Volz grocer's or the Pharmacie de la Licorne were gradually replaced by restaurants, hotels, cafés and fast-food chains.
These days, the Place d'Armes is an integral focal point of the upper city centre, providing a meeting spot for locals and tourists alike, as well as a popular location for concerts of all kinds. From March to October, a flea market takes place there every other Saturday, followed by a used book fair in the autumn, and the ever-popular Christmas market in winter.