Happy To Wander
Liechtenstein is a pocket-sized country wedged between Switzerland and Austria with glorious alpine scenery. The Rhine river creates a natural boundary with Switzerland in the west. The country’s entire area measures only 62 square miles, making it the 6th smallest in the world, and it has fewer than 40,000 total inhabitants.
The capital of Liechtenstein is the charming small town of Vaduz, nestled at the base of the mountains, with the royal family’s official residence, Vaduz Castle, perched high above. The largest city is Schaan, and the country is divided into 11 municipalities.
Key facts about Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein gained its independence in 1866 and is a constitutional monarchy that also has a democratic government headed by a prime minister.
The monarchy is ruled by the Prince of Liechtenstein, Hans Adam II, who has four children. Second son Prince Maximilian is married to Princess Angela of Liechtenstein, who is Panamanian born and bears the distinction of being one of only two women of African descent, along with Meghan, Duchess of Windsor, to marry into a reigning European family.
The Liechtenstein flag consists of two red and blue horizontal bands with a gold crown in the upper left representing the Princely Hat. The crown was added in 1937 to avoid confusion with the flag of Haiti.
Some other key facts important for travelers to know include:
-The official currency is the Swiss Franc.
-The official language is German.
-Driving is on the right.
-The official religion is Roman Catholic.
-The electrical current is 230 volts.
Getting to Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein does not have its own airport, with the closest being Zürich and AltenRhein in Switzerland or Friedrichshafen in Germany. Coming by train, the border stations are Buchs and Sargans in Switzerland, and Feldkirch in Austria. Buses connect with these border stations, as there is limited train service within the country itself. From Buchs, the bus trip to Vaduz takes only 10 minutes. An extensive bus network run by LIEMobil connects the country efficiently, and is the best way to get around unless you have your own rental car.
Holidays and events
The nation celebrates its National Day on August 15 with festivities and evening fireworks. Carnival celebrations are held in February.
Other festivals are tied to the seasons and the land, notably the autumn bringing down of the cattle after summer grazing in the higher altitude slopes, with the cattle adorned with bells and flowered headdresses. The fall also brings festivities surrounding the annual grape harvest, known as the Wimmlete. In December there is the Christmas Market in Vaduz. A curiously unique event is the Donkey Festival held in Malbun in August, pitting man against beast as locals try to coax their obstinate animals to finish the course first!
Food and drink
The cuisine draws from its Swiss and German neighbors, but with some uniquely local food such as Kaseknopfle, a pasta-like dumpling with cheese, and rebl, a side dish of cornmeal and semolina.
There are three restaurants currently listed in the prestigious Gault et Milleau Guide, the Restaurant Torkel at the Prince of Liechtenstein Winery just north of Vaduz, the Park Hotel Sonnenhof on a plateau overlooking the capital city, and the Berggasthaus Masescha in the mountains in Triesenberg.
Wine is produced in Liechtenstein, and the best place to visit a vineyard and taste the local wines is at the Prince of Liechtenstein Winery in Vaduz.
Top things to see in Liechtenstein
Despite its small size, Liechtenstein offers a variety of things to do and see.
In Vaduz, the places to look for include:
Vaduz Castle—though the interior is not open as it is the royal family’s residence, you can hike up to admire the castle exterior and its beautiful setting.
Städtle In Vaduz—wander the pedestrian area of the town, plus seek out the interesting and colorful architecture of the Government buildings, including the Parliament and Town Hall, or take a ride on the tourist train for a city overview.
Liechtenstein Art Museum—the country’s museum of modern and contemporary art.
Leichtenstein National Museum—a sweeping collection about the history and culture of Liechtenstein.
Treasure Chamber—a collection of jewels, weapons, and gifts presented to the Princes of Leichtenstein.
Cathedral of St. Florian—a neo-Gothic former parish church that became Vaduz’s cathedral in 1997.
Old Bridge over the Rhine—built in 1901, this is the only covered bridge over the Rhine.
Mitteldorf district with the Red House—explore the charming Mitteldorf quarter and look for the photogenic Red House overlooking vineyards.
Liechtenstein Tourism offers a valuable 24-hour Museum and Adventure Pass which gives you access to 30 attractions plus is valid for bus travel.
Elsewhere in the country, check out the following:
Triesenberg—a quant small alpine town that preserves its own dialect of Walser German, and its Heritage Museum provides insight into the local culture.
Gutenberg Castle—perched above Balzers in the south of the country, Gutenberg Castle allows visits of its chapel and rose garden amidst stunning mountain scenery.
Malbun—the country’s sole winter resort set in the mountains, it offers great skiing or hiking depending on the season.
Ruggeller Riet Nature Reserve—this reserve in the northeast of the country offers a look at the region’s flora and fauna, with opportunities to picnic, bike and take in the scenic surroundings.
Liechtenstein offers several unique outdoor activities, including:
Eagle walk–offered by the Galina Falconry Center in Malbun, the Eagle Walk Tour first takes guests by chairlift into the mountains, then the bird’s trainer lets visitors witness the majestic flight of the Golden Eagle in its home environment on the walk back.
Llama and alpaca trekking—Take a guided hike in the mountains of Triesenberg with your gear stowed on your llama or alpaca companion for the trip.
Top Liechtenstein hikes include the Prince’s Way Hike and the Eschnerberg Trail.
Despite its small size, Liechtenstein offers an interesting diversion to get away from heavily touristed sites in a setting of beautiful Alpine scenery, peaceful meadows and picturesque villages. Plus its charming capital city of Vaduz has a surprising number of cultural attractions. Whether as a day trip, weekend excursion or longer stay, the country repays those visitors who take the time to seek it out.