Guide to Europe’s Microstates

Posted by on May 14, 2013 in Stuff

I’ve always been fascinated with the microstates of Europe: Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City, Malta, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and Andorra, all of them tiny independent countries that somehow managed to survive the wave of unifications which  swept over Europe in past centuries.

While the historical perspective itself is intriguing, there’s much more to discover in each and every one of them. Without exception each of these countries is wealthy and has put this wealth to good use. They all boast some splendid nature and fabulous landscapes, as well as unique attractions to be found nowhere else. They are truly some of Europe’s lesser-known gems which deserve to be explored and enjoyed.

After visiting all of them I’ve reviewed the highlights in the guide below. I’ve also added a section on Gibraltar – not an independent state but still very cool, and a smaller one on the Sovereign Military Order of Malta – lacking territory but by many accounts a sovereign subject of international law.

Click on each link below for the guide’s country sections:

  • Monaco: playground for the rich, great attractions, impeccable parks and gardens, cool city infrastructure and planning, world-class casinos
  • San Marino: incredibly scenic, beautifully-preserved medieval capital, fairy-tale-like towers and castles, cool hiking trails, cool museums
  • Vatican City: the world’s smallest independent state and a very unique place, the gorgeous Vatican Gardens, fascinating museums, the magnificent Saint Peter’s Basilica and Sistine Chapel
  • Malta: rich 5,000-year old history, diverse cultural influences, Valletta – a gem of a capital city, fortifications of the Knights of St. John, intense blue waters and spectacular scenery, relaxed atmosphere
  • Luxembourg: gorgeous old town in Luxembourg City, cool bridges and topography, Casemates Bock defensive tunnels dug into rock, excellent food
  • Liechtenstein: nice little capital city filled with striking modern sculptures and art installations, the hike to Schloss Vaduz, beautiful countryside, scenic mountains
  • Andorra: charming mountainous country, beautiful capital city, cool stone-built historical buildings, scenic winding roads, the world’s longest nature toboggan and the largest spa complex in Europe
  • Bonus – Gibraltar (not an independent country but a British Overseas Territory): the fabulous Upper Rock Nature Reserve, Europe’s only wild monkeys, cool military installations, fabulous views of the coast of Africa
  • Bonus – the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM): not an independent country and no own territory, but a unique sovereign subject of international law whose status makes it worth checking out.

Let me know your thoughts and questions in the Contact page. Enjoy!