Guide to Europe’s Microstates: Liechtenstein

Posted by on May 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

Quick facts (most recent available data)
Population: 36,281 (7th smallest country by population)
Area: 160 sq km (6th smallest country by area)
GDP per capita (PPP): 89,400$ (2nd)

Visiting Liechtenstein

Location and how to get there: Landlocked country located between Switzerland and Austria. I rented a car in Zurich and drove to Liechtenstein, but you can also get in by bus. Map

Why visit? Vaduz is a relaxed and cool capital. The city is filled with tasteful urban sculptures and art, which I found even more appealing than in any other microstate capital. There’s a nice hike to Schloss Vaduz; as the official residence of the Prince of Liechtenstein, you can’t visit the castle but the hike and views are nice. Located in a mountainous region, Liechtenstein offers great scenery everywhere you go. There are stunning mountain roads, incredibly scenic hiking trails and good skiing in the winter.

Recommended visit duration: half a day – 1 day

Fun facts:

  • Liechtenstein’s army was disbanded in 1868 for financial reasons. Today the country is one of the world’s few that maintain no military
  • The Prince of Liechtenstein is the world’s sixth wealthiest leader with an estimated wealth of 5 billion $
  • Liechtenstein is a direct democracy where citizens can propose legislation independent of the country’s Parliament
  • Liechtenstein became the last country in Europe to grant women the right to vote in 1984.

Review of my trip to Liechtenstein

After visiting two of the larger microstates (Malta and Luxembourg), I head towards the 6th smallest country in the world and the 4th smallest in Europe. I drive from Zurich to Liechtenstein’s capital, Vaduz, a pleasant 1-hour drive through scenic Switzerland.

The entry into Liechtenstein is marked by the smallest sign yet, which I almost miss. The border might be easily confused with entry into a Swiss city or village if you didn’t know what to look for. There are obviously no border controls or formalities.

With a population of around 5 thousand, Vaduz is really charming. Surrounded by imposing mountains, the city looks clean, nice and very quiet. I accidentally park in the lot of the Central Bank confusing it for public parking.

The central area of Vaduz is very easy to explore by foot. It probably takes less than 10 minutes to walk from one end of the pedestrianised Stradtle Street to the other. The numerous modern sculptures, statues and urban art installations are striking.

While all microstates like to decorate their capitals with cool art, Vaduz has taken this to a completely different level.

Schloss Vaduz, residence of the Prince of Liechtenstein, can be seen a bit higher up on one of the surrounding hills. The buildings housing the country’s Government and Parliament are cute and small, really fitting for a microstate.

There’s really not that much to do in central Vaduz, so I spend more time checking out the art installations. It’s a bit chilly out and I decide to take a seat on an artificial metal stone – it turns out to be heated!

I find the hiking trail leading to the Prince’s Castle. It’s a nice half an hour hike through the forest.

There are panels outlining the country’s history, politics and economy along the way, which make the hike interesting and informative. Construction of the castle started in the 12th century; the tower has a wall thickness on the ground floor of up to 4 meters. The Princely family of Liechtenstein acquired the castle in 1712 and turned it into their primary residence in 1938.

You can’t visit the castle as the prince actually lives there, but the views are pretty cool.

The massive castle is built in stone, there are mountains all around and cows graze on some incredibly green grass right next to the castle. Very few cars pass by.

Back in Vaduz I check some more urban art and then get the car and head towards the countryside, passing through Schaan, the country’s largest city (population: 5,758!). There are many ski resorts currently far less populated than in winter time. I take in the scenery on the narrow mountain roads and reach the tiny village of Malbun, elevation: 1,600 meters, population: 50.

I take the ski lift even higher, to 2,000 meters: the views of the mountains and of the village below are absolutely gorgeous. There’s time for a quick snack and then I descend into the clouds. From Vaduz I head back to Zurich ending another agreeable microstate tour.

See more pictures in my Liechtenstein photo album:

More information available in the Liechtenstein country profiles on Wikipedia and Wikivoyage.

Keep reading: Monaco | San Marino | Vatican City  | Malta | Luxembourg | Liechtenstein | Andorra | Gibraltar | SMOM