Travel Diaries – Liechtenstein

Eurotrip 2019

Liechtenstein is one of the tiniest countries in the world. Nestled between Switzerland and Austria, it is only about 25km long and 12km wide. It has a population to match of only around 40000 people, but don’t be fooled, this country is a powerhouse, with the 2nd highest GDP per capita in the world (behind Qatar for those wondering).

When planning our itinerary, we pretty much had to drive right through the area. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to stop and learn a little about this country I didn’t know much about, and see the things to do in Liechtenstein.

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We had just had an amazing picturesque drive through Switzerland when we arrived in Liechtenstein in the mid-afternoon. We went straight to the capital of Vaduz and had a walk around the centre. To be honest, there isn’t a whole lot there to do, but since I like to walk and look around rather than spend a lot of time in museums, this suited me perfectly.

Vaduz Main Street
The main tourist area in Vaduz, with the castle sitting high above
An official-looking building with statues of three abstract horses out the front
The Vaduz Town Hall

I have to point out there are a couple of museums if you are keen to explore them. The Liechtenstein National Museum not surprisingly focuses on the history and culture of Liechtenstein.

The Kuntsmuseum Liechtenstein showcases modern art and the Postal Museum helps explain why for some reason Liechtenstein became well known for it’s postage stamps. (Even better, entrance to the Postal Museum is free.)

Large white square building of the Liechtenstein National Museum
Liechtenstein National Museum
The big, black, shiny, windowless building of the Kuntsmuseum Liechtenstein
The big, blocky building of the Kuntsmuseum Liechtenstein

While wandering the main street, it is unlikely that you will be able to miss the castle looming up on the hillside above the city. This is Vaduz Castle. There were originally five castles in Liechtenstein, today only two remain.

This one is the current residence of the Prince of Liechtenstein and the rest of the royal family. It is not open for the public to visit, but you can walk up the hill to have a closer look if you want to.

The light coloured stone Vaduz Castle high on a hill
Vaduz Castle from below

We did have a quick look at the impressive St Florin Cathedral (sometimes called Vaduz Cathedral) as we walked around. Built in the 1800’s, the most memorable feature is the lovely spire set against the mountains in the background.

For a Catholic cathedral, I found it to be strangely plain inside. That may be because it was only given “Cathedral” status in 1997 by Pope John Paul II.

A tall, narrow church with a pointed steeple is Vaduz Cathedral
Vaduz Cathedral
Looking down the aisle of the Vaduz Cathedral. It's bright with white walls and large windows along the sides, plain pews and a simple alter
The Vaduz Cathedral interior is quite plain
three brightly coloured stained glass windows
The stained glass windows in the cathedral are beautiful though

Liechtenstein – and the royal family – made most of it’s money by building banks. As we walked around the city, it seemed like every second building was the big new headquarters of yet another bank. The city is modern and clean and spacious. It had quite a nice feel to it.

A view over the city of Vaduz to the snow-capped mountains beyond
Huge towering mountains surround Vaduz in every direction

Before leaving Vaduz, we made a visit to the supermarket. Not very touristy, you may think! If we thought prices were expensive in Switzerland, they had gone up a notch even from that here in Vaduz.

A coffee at a cafe was 7.50CHF ($10.50AUD/$7.35USD) and fuel was 1.70CHF/L ($2.38AUD/$1.67USD). We stocked up on snacks and an easy dinner to allow us to stick to the budget.

Vaduz Shop
If you want a souvenir of your visit to Liechtenstein, how about a passport stamp (just don’t put it in your passport)? They are also available at the tourist information centre.

The next stop was the mountain-side town of Triesenberg where we stayed at the Hotel Restaurant Kulm for the night. We had one of their “cheap” double rooms right up under the eaves of the building.

It had absolutely stunning views out over the valley into Switzerland which made up for the deficit of a shower – only a bath with a shower hose.

To some cultures this may be normal, but to me it was strange. Breakfast was included in the room rate, and another bonus was the free car parking. If you are here with a car, then the country is so small you can get anywhere you need to be in no time, so not paying for parking is a great perk.

A bed under the slanted roof of a room at the top of the building
Our basic room at Hotel Restaurant Kulm
A simple bath with a shower hose
The bath with a shower head
Views to Switzerland
The view from our window was pretty good.

We decided to go for an early evening walk around this little town. Again, there is not a lot to actually do. There’s a cute little Pfarrkirche Triesenberg and the cemetery to check out – I actually liked this one more than the Cathedral – but really, the thing here is the view. I just couldn’t stop looking over the valley to the snow topped mountains on the other side, or watching as life went on down below.

The Triesenberg Town Hall and church in the centre of town
Liechtenstein Mountain View
The view really is the best reason to visit Liechtenstein

In our room that night I had a look at one of the brochure I picked up at the Tourist Information Centre in Vaduz. It was mostly spruiking a new five-day hike through the country that is being launched later this month (May 2019).

Basically they have mapped out and signposted a path to take over five days and 75km that will allow you to see almost all of the country’s attractions and historical sites. They have set up a service to transfer luggage each day too, so that it does not have to be carried while walking. It actually sounds like a great idea to me – and I think on foot would be the perfect way to explore this little country.

The brochure also pointed out a few more attractions I had not previously come across, so bright and early the next morning, we would be out again to explore.

Night time view over a valley to mountains beyond. A football pitch is lit up in the foreground
The view over the valley at night was lovely too.

One of the places I had seen mentioned was Gutenberg Castle. After visiting Mainz, Germany, the place that the Gutenberg printing press was invented, earlier in this trip, I had to go check it out.

It is located in the town of Balzers, and, with such great views, I could actually see the castle sitting on top of a hill from our hotel (Liechtenstein really is tiny lol)

We hiked up the hill to see the castle – to discover there was not one piece of information in English. I had to Google to find out more. This is the only other castle still standing in Liechtenstein.

Built in the 13th century, it had been privately owned until the country bought it a few years ago. The person who was living in it at the time negotiated to stay there until her death.

Gutenberg Castle
Gutenberg Castle sitting up on it’s hit amongst the vineyards
Gutenberg Castle Bailey
Visit the castle bailey to look at the old buildings a little closer

The castle has been recently turned into a museum. It can only be visited by guided tour. The bailey (outer courtyard) can be visited for free all year round, and it offers yet more fantastic views around the area. During the summer it is also possible to visit the chapel and rose garden on Sundays free of charge

Right next door there is an impressive church, the Pfarrkirche Balzers. Even though we had to hike back down for the castle, get in the car drive around to another carpark and walk a couple of hundred metres to the church, we also stopped in to have a look!

It is beautiful on the outside, and the graveyard is immaculately kept and quite pretty too. It’s interesting to see that many of the residents have only a few select surnames. Unfortunately, the church is quite plain once inside, and a bit of a letdown after the outside.

Pfarrkirche Balzers
The lovely church in Balzers

Next stop was back up in the hills (okay, mountains!) again – in hindsight we should have done this first – to the town of Malbun. I had seen mention of the Sareis Cable Car for a scenic view and lots of great hiking.

Both those things are probably true, but really this is a ski resort – and we were visiting right in between the winter and summer seasons so it was like a ghost town.  

Only a few days later and the summer season would have started. It didn’t look a whole lot like summer though, with what to my very amateur eyes looked like a thick covering of snow over everything. We even had to be a little bit careful walking in some places as ice had formed on the road.

So Malbun was a lovely, quiet, pristine, ghost town! Looks like an amazing place to visit in the season though!

Ski lodges in the snow at Malbun Liechtenstein
Malbun is almost entirely made out of ski resort-style accommodation.
A snowy town with a few buildings in the distance
Snow, snow and more snow
Malbun Snow
Doesn’t look like it’s almost summer. The summer season was starting three days after our visit.
A snowy ski run with a few wooden buildings. The snow only has a few animal footprints in it
It all looks so pristine

We had one more place to visit before leaving Liechtenstein – the Princely Wine Cellars! Yes, the monarch produces his own wines, and I just had to check it out.

Wine has been grown here since the 1400s, and this winery claims to have been in existence since 1436 when the land was gifted to the predecessors of today’s royal family.

Today there are vineyards all over the country, and there were numerous different types of wines produced here for sale. It was also possible to buy whisky or other spirits made here too.

Princely Winery
HofKellerei – the Princely Wine Cellars

Since it was still kind of early, Simon was driving, and at 9CHF ($12.50AUD) a little expensive, we didn’t do a tasting, but did spend only slightly more to purchase a bottle, so will give it a go sometime soon.

Four bottles of red wine
Some of the wines for sale at the Princely Wine Cellars

And less than 24 hours after we had arrived, we were driving over the border into Austria to end our visit to this European micro-nation.

I would likely visit again, but I think next time I will do something like hike through the country.

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2 thoughts on “Travel Diaries – Liechtenstein”

  1. Such a beautiful looking place. I had a chance to go last time I was in Europe. I didn’t. Just another excuse to return 🙂

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