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The 4th smallest country in the world is also the only one named after its founders. In 1699, the Liechtenstein family of Vienna purchased this land to get a seat among the ranks of Imperial Princes. Since 1866, Liechtenstein has been a sovereign nation, now led by the billionaire prince, His Serene Highness Hans-Adam II von und zu Liechtenstein, who resides at the fairy-tale 12th century stone castle, Schloss Vaduz, perched on a hill above the capital city, Vaduz.
Also like Switzerland, women haven’t always enjoyed the freedoms the rest of Europe have taken for granted for over a century: Liechtenstein’s women didn’t get the vote until 1984.
All in all, it’s a curious and beautiful little country.
Getting there and around
Liechtenstein does not have a commercial airport. With a population of 35,000 people, Liechtenstein is wedged between Switzerland and Austria in the upper Rhine Valley of the Alps. The easiest ways to get here is by Liechtenstein Bus from Buchs or Sargans in Switzerland, or from Feldkirch in Austria. There’s also train service, though not very frequent, between Schaan and Feldkirch. Fairly frequent bus service, however, moves people around the country.
Where to stay
Liechtenstein boasts several good hotels in the CHF 130 – 200 price range, including the romantic Park-Hotel Sonnenhof. On Vaduz’ pedestrianised main street, Städtle, are the hotels Esplanade and Real. One of the country’s two hostels is in Schaan; the other, Vaduzer Jugendheim, is a self-catering cabin close to ski lifts.
Medium priced options (CHF 60 -120) include the hotels Linde in Schaan and Krone in Schellenberg. Hotels Kulm and Martha Bühler are both located in adorable little Triesenberg. Several private B&Bs and apartments are available around the country, as are mountain cabins.
One of Europe’s prettiest camping sites can be found at Mittagsspitze and in the lovely mountain village Malbun, you can stay at the comfortable Falknerei Galina Hotel.
Things to see and do in Liechtenstein
City tours, wine tasting and museums
The Citytrain offers a popular 30-minute Vaduz experience. Liechtenstein Center tells you all you want to know about the principality, using high-tech multimedia. This is also where you can fork over CHF 3 for a passport stamp, highly sought-after now that border controls have all but vanished in much of Europe.
Schloss Vaduz is not open to the public, but you’re welcome to a taste of royal wine in the prince’s cellars at Hofkellerei.
Liechtenstein has several good museums, among them the cool Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein (Museum of Fine Arts), Liechtensteinisches Landesmuseum (Liechtenstein National Museum), a Ski- and Winter Sports Museum, and a surprisingly popular Postage Stamp Museum.
Skiing, hiking and falconry
Apart from money and banking, Liechtenstein is all about nature. Its stunning location in the Alps means you can start from anywhere and be on hiking trails within a minute or two. Head to Malbun for great nature walks, hiking, skiing and other outdoors activities.
The little country has more Olympic gold medalists per capita than any other country. You don’t ski? No worries, you’ll learn quickly at the Ski- und Snowboardschule Malbun. And you would be in good company, too: many of Europe’s royals have learned to ski in Liechtenstein.
At Galina Falcon Center, you can get close to falcons, eagles and hawks; there are flight shows every day except Mondays at 3 pm.
Written by Anne-Sophie Redisch for EuropeUpClose.com