What comes to your mind when you hear the name “Liechtenstein”? Probably not much as the country is so tiny and squeezed in between the bigger and more known neighbors – Switzerland and Austria. Not many people know about Liechtenstein and even less visit it. To be honest I can’t blame them – I’ve been there twice so far and I couldn’t really find anything exceptional to even like the place. It lacked the soul and the vibe and that made it just another random destination and I don’t think I will visit it again anytime soon (or at all). But why did I find Liechtenstein so boring?
This part of the world offers breathtaking views for sure! Harsh Alp mountains with snow covered peaks, green fields with cows and sheep jangling with the little bells on their necks, tall and slim church towers located in the valleys. The scenery looks like from the postcard or Milka advertisement and sometimes it’s just too kitschy to be true. And I guess mountainous villages in Liechtenstein must look the same and can make a perfect getaway to relax. But two main cities, Vaduz (the capital) and Schaan (the biggest town), are nothing special and when I’m using the word “nice” to describe them it’s still an exaggerating.
Liechtenstein is a really small country you can’t even see it properly on the map. It was founded in 814 and occupies the area of only 160 square kilometers (I managed to walk half of the country, no matter how insane that sounds) with around 35.000 inhabitants. The official language is German, they use both Euro and Swiss Franks and have the highest gross domestic product per person in the world and one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world (1,5%). I guess when you live in the country like this you must know half of the population.
When I first got to visit Liechtenstein it was the gloomy October day few years ago and I was going back home from visiting a friend in Zurich. Since the country was on my way anyway I’ve decide to stop for few hours to see what it has to offer (and to be able to say I was in one of the quirkiest countries in Europe). The mountains were already partly covered with snow, the trees around had pretty autumn colors and the nature didn’t look that bad (but it looked even better in Switzerland or Austria…). The cities however were just simply random and boring. Both Schaan and Vaduz had maybe one or two buildings that looked fair enough to interest me. The main pedestrian street of the capital, Staedtle, had only overpriced restaurants, souvenir shops and few museums (the Post Museum was pretty ok). The castle overlooking the city – the official residence of the Prince of Liechtentein – was nice but so very small (like the whole country)!
My favorite place in the whole country was the Prince vineyard, unobtrusively located next to the main street. It’s small (of course!) but it looked really pretty with October leaves full of picturesque raindrops and grapes ready to be picked up. This place also offers a nice view of the Vaduz Castle, with pretty mountains in the background. I started my second visit it Liechtenstein from the vineyard as I remembered it as the best place in the whole country but since it was mid March and there were only bare shrubs around it wasn’t that great anymore. But the view was still good!
It is possible to climb to the Castle – the well marked path leading there from the Staedtle street. It’s a short hike, next to the private houses, with boards every few steps telling about the history of the country and its economy and political situation. These weren’t there during my first visit and it was really interesting to learn about this quirky country that I literally knew nothing about, only the very basic facts. Halfway to the Castle there’s a nice viewing platform that offers really good views over half of Liechtenstein, Switzerland and surrounding mountains. You can see the vineyard, the FC Vaduz stadium, the Rhine river that also serves as a border between these two countries and the Swiss city Buchs. Unfortunately it is not possible to visit the Castle but it’s still worth to take the hike up, just for the view. It might be a highlight when you visit Liechtenstein
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Even if I’m obviously not a fan of this tiny country I still think it’s worth to visit Liechtenstein. Each time when I was in Liechtenstein there were only few tourists around and that gave me an impression of the off the beaten path destination. The cities are boring and don’t offer much but there still are few interesting places, such as the Post Museum (apparently stamps from Liechtenstein are a really big thing and because they’re unique they make the best souvenir), the vineyards or the walk to the Castle. During my second visit the Staedtle street was also full of various contemporary art pieces – they were there as a part of the Art Museum exhibition and they were not bad at all. I’m also sure that Liechtenstein offers a great hiking opportunities and if for some reason I end up there again that’s what I’ll focus on!
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