Curious about visiting the least visited country in Europe? – Liechtenstein

Curious about visiting the least visited country in Europe? – Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein is only 25km long and tucked in between Switzerland and Austria. It’s also Europe’s least visited country. Before visiting, all I knew about it was: it’s really small, a tax haven (or a “moderate company taxation simple fiscal system” as they prefer to call it) and it has a Prince – it’s called The Principality of Liechtenstein after all. I was keen to discover more.

Vaduz

I had always assumed Liechtenstein was the capital, like Luxembourg City is the capital of Luxembourg, but it’s not. The capital city is called Vaduz with a population of only 5,000, making it one of the smallest capitals in the world.

Sargans train station
Sargans train station

My friend and I took the train from Zürich HB at 10:17am. It was direct to Sargans, the town on the border of Switzerland and Liechtenstein, and a return train ticket cost 66 CHF each. I thought this was expensive for the 1 hour journey but it’s Switzerland, everything is expensive.

Going to Sargans and catching the bus is the easiest way to get to Vaduz. Trains from Zürich to Sargans run every half an hour. At Sargans we caught the number 11 bus to Vaduz (Post). The bus station is right outside Sargans train station. There are electronic bus timetables with the bus number, time and departure point, so finding the right bus is simple. The bus took 40 mins and cost 8 CHF. While expensive at least the bus had USB ports to charge my phone.

Bus ride to Vaduz, Liechtenstein
Bus ride to Vaduz, Liechtenstein

The city

When I arrived in Vaduz I noticed three things:

1) Mist covered mountains in every direction

2) The busy traffic

3) There’s no mobile phone signal and getting 3G or 4G was impossible.

Vaduz, Liechtenstein
Vaduz, Liechtenstein

While not many people visit Liechtenstein, they sure do drive through it. I thought Vaduz would be a quaint little village but it’s not. The main road through Vaduz is really busy. It’s a series of brand new Audis, BMWs and Mercedes. The cars drive through it fast and crossing the road at many points is impossible.

Our first stop was the Tourist Information Centre to get a map as my phone couldn’t connect to the Internet which made Google Maps a no-go. The staff at the information centre were friendly and spoke fluent English. They gave us this map below.

Map of Vaduz
Map of Vaduz

Next, as I collect fridge magnets from the countries I visit, I bought one from the only souvenir store they had. I went with gold to represent the prices here. It cost 8.50 CHF for a tiny fridge magnet.

8.50 CHF fridge magnet
8.50 CHF fridge magnet

Treasure Chamber of the Principality of Liechtenstein

As it was a Monday many of the museums were closed, including the Museum of Fine Arts and the National Museum. Luckily the Treasure Chamber of the Principality of Liechtenstein and Princely Cellars of Vaduz were open.

Treasure Chamber of the Principality of Liechtenstein
Treasure Chamber of the Principality of Liechtenstein sign

We went to the Postage Stamp Museum. I don’t have a keen interest in stamps but I do like treasure. You have to pay for entrance and get a token from the Postage Stamp Museum for the Treasure Chamber. The entry token cost 8 CHF (less than a fridge magnet).

Postage Stamp Museum, Vaduz
Postage Stamp Museum, Vaduz
Treasure Chamber token
Treasure Chamber token

Once through the electronic doors, the Treasure Chamber is almost pitch black with a collection of decorated silver knives, sparkling Fabergé eggs, moon rock and a big gold replica crown.

The collection is impressive and they have written guides telling you the name and date of each item. Unfortunately they don’t allow photos but I took one of the crown before the security guard told me off.

Replica Crown
Replica Crown

Lunch

After the treasure chamber we were hungry and thirsty. In Vaduz at 1pm there is only one restaurant open – Restaurant Adler.

Restaurant Adler
Restaurant Adler

It’s a nice place full of bankers. They had Liechtenstein beer which I was keen to try. The Principality of Liechtenstein is home to two breweries, the Liechtensteiner Brauhaus in Schaan and the PrinzenBräu. I had a large Brauhaus Alpengold. It’s a really delicious beer, light with a honey taste. I preferred it to the Swiss beers I had tried.

Brauhaus Alpengold
Brauhaus Alpengold

I also ate the Schnitzel and chips, and with the beer it came to 30.50 CHF. Standard high price for this country.

Beer, Schnitzel and Chips
Beer, Schnitzel and Chips

I watched several tall and suited bankers go over the road to their office block. I was surprised that the offices here weren’t glamorous but simple two-story brown buildings. There were no high-rise fancy offices made of glass anywhere.

Exploring

After lunch we had the difficult decision of either hiking up to the hill-top castle (not to be confused with Lichtenstein Castle (Württemberg), the fairytale castle in Germany, but Vaduz Castle – the Prince’s private residence) to have a closer look, or go to the The Prince of Liechtenstein Winery.

Office blocks with mountains in the background
Office blocks with mountains in the background
Vaduz Castle
Vaduz Castle on the hill

As the Prince still lives in the castle you can’t visit inside. And ladies, I’ve checked, there’s no eligible single male Princes in Liechtenstein. The current Prince of Liechtenstein, Hans-Adam II is 72 and all his sons are taken.

So given this and the thick mist that kept descending from the surrounding mountains, we opted to skip the walk up to the outskirts of the castle.

Running low on cash I went to a cash point (ATM). I tried to take out 40 CHF but the machine wouldn’t let me. The cash points in Liechtenstein only give out 50 CHF notes. Which highlights just how little 50 CHF (same as 50 US Dollars) is to the Liechtensteiners.

Princely Cellars of Vaduz

After a 15 minute walk from the main tourist area we arrived at The Prince of Liechtenstein Winery. There is a small vineyard next to it.

Vineyard
Vineyard
Vineyard
Vineyard

Outside were more new Audis and BMWs. Inside they were having a party with Uli Hoeneß, the owner of FC Bayern Munich. I tried to get a selfie with him to show my football friends but the waiting staff at the winery beat me to it. Plus, his “crew” weren’t very friendly. Maybe it was because I had been wearing the same jumper for 4 days.

We went to the cellar and wine tasting area. For the tasting they offered 5 wines or 4 wines and a sparkling wine for 9 CHF. This was an amazing deal for such an expensive country.

Wine cellar
Wine cellar

The first three wines were produced in the vineyard next door and are all Pinot Noir. These wines are the only ones produced in Liechtenstein. The other wines they have are produced in Austria but the vineyard is owned by the Prince of Liechtenstein.

Wine tasting, Vaduz

Wine tasting, Vaduz

Wine tasting, Vaduz
Wine tasting, Vaduz

They also offered a sparkling wine from the Prince’s vineyard in Austria.

Sparkling wine
Sparkling wine

We bought a bottle of red wine to drink, the Zweigeit Clos Domaine 2015 for 13.90 CHF. Unfortunately the winery closed at 6pm, before we’d finished the bottle so we took it with us.

Zweigeit Clos Domaine 2015
Zweigeit Clos Domaine 2015

Nightlife was lacking in Vaduz so we got the bus back to Sargans train station and caught the train directly to Zürich HB.

Overall

Liechtenstein is well worth a visit. It’s a quirky expensive place surrounded by mist covered mountains. If you’re into nature you can do beautiful hikes in the mountains in the summer. As a day trip, there’s enough to see, eat and drink to keep the average tourist occupied but I wouldn’t want to spend a week there.

Having a car would give you greater freedom to explore the area. However, Sargans train station on the Swiss-Liechtenstein border provides enough connections from cities in Switzerland.

The highlights of the trip were trying the local wine and beer and seeing the Prince’s treasures. I’m pleased to mark this as the 40th county I have visited.

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