Liechtenstein, the often forgotten European country, tends to be an overlooked destination by many travelers and tourists. Only 15 miles long, Liechtenstein is situated in the Upper Rhine Valley of the European Alps and is boarded by Austria and Switzerland. At certain altitudes, you can have all three countries in your line of vision…that’s how small Liechtenstein is!
Unless you zoomed in (and I mean seriously zoomed) on a map of Europe, you’d most likely fail to notice this small sovereign state. It’s not really a bucket-list destination, but for us that’s what made the country all the more appealing. We had absolutely no expectations when crossing boarders from Switzerland and arriving in Liechtenstein (which if you continued on, would take approximately 30 minutes to arrive in Austria), and were constantly amazed at the sheer beauty and thrill of the country.
Here are some quick facts about the country….
Walking Around Vaduz
The capital of Liechtenstein is Vaduz and no matter what area of the country you’ll be exploring, you’re going to eventually wander into this quaint capital. Want to eat at a restaurant, peruse shops or visit the tourist information center? You’re going to Vaduz.
It’s a tiny town on the Rhein River that has a relaxed atmosphere with many restaurants and high-end boutique shops. The Rhein River is actually the natural border between Switzerland and Liechtenstein, so you may find yourself crossing one of their many bridges and finding yourself in another country. One of the quietest capitals we have ever encountered, Vaduz has a population of 5000 inhabitants and is surrounded by mountains of 2400m and higher.
The bright and colourful square, called Peter Kaiser Platz is the perfect blend between new and old and you will find plenty of locals and tourists taking a stroll around the square during the evening.
The city is a mecca for gourmet foodies and the city has its own vineyard! The Vaduzer vineyards and The Red House (Liechtenstein’s oldest house) are both sites that you should take the time to visit.
From the city you can see the famous Vaduz castle, which is where the royal family currently resides. Oh yeah…by the way, Liechtenstein has a royal family - even through the country is hardly that much older than the United States. Most of the castle is embedded in the steep cliffs of the mountain, and because it remains the private home of reigning Prince Hans-Adam II, it is off limit to visitors. You can, however, hike up to the castle to the Kanzeli vantage point where you can look out across the valley to Switzerland.
Also located in Vaduz are interesting sights like the St Florin Cathedral, Government House and City Hall. You will find them all along the pedestrian street in Vaduz and they will show the various styles and periods of architecture that the city is known for.
There are a few museums in Vaduz, like the stamp museum, the international museum of modern art and the Liechtenstein National Museum….but honestly if you’re really at a loss for things to do, then I guess you can go there, but there are definitely better ways to spend your time here.
You’ll see that perched on the mountains surrounding Vaduz is this quaint beautiful alpine town surrounded by pine forests, medieval churches, traditional houses and ranches. Everywhere you go in Trisenberg, the Rhine River sprawls beneath your feet and the Swiss Alps loom in the distance. This is where our hotel was located and we are so happy we decided to stay in this area. You can easily go on long walks into the pine forests, and the sun sets around 11:30pm (seriously) so you have a long day ahead of you.
If there’s something that you learn when visiting Europe, its that there are a ton of castles. You could pretty much spend your entire trip castle-hunting! We’ve already mentioned Vaduz Castle, but that was one of two principality castles that have been well preserved. The other is Burg Gutenberg Castle which is located in the town of Balzers. Unlike Vaduz Castle, Gutenberg Castle is open to the public as a museum and lies on a hill bear the center of Balzers.
Schalun Castle, also known colloquially as Wildschloss, is a castle ruin located in the municipality of Vaduz. It lies in the mountains, roughly 1km northeast from the town center of Vaduz. Open to tourists and accessible by foot, Schalun Castle is one of the five existing castles in Liechtenstein and one of the three ruined ones in the country.
Taking Advantage of the Mountains
Liechtenstein is literally surrounded by the European Alps..so you have to take advantage of the ever-changing geographical landscape and explore all of the hiking trails the country has to offer.
Taking in the breathtaking mountain panoramas of the Alps is almost a MUST-Do in Liechtenstein and most people travel all of this way just to hike its amazing mountain range.
Wherever there are hiking trails, there will always be a small dirt path for all of the adventurous mountain bikers out there. Liechtenstein is a perfect destination for cyclists and whether you prefer short picturesque routes along the Rhine river or more adventurous mountain biking, there are trails for everyone.
Here are some MUST-DO Trails while in Liechtenstein
Fürstin Gina Trail
Because Liechtenstein is so small, the likelihood of finding yourself on over-packed hiking trails is narrow. The Fürstin Gina Wef is one of the more popular hikes in Liechtenstein due to its spectacular mountainous setting. The trail starts in Malbun where you can take the chairlift up to get to Sareis.
There is a wonderful restaurant located at the top of the chairlift-however, we do not suggest that you go heavy on the beers before a big hike. Ask for a traditional German beer and Liechtenstein specialty dish for lunch-the restaurant will not disappoint. The authentic cuisine of Liechtenestein has a strong influence from Switzerland, Austria AND Germany..so you know your pallet is in good hands. Try their Käsknöpgle mit Apfelmus, their doughy pasta-style cheese dish served with apple sauce.
The hike leads you to the Augstenberg mountain at 2359m. From here you will get an amazing panorama over the Alps of Liechtenstein and even see Austria with Malbun Village in the valley. About an hour west of here you will make it to Pfälzerhütte and then from there, it is about a three hour hike back to Malbun.
The Fürstensteig Trail
This is definitely a highlight for any hiker in Liechtenstein. The trail, though high up, is not very long and begins in a scenic forest. The hike at times can be narrow and relatively steep, but with proper hiking boots, it should be a breeze.
The peak gives you a gorgeous view of the Austrian Alps and a lush green valley. You can go further and explore the natural borders between Liechtenstein and Austria at the Alpspitz peak(!943m) or the Three Sisters Peak (2053m).
A mountain in Liechtenstein in the Rätikon range of the Eastern Alps close to the border with Austria and also in the town of Malbun, Augstenberg mountain towers over the town with a height of 2,359 meters. This is a great peak to hike up to, but make sure to check out the weather before you go.. weather permitting, the view at the top is incredibly worth the uphill 6 hour climb.
A little further away, the Naafkopf is a mountain in the Rätikon range of the Alps located at the border between Austria, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Once you reach the top though, you can cross off “being in three places at once” off your bucket list. This amazing summit is not a difficult one to reach and is about 2,570 meters high.
Alpspitz, another mountain in Liechtenstein in the Rätikon range of the Eastern Alps, to the east of Vaduz, has a height of 1,943 meters. At the top, you can get a panoramic view of the Rhine Valley and the Valunatal.
In the Rätikon range of the Eastern alps north east of the village of Steg, with a height of 2,104 meters, is Schönberg. With a cross located at the summit, it is a fairly easy hike to conquer and is well worth the view.
Reaching a height of 2,222 meters, Rappenstein is highly accessible although it can get quite steep. It offers magnificent views of the whole country and the best way to climb this mountain is to go up in the direction of Berggasthaus Sücka and on to the old tunnel. From there, a nice path leads to the Heubühland on to the Goldlochspitz.
If you want a break from the high mountainous altitudes, hike the Gänglesee Lake which is a beautiful walk during the summer!
The final hike worth mentioning is also the most difficult. The Falknis mountain is located in the Rätikon range of the Alps, located on the border between Liechtenstein and Switzerland. It is about 8,400 feet tall and is an adventure worth taking. The hike is by no means easy but the view and scenery serve as high rewards. Make sure to pack plenty of water and snacks to keep you going throughout the day.
In conclusion, Liechtenstein is a must-visit destination, even if it is just to add another stamp to your passport. It is an amazing country to come to during all seasons. Just as the mountains provide excellent hiking trails, you can imagine the absolute thrill they must be for skiers during the winter months. Malbun has an excellent ski resort with ideal slopes for intermediate skiers and some harder ones as well.
It is pretty amazing being able to visit one of the world’s tiniest and richest countries. It is a place that you can explore within two to three days, and have an absolute blast while doing so. The air is fresh and crisp, it feels like you are constantly inhaling the scent of wintergreen chewing gum and the scenery is constantly spectacular.