Liechtenstein: A tiny nation with boundless surprises
Written by Sophia Wan
On 24 May 2024

There is a hidden gem squeezed in between the mighty Alps of Austria and Switzerland. Sophia Wan helps you explore more than you would expect in this tiny holiday haven.

Liechtenstein, the sixth smallest country in the world and one of only two doubly landlocked countries offers a wealth of surprises. Despite its small size, it stands as one of the richest nations globally. From captivating landscapes to a thriving economy, Liechtenstein has much to offer. Embark on a journey to this enchanting country and let a knowledgeable retired tour guide and an experienced outdoor enthusiast uncover its magic and captivating allure.

Gentle and soft sunlight shines on the fields and the city of Vaduz.

Rich History

“This longevity is notable, considering the many changes and conflicts that had happened in Europe during that time”, says Carl Wyler, 63, a local retired tour guide, now living in Switzerland. Liechtenstein is a constitutional monarchy with a hereditary prince as the head of state. Currently, Prince Hans-Adam II holds this position, and he has reigned since 1989. The principality was established in 1719 and has maintained its independence and sovereignty for over three centuries. 

The House of Liechtenstein’s commitment to neutrality has been a defining characteristic of Liechtenstein’s history. “We choose peace and I believe it successfully contributes to the country’s stability and reputation as a peaceful and diplomatic entity,” he adds.

Vaduz Castles

“To fully experience the historical side of this country, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Vaduz Castles, it is the symbol of Liechtenstein,” says Wyler. Vaduz Castle is the residence of the Prince Family, located on a hilltop overlooking the capital city of Vaduz. It features a striking collection of turrets and towers that stand prominently on the hilltop. “Dating back to the 12th century, it was constructed with a dramatic backdrop of jagged mountains, looked like a fairy-tale.” The castle blends elements of medieval and Renaissance design, showcasing a unique fusion of architectural influences. “It has witnessed centuries of history, including territorial expansions, political developments, and societal changes,” he says.

Vaduz Castle in Spring after rain

Walking along the path, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the Rhine Valley as you make your way to the castle. “Though it is not open to the tourists, it is still worth climbing and exploring the surrounding areas, you can enjoy the most scenic views up here of Vaduz,” says Wyler. The Vaduz Castle is not open to the public as the prince’s family lives there. “If you really want to look at the castle’s interior, come visit on 15 August. This is Liechtenstein’s National Day, there will be striking fireworks, and even get an invite from the prince himself to join in the celebration at his place,” he says. “ You can raise a glass of wine, beer, or orange juice, mingle with the locals, and truly experience the festive spirit. It’s an occasion you won’t want to miss.”

Postal Museum Vaduz

Kunstraum und Postmuseum in Vaduz

Liechtenstein has earned itself the epic title of the “Kingdom of Stamps”. “We have an impressive stamp game that’s got collectors and philatelists from all over the world all fired up,” says Wyler. With a rich history and a stellar reputation in the world of philately, Liechtenstein is a stamp lover’s paradise. “The post museum in this pocket-sized country is as “pocket-sized” as it gets. It’s only about sixty to seventy square meters and consists of just one room, but there are lots to discover,” he says. “ Here you will find stamps issued since 1912, not just in Liechtenstein, but from around the world, including those very rare ones.”

The post museum showcases the rich history and cultural significance of stamps. “As a Liechtensteiner, I am so proud of the stamps because they are known for exceptional quality, both in design and production.

“In the country’s history, stamps played an important role in rescuing Liechtenstein from an economic crisis,” says Wyler. After World War II, when the national economy was in a state of depression, the king decided to utilize his entire collection of famous paintings by printing stamps and issuing them in large quantities. Surprisingly, these stamps are highly cherished by stamp collectors from around the world, resulting in the country earning a significant amount of foreign exchange income. “True to its title as the “Kingdom of Stamps”, we’ve got stamps imprinted on the main streets. It’s like walking on a giant stamp collection right there on the road,” says Wyler. It is Liechtensteiners’ way of showing off their stamp-loving spirit.

Stamps about the Apollo 11 mission and the first landing on the Moon in 1969 were on display at the Liechtenstein Postal Museum in Vaduz in 2019.

Ski Resort Malbun

“The best winter sports experience in Liechtenstein is skiing in Malbun,” says Julia Huber, 29, an outdoor enthusiast who has frequently visited Liechtenstein for skiing and hiking. Ski Resort Malbun, the only winter resort in Liechtenstein, located around a 30-minute drive from the capital Vaduz, has 23 kilometres of slopes catering to skiers and snowboarders of all abilities.

Malbun is an excellent skiing destination for families. It has well-maintained ski slopes and four lifts, including three chairlifts, making it ideal for skiers of all abilities. “Malbun offers a variety of ski slopes that cater to everyone’s preferences. Whether you’re a seasoned skier or a beginner, young or old, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in Malbun,” says Huber.

“Don’t worry if you are bringing the little ones to ski for the first time, Malbi Park Kinderland provides a dedicated area with beginner courses and activities tailored specifically for children. They can learn the basics of skiing in a safe and fun environment, guided by experienced instructors,” she adds. The Swiss Tourist Board has recognized Malbun’s dedication to offering family-friendly amenities and services by awarding the town the prestigious Family Destination Award.

Malbun, Liechtenstein

The resort is accessible and has a large number of hotels located directly on the slopes. “You can wake up in the morning, step outside, and boom, you’re ready to start your day of skiing,” says Huber.

The mountainous region surrounding Malbun is often referred to as the “Liechtenstein Alps” .“If you are less interested in skiing, no worries, there is something more for you to explore around the area,” she says. The natural landscape surrounding the Ski Resort Malbun is truly captivating. “Starting your Malbun journey with a ride on the chairlift up to 2,000m above sea level. The view from the open cable car is absolutely stunning, you can enjoy the amazing view of Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and Austria, all at one time.”

In the summertime, mountains come alive with vibrant greenery as the snow melts away. “ Hiking in Malbun is a completely different experience from its wintertime,” says Huber. The hiking paths offer picturesque views of the valleys, gorges, and majestic peaks that make up the landscape.

“Keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready, because you never know what furry friends might be waiting to make your hiking adventure even more memorable,” she says. Malbun has so much more to offer, it is also known for its diverse wildlife. “If you ever come across any alpine animals such as Chamois, ibex, and marmot while hiking, then it’s your lucky day.”

Sunlight shines through the cloud on a mountain

Princess Gina Trail

“Named after Princess Gina of Liechtenstein, the trail offers a blend of natural beauty and historical significance,” says Huber. After she died in 1989, a memorial was erected on the path. “Along the Princess Gina Trail, you will experience the richness and unique exotic varieties of Alpine flora, ancient ruins, traditional villages, and cultural landmarks,” she says. The trail provides opportunities to transport you to a world of natural beauty, offering magnificent views of mountains, valleys, forests, and meadows, learn about the rich heritage and traditions of the region, offering a deeper connection to the local culture.

originally posted to Flickr as Princess Gina Trail, Augsten Mountain

“Imagine walking along the ridge, surrounded by amazing views and rare, colourful wildflowers. It’s like a living painting,” says Huber. The Princess Gina Trail leads along the ridge to Sareiserjoch, at which point the trail becomes more demanding and steeply inclined. “It is better to do this hike in the summer when the trail is snow-free,” she adds. The Princess Gina Trail caters to hikers of different skill levels and preferences. “It offers a range of difficulty levels, from leisurely walks suitable for families to more challenging sections for experienced adventurers.”

One of the destinations is the summit of the Augstenberg, where travellers can enjoy the panoramic view of the Alps. “Every journey along this trail is special, whether it’s watching a sunrise over the mountains, bumping into wildlife in their natural habitats, or just enjoying a picnic with loved ones surrounded by the spectacular scenery, the trail gives you unforgettable experiences that stay with you long after your journey ends,” says Huber.

Summit cross of Augstenberg

Getting there

Liechtenstein might only be little, and infrequently mentioned in the mainstream travel outlets, but there are so many more wonderful things to offer behind its pocket-size. Liechtenstein is all about immersing yourself in nature’s embrace, exploring its unique history, and soaking up the quirky and sparkling charm that oozes from every corner of this picturesque microstate.

The closest airport is Zürich in Switzerland. From there, take a train to Sargans and then a bus to Vaduz which is about a two-hour journey.

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