Despite being Europe’s fourth-smallest country, with an area only slightly larger than that of Bristol, Liechtenstein packs a lot into its diminutive borders. The German-speaking principality stretches just over 15 miles from north to south, occupying a tiny, mountainous spot encircled by Austria and Switzerland. Fewer than 38,000 people live there – only six other nations in the world have smaller populations – but this is no remote backwater. In fact, it has a fascinating history, from its foundation as part of the Holy Roman Empire, to its struggle to remain neutral during the first and second world wars.
If Alpine scenery, medieval castles clinging to craggy peaks, acres of vineyards and splendid cultural attractions are your idea of fun, Liechtenstein is the place for you. And with the principality celebrating its 300th anniversary this year, what better time to visit? With that in mind, the Flexicoer team has compiled its favourite five attractions to see in Liechtenstein.
The Prince of Liechtenstein’s official residence, Vaduz Castle was built in the 12th century in a precipitous spot 120 metres above the capital city, which is also called Vaduz (the city is actually named after the castle, rather than the other way round). Its oldest sections can be found on the castle’s eastern side, while the western part is a young whippersnapper in comparison, having been expanded in the mid-17th century. The royal family still live in Vaduz Castle, and don’t open their doors to visitors, so you can’t actually get to step inside the grounds (unless you happen to be friendly with the country’s monarchy). Still, it’s undeniably beautiful and well worth seeing from the outside, plus the views from the hilltop are stunning.
The other castle near to its original condition is Gutenberg, a beautifully preserved castle dating back to the turn of the 12th century. However, its survival was in serious doubt as recently as the early 1900s. It had fallen into disrepair over the course of several centuries and restoration work was only completed in 1912. Located in the small town of Balzers, Gutenberg is perched atop a hill that has been inhabited since Neolithic times. Despite its undoubted splendour, this castle isn’t a royal residence and is therefore open to the public free of charge. Guided tours are available from May to October but you’ll have to book in advance.
Not only does the Prince of Liechtenstein have a fine line in big houses, he also likes the occasional glass of vino. While the principality may not immediately spring to mind alongside the likes of France, Germany and Italy when compiling a list of Europe’s best wine countries, the varieties produced at the Hofkellerei – the prince’s personal wine cellars in Vaduz – have won countless awards. Not only is the Hofkellerei in a beautiful location, surrounded by rolling hills and (unsurprisingly) acres of grapevines, you can also learn about the production process and taste many of the wines that are made here – the Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs are particularly delicious. And if they’re good enough for royalty, they’re good enough for us.
The country’s home of modern and contemporary art, the Kunstmuseum is located in Vaduz, inside a quirky black box-like building with a reflective facade designed by the Swiss architects Meinrad Morger, Heinrich Degelo and Christian Kerez. Opened in 2000, the museum’s collection covers the period from the 19th century onwards, although its acquisition policy focuses on works from the 20th and 21st centuries, particularly sculptures and installations. Meanwhile, the adjoining Hilti Art Foundation building – established in 2015 – has exhibited paintings, sculptures and objects from some of Europe’s leading artists including Picasso, Gauguin and Beckmann. In other words, if you’re something of an art buff, the Kunstmuseum should be your first port of call in Liechtenstein’s capital.
With a name that translates as “Old Rhine Bridge”, this is what you’d expect: a historic bridge crossing one of Europe’s major rivers. Made almost entirely from wood and spanning 135 metres, it’s an impressive structure and it even has a roof. Probably because it’s made from wood, it’s been knocked down several times throughout its history, with the latest iteration being renovated between 2009 and 2010. The modern-day bridge, which crosses between Vaduz and the Swiss town of Sevelen, isn’t open to motor vehicles, which makes it especially popular with cyclists.
Wherever you plan on travelling to this year it’s good to know that Flexicover Travel Insurance is committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.