While heading to Switzerland for a conference, I decided to fly in a day earlier so I could spend some time getting memorable photos of Liechtenstein while exploring the minuscule principality – Europe’s most affluent country per capita. At only 25km long by 12km wide, it is one of the tiniest countries in Europe. Yet it sits quietly on old wealth, tucked away in the Alps, enjoying its anonymity in comfort.
Getting to Vaduz was easy.
It’s about 1.5-2 hours from Zurich. I took the train to Sargans, Switzerland, and then crossed the street over to catch the No. 12 bus that would take me all the way to Liechtenstein’s pint-sized capital city. And the bus ride wasn’t your average city runner either. Its narrow route cut through breathtaking mountain views bearing down upon you.
Even before reaching its doors, Liechtenstein was already making its impression.
Upon arrival, I found Vaduz to be a curious mix of bankers in suits, tourists holding walking maps, lavish hillside villas, and private vineyards dotting the city. Liechtenstein’s royal family still lives in a medieval castle overlooking the town (country really). Prince Johannes Adam Ferdinand Alois Josef Maria Marco d’Aviano Pius (phew!) or as he is commonly known, Prince Hans-Adam II, has his own vineyards and winery which you can visit, and the surrounding 360-degree panoramic mountains are home to quiet villages with stunning views of the Rhine Valley below. Considering it is the richest country in all of Europe, you will be doling out your hard-earned cash faster than you can mentality convert it to Euros.
Back to the vineyards. Vaduz itself is surrounded by them, many of which are owned by the prince. The vineyards themselves are subsequently surrounded by the Alps. So in essence, Vaduz felt like its own little wine cellar locked away and obscured by mountains.
But I needed to get out.
Rather, to get up high because to truly appreciate just how compact yet striking Liechtenstein is, you need to get out of Vaduz and go up into its mountainside villages.
So I hopped on a local bus which wound its way across multiple steep switchbacks towards the village of Triesenberg. I was craning my neck every which way as we rounded each switchback, trying to catch the panoramic view from every angle – in front and behind me.
The last few rays of the sun which had been hidden beneath thick clouds all day began to fade away and it was in Triesenberg that I truly saw Liechtenstein’s “pretty side” spread out before me. The wide valley below, maroon-colored roofs of white cottages crawling all along the mountain sides and hills, the winding Rhine River cutting through the landscape, carving it in a semi-circle. Liechtenstein was stunning and staying down in Vaduz didn’t do it as much justice as from this vantage point.
While in Triesenberg, I strolled over to nearby Restaurant Kainer in search of some good schnitzel which I’d been craving since I arrived. I walked into an old-fashioned diner – all wooden décor – with direct views of the mountains and valley below from its outdoor patio. Besides two other men drinking beer silently, the lovely Daniela came up to welcome me in. She made sure I felt like I had the whole place and vista to myself.
And as I dug into my schnitzel, savoring every bite with a direct view of the setting sun, I was making mental notes to come back to Liechtenstein solely to hike from village to village.
Because this unassuming little country, quietly hidden away in its cocoon of wealth, makes you feel like you have the whole place to yourself.
Where to stay – I spent a complimentary night at the Landaus am Giessen courtesy of Liechtenstein Tourism. This simple hotel is your quintessential Alpine village guesthouse with classic top-to-bottom wooden décor, timber balconies with hanging flower pots, and striped awnings. It is a short 12-15-minute scenic walk to the center along a small creek.
View more photos of Liechtenstein in my image bank.