Liechtenstein is usually not a country on people’s list of must European visits. I mean it’s kind of hard to get to, being a doubly landlocked country with no airport! So when I flew into Zurich I didn’t know what to expect. Frankly, I was just happy to be in a country I’ve always wanted to visit and didn’t care what part of the country I was in. I was flying to Zurich, during Christmas, to hang out with one of my friends who had recently moved from Texas.
I didn’t actually stay in Liechtenstein but rather on a mountain that overlooked most of the country. Literally every morning I woke up to see snowy peaks and half of Liechtenstein from Oberschan, Switzerland, near Sargans. All and all it’s a pretty obscure part of Switzerland and out-of-the-way from the mainstream tourism but definitely doesn’t lack in beauty and worth a visit.
Going in winter does give you a different perspective. At the Swiss/Liechtenstein border there is snow during the winter but it usually starts at a certain elevation and sometimes makes it’s way all the way down to the valley floor. We like to think of all of Switzerland as covered in snow during the winter but because of the Alps, parts of Switzerland do not see as much snow as others. The area around the Swiss/Liechtenstein border lies in one of these parts and it is common to see the ground free of snow during the early winter months.
Sargans is just a normal Swiss town and sits at the southern border of Liechtenstein. There is a grocery store, a castle overlooking the city, a train station that connects to the north and south of Switzerland, and several cute Swiss style homes. I drove further south, to Maienfeld, to see the original Heidi House. The famous novel was written about the surrounding land and truly reflects the old Alp lifestyle.
From Sargans there are popular ski resorts all around the area. Virtually all Swiss people know how to ski and start young. Skiing in the Alps can be tough because much of the ski trails are very steep. Much steeper than the average mountain in the Rockies! It’s necessary to learn how to ski before you master any of the tough trails or you will be passed by young Swiss kids scarily whizzing around you with perfect control.
Driving north of Sargans you can either head up the mountains to the left where you get lots of snow and a great view of Austria and Liechtenstein or hop into Liechtenstein on a insignificant border crossing. The amazing part about the crossing is that there is no border control and it isn’t overly advertised. All that exists is two signs showing that you have either entered into Switzerland or Liechtenstein and a little looking Rhine River where the border actually is. Once over I was officially in Liechtenstein which is roughly the size of my home city (so basically it’s small).
Liechtenstein consists of a valley with several cities scattered through it and a few mountain tops. On the 28 or the Egerta Landstrasse you head up north through the Liechtenstein countryside. In a hurry you will roll into the capital city of Vaduz as the country take only about 30 minutes to go from it’s southern border to the northern.
Vaduz looks like any other Alp city with a beautiful castle that overlooks the city except that the castle is actually still in use today. Liechtenstein has a Prince as it’s leader and the Royal Family still oversees the principality. In fact my friends brothers attended school in Switzerland with the future Prince of Liechtenstein.
What is Vaduz like?
It’s very clean, orderly, maybe a tad stuffy but definitely rich. It’s like you stepped into an even cleaner Switzerland, if that is even possible. The streets are impeccably clean and the citizens are dressed very nicely. Is it boring? Maybe a tad in terms of activities to do but we spent much of the day looking at museums, exhibits and sipping hot chocolate in one of the fancy cafes.
What is there to do in Liechtenstein?
Well not very much. There is skiing, up in the mountains, but I never went to Liechtenstein to ski as there are great resorts in Switzerland. When I went in December we went to the famous Vaduz Castle which sits above Vaduz. It’s certainly beautiful and a great spot to take pictures of the surrounding Alps. Head down to the city of Vaduz and you can walk up and down the city center.
One of the top places to visit is the Liechtenstein Stamp Museum. That may sound boring but it’s actually kind of cool to see classic stamps. You really only need 30 minutes for your visit and then you can move on.
Another place to visit is the Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, or the Modern/Contemporary of Liechtenstein. The museum does own some important modern art works. I actually went to this art museum and had a great time walking around while looking at some interesting art pieces. Pretty easy way to kill time and a day.
Other museums include the Ski Museum and 500-year old Rural Lifestyle Museum.
During my stay, on the border of Switzerland and Liechtenstein, I realized that travel doesn’t have to include major sites or take up the day. Sometimes exploring one country in a half of a day is good enough and there isn’t more that I need to do. For me that’s reason enough to go to Liechtenstein. Enjoy the beauty and have a relax. And I could officially check off Liechtenstein and Switzerland as a visited country.
Thinking about going? Give yourself a day in Liechtenstein and then move on to the surrounding Swiss, Austrian and German towns. There is actually much to do in the region and the scenic Alps never disappoint. My advice is to have no set agenda, walk through the quaint cities, and enjoy the beautiful Alps.