WHERE IS VADUZ? you are probably wondering and you wouldn’t be the only one since I had never heard of it either before going there. I stumbled upon Vaduz when planning a ski trip to Austria. The plan was to fly into Zurich then drive to Austria and there in between was the tiny hamlet of Liechtenstein and its capital city Vaduz. Despite local friends telling me there was nothing special to see or do and that I would be wasting my time, I couldn’t resist a little stopover and check another country off the list.
Although Liechtenstein is the 6th smallest country in the world, with a total population of ~37,000 and only 5,270 living in Vaduz, it should not be underestimated. Granted it is small enough that you could see the entire country in one weekend, but if you like quiet, quaint, classy, historical charm and the chance to browse swanky shops, linger in museums, sip local wine in an outdoor cafe, or take in the fresh mountain air, you should definitely consider a visit to Vaduz.
Vaduz is a very walkable city and the main street, Das Städtle, is pedestrianized to assist visitors. On the south end is the cathedral and government square, leading north to the museums, shopping, and restaurants and eventually to the Hofkellerei winery on the outskirts of town, with the castle towering midway overhead.
Following this direction, here are my 6 suggestions for things to do in Vaduz:
- Cathedral of St. Florin
Approximately 75% of the population of Liechtenstein is catholic yet remained part of the Swiss Diocese until 1997 when the Pope created the Archdiocese of Vaduz and dignified the previous deanery as a cathedral. Vaduz Cathedral is a small yet beautiful stone gothic style structure nestled on the south side of town and backed by the beautiful Liechtenstein alps. It is also where Prince Franz Joseph II and the Countess are buried. It was particularly beautiful on Christmas evening with the lights shining and bells ringing.
2. Liechtenstein Visitor Center
As the name implies, the visitor center offers visitors information on what to see and do around the country. There are books about Liechtenstein’s history, maps, videos, and souvenirs. However, the main souvenir I was interested in was a stamp in my passport. Since most will enter the EU from another country you will otherwise unlikely get a stamp from Liechtenstein. It does not come free however, but the small fee of 3 CFH or 3 EUR is worth it (in my opinion).
3. Postage Stamp Museum
Ordinarily something like this would not make my list of interesting things to do but I was persuaded by the reviews on TripAdvisor to go and I actually learned a few things. For one, a new word: phi·lat·e·ly (fəˈladlē/) noun – the collection and study of postage stamps. I was never much interested in stamps or postal history but was impressed to learn that Liechtenstein has been printing its own stamps for approximately 100 years and is considered to have some of best and most beautiful in Europe. Today they print around 40,000 stamps a year, with the vast majority being collected around the world. The museum hosts an entire catalog of stamps to view and includes displays on printing methods and old templates used throughout the years. They also offer a pre-packaged souvenir set of stamps printed in a particular year so I snatched up one from the year I was born.
4. The Sculptures of Vaduz
I’ve noted before that I am a sucker for art so was delighted to learn that dotted around the city are sculptures from world famous artists. Inspired by the list I found on Liechtenstein’s tourist website, I set out on a treasure hunt to find and photograph as many as I could (note that most of these are on the main street). Sadly some had been moved over the holiday period, but it is clear that Liechtensteiners also appreciate art.
Click to enlarge and view slideshow
5. Planet Trail (including the Old Rhein Bridge)
Once you reach the other side of town, turn left at the roundabout on Lettstrasse and head toward the Rheinpark Stadion. Across from the stadium is the start of the Planet Trail, a 5 km walk along the Rhein River featuring scale models of the sun and planets at distances mapped to a ratio of 1:1 billion. It gives you an interesting perspective on the vast magnitude of our solar system while taking in beautiful views of the river and mountains.
As an added bonus, along the walk is the Old Rhein Bridge. Built in 1901 it is the only remaining wooden bridge crossing the Rhein connecting Liechtenstein and Switzerland. It is only used today by pedestrians, equestrians, and cyclists.
6. Vaduz Castle
Of all of the places in Liechtenstein, Vaduz Castle is by far the most popular. Originally built by Counts of Sargans of the Holy Roman Empire, the Princely Family of Liechtenstein bought the castle in 1712 and have used it as a state residence ever since. Therefore visitors are not allowed inside but are able to get close to the grounds and see the castle from many vantage points around the city.
We had the pleasure of staying 3 days in Vaduz over the Christmas holiday. Although we could not fit all of these in within 6 hours, here are a few other activities worth pursuing while in Vaduz.
Malbun and Triesenberg – Located approximately 20 mins drive up a winding mountain road is Malbun, the primary ski destination in Liechtenstein. As a small mountain village it offers many winter sports including skiing, tobogganing, dog sledding, ice skating, snow shoeing and hiking. We spent a few hours hiking the 4.5 km Sassweg loop trail and finished with a hearty lunch at Vogeli (with a view of the ski slopes). Afterward we took another windy drive and stopped for supper in Triesenberg, a village dating back to the 14th century, before returning to Vaduz.
Hofkellerei and The Red House – Hofkellerei is the winery that makes the princely wine of Liechtenstein. Although it was closed during our visit at the holiday period, we had the pleasure of sampling a few vintages and can say it would be worth a visit. At the top of one of the wine fields is the infamous Red House. Other than its distinctive appearance and posture, I am not sure why it is so famous. It is currently owned by a famous artist from Liechtenstein (painter, sculptor, and architect).
Liechtenstein National Museum – situated between the Cathedral and the Visitor Center is the national museum for those looking to get a better sense of the history of Liechtenstein. Unfortunately it was closed while we were there but expect it is worth a short visit especially with free entry.
Have you been to Vaduz? What did you like most?