During my trip to Switzerland, I ventured out to the Kingdom of Liechtenstein. This tiny sovereign country is nestled between Switzerland and Austria. And by tiny, I truly mean tiny. Of course it’s bigger than Vatican City, but you can basically drive from top to bottom of the country in an hour. Most people do a day or half-day trip here either as part of their journey to Austria or Switzerland or as a pit stop on their way between the two nations. There are no train stations or airports in the country; the only way in and out is by car or bus. Liechtenstein speaks German, uses the Swiss Franc, and has one of the world’s highest per capita GDP as well as the lowest unemployment rates.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t have picked a worse day to travel to Liechtenstein. I was so excited so see the beautiful scenery from all the photos I looked at before my trip, but upon arriving I couldn’t see anything but fog. I still recommend that you take a trip here to check it out for yourself, but my blog post is not going to win you over in the slightest. I went on New Years Day and aside from the gloomy weather, it was a dead town. There were few tourists wondering around and all the locals were assumingely bundled up at home. There were a couple restaurants and shops open, but for the most part it was a very dreary and quiet day.
I stayed in Zurich for 3 nights so decided to dedicate one of the days to seeing Liechtenstein. Since Liechtenstein does not have a train station, the best way to get there is by taking the train to Sargans and then taking the bus into Liechtenstein. I bought a roundtrip ticket from Zurich to Sargans for 66 CHF and then took the 9:37AM train. The trains run about every half an hour or so, which makes it easy and stress-free. There are both local and express trains, both take around 50 minutes to an hour.
Once arriving at Sargans, I exited the open-air station and proceeded to the bus area right outside. There are maps at the station to tell you which bus departs from which stop in the bus plaza. For Liechtenstein, you will take Bus 11 to Vaduz. I bought a one way ticket directly from the driver for 8 CHF (cash only) and got on the 10:36 bus. The bus comes around every half hour. It takes 30 minutes, including stops, to reach Vaduz Post. Be on the lookout for the Liechtenstein flag flying right after you cross the bridge over the river to know when you’ve entered the country.
After Vaduz, I purchased another one-way ticket for 8 CHF and got on the 2PM bus. Along the way back to Sargans, I stopped in Balzers and was able to hop back on with the same ticket. Unfortunately, after visiting Balzers, I missed the bus by 30 seconds. The bus driver saw me approaching and kept going so if this happens to you, make it very apparent that you want them to stop. Waiting an extra 30 minutes in the freezing cold was not a great way to end the day. I finally got back to Sargans at 3:50PM and then took the 4:25PM train back to Zurich.
Vaduz is the capital of Liechtenstein and also the seat of the national parliament. The town, which is located along the Rhine River, has 5,450 residents. Although Vaduz is the best-known town in the principality internationally, it is not the largest; neighboring Schaan has a larger population.
Vaduz Welcome Center
After arriving in Vaduz, I first went to the Vaduz Welcome Center. They have a 2-story shop full of souvenirs and a public restroom. You can also pay 3 Francs to get your passport stamped. I decided not to do this because I’d rather not waste the pages in my passport. I did, however, get my magnet here for my collection.
You can also go to the Liechtenstein Center for a passport stamp and information.
I ate lunch at a small pizza and burger joint next door.
Across from the Welcome Center is the Vaduz Town Hall, which dates from 1932. It was renovated in the years 1982 to 1984. The Town Hall Square is used for various events, such as markets or sporting events. When I was there, an ice-skating rink filled the square.
I passed by the Parliament Building, which lies at the heart of the Peter-Kaiser-Platz square, just down the road from the government building. After a proposal to create a new parliament building in Liechtenstein was rejected in a 1993 referendum due to its high cost, a Munich-based architect designed the building which is currently home to the parliament. Together with the government building and the national archive, the parliament forms the government district in Vaduz.
Kathedrale St. Florin
Vaduz Cathedral is a Neo-Gothic church that was built in 1874. During my stay, it was a nice place to go in and take a seat in the pews while warming up.
The Postage Stamp Museum (Briefmarkenmuseum) is very popular with most visors to Liechtenstein, since these small works of art travel the whole world and are in everybody’s mailbox daily. Rare stamps from Liechtenstein, historical documents, devices, historical postal service equipment, and special exhibits are presented in the museum. The museum exhibits postage stamps issued by Liechtenstein since 1912 and also the history of postal service of the country. The museum was closed on New Years Day.
I took the 20-minute hike up to the Vaduz Castle, which is the official residence of the Prince of Liechtenstein so it is not open to the public. The castle gave its name to the town of Vaduz, which it overlooks from an adjacent hilltop. Unfortunately, I could barely even see the castle in all of the fog. I definitely couldn’t enjoy the mountainous panorama view.
Balzers is a village located in southern Liechtenstein. The village has a population of about 4,500. The main part of the village is situated along the east bank of the Rhine. I hopped off the bus at Balzers, Metstrasse stop and again could barely see my surroundings in all the fog.
The castle is a short 10-15 minute walk/hike up a hill and past some vineyards. Gutenberg Castle is a preserved castle and one of the five castles of the principality and one of two that have survived preserved until the present day. Unlike Vaduz Castle in Vaduz, Gutenberg Castle does not serve as a residence of the princely family of Liechtenstein and is open to the general public as a museum. However, only the front courtyard was open when I went.
At the bottom of the hill is Balzers Cathedral. After walking up the left side of the castle, I noticed there was a gravel path that lead right down to the cathedral. I took a look in the cathedral and walked around the grave yard before going back to the bus stop. I wish that I was there on a warmer and sunnier day so that I could actually explore the town of Balzers. I’ve read that they have some nice restaurants and other good viewpoints (on a clear day of course).
Although it was a disappointing day for me, I would still recommend that anyone go to this little kingdom nestled in Western Europe. It was extremely convenient to explore and an easy way to check off another country if you are traveling in Switzerland or Austria.