Last summer, my friend SK and I included Andorra in our European Road Trip, even though travel reviews weren’t promising. Our journey through the small Pyrenean country of Andorra was rewarded with a splendid day of hiking and a humorously confounding cultural experience: Are we in Spain, France or somewhere else entirely? However, Andorra is not the only tiny country that I’ve been itching to explore. And this month, SK and I set off from Zürich – my new home – to uncover the mystery of The Principality of Liechtenstein.
Liechtenstein is the 6th smallest country in the world, with only 160 km2 (62 mi2) of land to its name. Approximately 37,000 people live in this small sector of the European Alps, which also happens to be one of the richest countries in the world. Surrounded by Switzerland and Austria, it’s one of the two doubly–landlocked nations on the planet; the other is Uzbekistan.
Upon visiting, you cannot miss the fact that Liechtenstein is proud of their princely heritage. The Austrian feudal lord Karl I of Liechtenstein Castle began the princely line in the beginning of the 17th century after receiving title and territory by Holy Roman Emperor Matthias. However, it wasn’t until 1719 that the Principality of Liechtenstein, or Fürstentum Liechtenstein (FL) in German, became a sovereign state. Today, the picturesque Vaduz Castle remains the official family residence of the Prince.
Although it’s political heritage is most closely linked with the Hapsburg Dynasty and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, modern day Liechtenstein seems to have a lot in common with its neighbor to the west: Switzerland. The Principality adopted the Swiss franc as its currency in 1920, and most native Liechtensteiners uses Swiss German in their everyday speech. The Alpine houses and hotels look like they’re out of a Swiss travel brochure, and the public transit system maintains a very Swiss-like reputation: clean, efficient, and reliable.
Throughout our 2-day exploration of Liechtenstein, I have to admit that there were times when I forgot I had left Switzerland at all. Because of the many similarities between the two nations, there is one question that travelers ask most about “Little Switzerland”: is Liechtenstein even worth visiting?
Like any travel experience, your attitude and your mindset make your trip. If the Alpine region does not capture your heart, then Liechtenstein is probably not the place for you. If you’re a curious and open-minded traveler who loves the great outdoors, then you may enjoy discovering what makes The Principality of Liechtenstein special.
For my part, I certainly had a princely time in Liechtenstein! Check out my next story 7 Things to Do in Liechtenstein to learn more about what you can see and do in this tiny European Principality.
Hoi! Have you ever traveled somewhere that you knew little about to begin with? Have you ever made a relatively unknown and unpopular place your final destination? Have you visited a place against the critics’ advice? Are you interested in visiting Liechtenstein? Does this little country seem appealing to your travel taste?