The alps never cease to amaze, no matter where they’re encountered. I’ve had the privilege to admire them from vantage points in a half-dozen countries, including those where you expect to find them, like Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and France, but also from scenic Slovenia and, most recently, the small principality of Liechtenstein.
When we shot Real Road Adventures: Liechtenstein, we crossed into the microstate over the Rhine River on the Alte Rheinbrücke, or Old Rhine Bridge, in our EV. One could be forgiven for not immediately feeling the difference between Liechtenstein and its larger, but still small neighbor, Switzerland. The Swiss Franc serves as the currency and the language is quite similar, although many people speak English, like in Switzerland, so you’ll find it an equally easy place to travel.
We stayed in the conveniently located Hotel Vaduzerhof, which is a 24-hour self-check-in hotel with views of Vaduz Castle. From your base on the main square in Vaduz, you can climb up to the castle, enjoy Vaduz’s small-town feel, and reach the rest of the country in no time.
At a total land area of 62 square miles, about eight Liechtensteins would fit into my home county of Athens, Ohio, so it’s easy to see the whole kit-and-kaboodle in a couple of days. While there is a lot to discover, here are my suggestions for lots of local laughs in this Lilliputian location.
The Walser people of Liechtenstein settled in what is now Triesenberg in the 12th and 13th centuries. They have the reputation for being idiosyncratic and a bit stubborn, but these are attributes that served the hardy mountain people well over the centuries. Patrick Walser, an award-winning carver, runs the chainsaw carving studio, Carve, where he not only creates masterpieces for his clients but will also give you a lesson in carving your own chunk of wood. When I was there, we spent the morning carving an owl, and while the final product was a bit too large to fit into my carry-on, at least I could take home the knowledge I gained.
This meandering, 84km route is broken into three stages. While it’s quite possible to cycle the entire route in a day, it might be best experienced by choosing a segment, taking it easy, and stopping along the way. Stage one has the benefit of passing directly in front of Vaduz Castle and through Triesenberg, where you can admire Patrick Walser’s chainsaw sculptures depicting the Walser people’s legends which are placed along the trail. The Liechtenstein Center, the tourism office in the middle of the main square in Vaduz, rents four e-bikes and one wheelchair-friendly trike for those with more limited mobility. Take a picnic and enjoy stunning views of the alps all around.
What could be more fun than hiking through alpine meadows and admiring Rhine Valley views ringed by mountains? Doing it all with a llama as a hiking buddy. And what could be better than that? Leading your llama hiking buddy to a lush meadow where they can munch on grass while you munch on fondue cooked over an open fire. The llamas and alpacas at Lama & Alpakahof - Triesenberg each have their own personality, but they’re all easy-going, fuzzy, and adorable. It’s a great way to get the kids outdoors for a hike without too much of the usual “are we there yet?”
This ceramic workshop started as a family business making stove tiles in 1836. Now, Schaedler turns out functional art: beautiful, modern cups, pitchers, bowls, plates, and more. I especially liked the pitcher with small cups for its simple, elegant design. Call or email ahead of time and you may be able to watch artisans creating objects and tour the facilities. They also have a small in-house cafe so you can enjoy a coffee or some ice cream while you’re there.
Liechtenstein is one of the few European countries which still has a royal Prince as the head of government. You’ll notice that the Prince, currently His Royal Highness, Prince Hans-Adam II, has his name on many things in the country, including the vineyards that stretch out beneath the castle. Since most of the wine produced in Liechtenstein stays in the region, this is your best chance to savor the “gout de terroir” of this tiny country. Tour and taste at the Prince’s winery and stroll the vineyards at your leisure with the castle hanging on the cliff above you.
After your tour of the Prince’s vineyards, it’s a short walk through the vines to Restaurant Torkel, where you can enjoy food that pairs with wine from the grapes grown in the restaurant’s front yard. The day we were there, the sun was setting over the alps of Switzerland, which were visible in the distance to the west of Liechtenstein. It was a truly magnificent sunset that imbued the scene with an air of magic.
Another taste of Liechtenstein you shouldn’t miss is 32 Peaks Dry Gin, a start-up run by a few young, enterprising Liechtensteiners. The name comes from the 32 peaks over 2000 meters in the country, and the 11 carefully selected botanicals were selected to represent the 11 communities of Liechtenstein. I sipped it in a gin and tonic over ice with a sprig of fresh rosemary, which was piney, buttery, and delicious. Look for 32 Peaks in local restaurants and bars.
Have you ever traveled to Liechtenstein? What were your favorite activities? Let us know in the comments and subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss a thing!