lovely liechtenstein

last month we visited liechtenstein* for a few days. when i was planning this trip i looked online for information about where to stay, eat and explore in this small (160 square kilometres), doubly-landlocked (it’s surrounded entirely by landlocked countries – swtizerland and austria) principality, but struggled to find very much.

quite a few online articles and discussions started with the question – is it worth visiting liechtenstein? my view is yes – it’s beautiful and i really enjoyed the fact that we could explore the country, in its entirety, within a day (having a car probably made it much easier to do this)!

we stayed in triesenberg which is located halfway up the mountain that overlooks vaduz, the capital. being this high meant we had beautiful views, down into the rhine valley and over the swiss border towards the alps. it also gave us the experience of two seasons in one day - when we arrived at our hotel it was snowing and by the next morning everything was beautifully white. in morning we drove higher up the mountain to malbun to see more snow but by the time we were down in the valley the snow had vanished. temperatures that day varied from -3c to 12c. it was all very surreal but also a brilliant way to be able to see the landscape in snow as well as basking in spring sunshine – it was beautiful in both.

so, what did we do…

the border with switzerland is formed by the rhine and we decided that rather than drive along on the swiss side, we would enter the country in the northwest corner and drive along the river on the leichtenstein side it wasn’t a particularly interesting journey but it did take us along most of the length of the country, on our way to triesenberg.

our drive up the mountain was on a teeny windy road which took us past vaduz castle, the palace and official residence of the prince of liechtenstein. the castle isn’t particularly pretty and you can’t visit; if the weather is bad i wouldn’t bother working your way up the mountain – with the snow coming down and on a single lane road it was all a bit scary for me -  as you can get a good view of the castle from the valley below, while you explore vaduz itself.

we explored triesenberg on foot in the afternoon – there isn’t much to this small village with its one shop and handful of restaurants but the onion-domed st jospeh’s church is pretty and the well-tended cemetery gives an insight to the names of all the local families. there is also a museum devoted to the walser community, which journeyed here from switzerland in the 13th century. apparently this is triesenberg’s star attraction and recounts the story of the walsers, a german-speaking ‘tribe’ from the valais that emigrated across europe and settled in many places, including liechtenstein, where they still speak their own dialect. the museum was closed so we couldn’t visit, however, apparently it is also worth asking at the museum about visiting the nearby walserhaus, a 400-year-old house furnished in 19th-century fashion.

instead, we called in at restaurant kainer and ate a delicious cheese fondue. the restaurant has beautiful views over the rhine valley and would, i am sure, be especially lovely in the summer when you can sit out on their terrace – in the meantime, visit their website which has a short video that includes the village and the views.

driving down to vaduz, this time using the road which the buses take rather than the single lane windy road we’d driven in on, we went south to balzers  to see burg gutenberg, a state-owned 13th-century castle which was restored in the 20th century. it is now only open for concerts but apparently this is a good area to use as a starting point if you enjoying walking or hiking.

back to vaduz. we called in at the cathedral and then walked through the pedestrianised area, visiting the postage stamp museum to pick up some souvenir stamps but resisting the option of having our passport stamped (for a fee) to show we’d been in the country – apparently this is a big thing for many tourists! there is also a national art gallery (the café here looked nice and airy, with a lot of people tucking into sushi) and a national museum. we had nice, albeit pricey, pizza at nearby brasserie burg, sitting out in the sunshine.

we headed mitteldorf, a street which is part of a lovely area of town that includes a number of traditional houses and gardens with small patches of vineyards in between. particularly eye-catching is the late-medieval, step-gabled rote haus, which you see perched above the vineyards (see above). we then walked a short distance out of town to the hofkellerei - the prince’s vineyard where you can taste and buy the wines he makes in both liechtenstein and austria. the local pinot noir was what caught our eye as we’d enjoyed it the previous evening, but there is a broader range available (there is small charge for the tastings but we weren’t charged this as we bought some wine). there is also a restaurant attached to the vineyard – torkel – but this was closed.

and that pretty much covers it. obviously there are various outdoors options if you’re visiting and more inclined to ski, walk, camp, cycle than i am, but even without those additional distractions, i had a great time. this was at least in part due to the hospitality we experienced at the hotel oberland in triesenberg. this was one of the few hotels open so early in the season (we were there in the first week of april) but despite this we were well looked after, especially the evening we arrived as we didn’t want to go out for food. the kitchen was not open but we were given a plate of cold meats, cheese and salad plus glasses of the local pinot noir. this was followed by a hot dish as the owner was cooking for his family and didn’t want to exclude us. he provided me with samples of his homemade pickled chillies and an extra glass of wine on the house as we chatted about living and working in liechtenstein and gained an insight into this small and beautiful country.

* the country, not to be confused with lichtenstein, a town in germany(actually, there are two, one of which we also visited, on our way back to frankfurt, as it has a beautiful castle – see below)