I planned a last minute overnight jaunt to Vaduz, Liechtenstein while on a trip to Switzerland.
I find that Vaduz is a charming small city (I hesitant to call it a town since it is the capital of the Principality of Liechtenstein, but it only has 5,005 people – size of a little town). The people here is friendly and helpful once you approach them. The visitor centre is top notch. They gave good suggestions taking into account the weather conditions, and they will post your postcards for you. Awesome service. And they work with the same Swiss precision here. When I asked about the bus schedule to the reception at my hotel, she looked at me like I had grown two heads. It is the norm here that buses come and go as per the schedule one sees. There is no need to contemplate the alternatives (and people complain Singapore is sterile and boring?).
Coming with train then bus from St. Gallen via Sargans, one is overwhelmed by the majestic Alps mountain range and the beautiful Swiss villages at the foot of the mountains.
We also passed towns such as Triesen on the way to Vaduz. Along this route, I saw many modern buildings which house many private, wealth management banks. This is the main indication that I have arrived in Liechtenstein, as there is no physical border with Switzerland.
This is a small prosperous country. The houses in Vaduz are beautiful. You see nice cars everywhere. But in many ways, it is still a very European town – relaxed, simple life.
Most restaurants are closed on Saturdays and Sundays. In other places in the world, Saturdays are usually the best days for restaurant business. The reception at my hotel even told me that one of the nice hotels, Hotel Lowen even closes on weekends (not only the restaurants, but the whole hotel). I am staying at a 4* hotel and there is no heater or air-conditioning in the room. Surprisingly it is not freezing in the room and it is -4 degrees Celsius outside.
One needs five to six hours to finish visiting Vaduz:
A. One hour for a quick hike to the Schloss Vaduz (it is the royal residence and is closed to the public). The hike of 25-30 minutes each way takes 25-30 minutes, if done leisurely and the view is worthwhile.
B. A couple hours to hit the National Museum, the Treasure Chamber and the Postal Museum.
The National Museum has interesting exhibitions. What I found interesting:
– Alemanic Tombs
– Morse Code Machine
– The Lent Tapestry
– Roman Gold Ring with Medusa Stone
– 9 Bronze Figurines Dedicated to the Celtic Gods
Get the audio guide for the museum – all write-ups are in German only.
Buy the combination coupon with the Treasure Chamber. The latter exhibits various items of the Royal Family. You can enjoy a wide array of Fabergé eggs, beautiful weapons, and specimens from the Moon taken by the Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 missions. These specimens are gifts from President Nixon.
The Postal Museum can be missed unless you are a philatelic afficionado.
C. Half an hour in the St. Florin Cathedral.
D. One hour and a half for a meal and wander around Stadtle and Mitteldorf.
E. An hour if the Princely Cellars (Hofkellerei) is open for wine tasting.
Most tourists I encountered seem to be part of the escorted group tours traveling across Europe by big, luxury buses. I imagine they are stopping in Vaduz for a few hours as part of the ‘Visit 21 Countries in Europe in 20 Days’ itinerary.
Being a small country in between Austria and Switzerland (both heavily influenced by German influences), many of the cultures, especially food, are heavily influenced by its neighbors. I walked around Stadtle and came across an ice-skating rink, surrounded by stalls selling glühwein, bratwurst, and raclette. I tried the raclette on toast for snack, and it is very yummy.
I tried Pizokel with spinach (pizokel is egg and flour dumpling). The taste was only passable and it felt heavy like having rocks in your stomach. I had to hike to Vaduz Castle after that meal!
While searching for traditional, popular restaurants, I only found restaurants serving Austrian and Swiss food. Most restaurants here serve international fare. Luckily there is a temporary restaurant, Alphötta, in conjunction with ‘Vaduz on Ice’ (a temporary ice skating ring next to the Rathouse (town hall). The place is cosy and rustic. I tried one of the local specialties ‘Feine Käsespatzli mit Röstzwiebeln und Apfelmus’ (cheesy spatzle with fried onion and applesauce). It is the perfect comfort food on a cold winter night. The applesauce gave it an interesting twist, and the combination was surprisingly delicious (not in a strange fries and ice cream kind of way). I decided to try a local beer with the meal. I was recommended the Alpen Pale Ale Club Bier 02 from Liechtensteiner Brauhaus. I am not a beer connoisseur. I supposed it tastes alright. What is interesting is that this micro-brewery is the first one here after 90 years. And today there are two microbreweries here.
I wonder a lot where the young people party in this place. Stadtle street was dead last night. Most restaurants are closed. The ice skating rink was empty. This is the first time, visiting a place on a weekend backfired. I saw no standalone bars in the centre.
If I thought Saturday night was bad, Sunday morning was even worst! When you stay overnight in Vaduz, get breakfast from your hotel. I could only find two places and neither of them serves hot breakfast food. I ended up eating berry tart and coffee for breakfast. There was barely anyone on the Stadtle street. The most people I saw was attending Sunday mass at the St. Florin Cathedral. I went to visit the Cathedral during 9.30am Sunday mass. The church bells rang for at least five minutes prior to the start. The mass was quite well-attended. I never realized how religious people in this part of Europe are. It was way more attendees compared to Easter Sunday mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragoza, Spain.
Even with a busy morning, I was done way earlier than what I expected (11.15 am vs 2pm). I decided to go back to St. Gallen for some sightseeing there. And yes, the bus was on time despite the snow! I was back in St. Gallen by 1.30 pm.
It has been a quick and interesting jaunt to say the least. If one happens to drive around Europe and has the opportunity to drive pass Liechtenstein, it is an interesting place to stop by and check out. But to go out of one’s way to visit, it is probably not warranted.
Country no 54, ✔️✔️.