Only slightly larger than Manhattan, the Principality of Liechtenstein, landlocked between Switzerland and Austria, lies snuggled between mountain ranges which rise steeply above the River Rhine. In 2019, the world’s sixth-smallest country celebrates its 300th anniversary with plenty of fanfare.
TEXT: WIBKE CARTER | PHOTO © LIECHTENSTEIN MARKETING
No one would claim that Liechtenstein is a tourism hotspot. In fact, the country, which measures only 12.4 kilometres wide by 24.6 kilometres long, is so tiny, one has to know exactly where to look for it on a map. But Liechtenstein’s wealth of culture, charming mountain scenery and hiking paths that are picture-perfect, have been overlooked for much too long. With events and special exhibitions going on all year round for the country’s jubilee year, the 38,000 Liechtensteiner hope to make a lasting impression.
Mountain scenery Malbun. Photo © Liechtenstein Marketing
Fireworks on national day
The peak of the celebrations will be on national day, 15 August, when the royal family invites citizens and visitors from abroad to the Rose Garden at Vaduz Castle (the grounds are otherwise closed to the public). From 9.30am onwards, crowds will gather for an aperitif, then head to the streets of the capital where beer and wine will flow freely. At 9.15pm, the traditional torch-light procession will move up the Princes’ Way hiking trail before the grand finale of a fireworks display. The celebrations and musical live acts continue well into the small hours of Liechtenstein’s biggest annual party.
Vaduz castle. Photo © Liechtenstein Marketing
Hans-Adam II, prince of Liechtenstein, is one of the world’s wealthiest monarchs, and he owns a priceless art collection that includes more than two-thirds of all of Peter Paul Rubens’ paintings. From September 2019 to January 2020, for the first time since 1938, some of the royal family’s artworks will return from their permanent home in Vienna to Liechtenstein for an exhibition at the Kunstmuseum (Museum of Fine Arts) in Vaduz. The small country is also home to one of the world’s finest Easter egg collections which can be seen in the Treasure Chamber.
Highlights include many precious Russian Easter eggs, including the world-famous Apple Blossom Egg by Fabergé, as well as other Fabergé Easter eggs and goldsmith masterpieces. Also on display are lunar rocks collected by the astronauts on board Apollo 11 and Apollo 17, and the first-ever postage stamp issued by the Principality of Liechtenstein.
Easter egg collection in Treasure Chamber. Photo © Wibke Carter
Trails and tracks
The country’s mountains have long been a well-kept secret among keen walkers, with soaring summits, cosy mountain huts and breath-taking views stretching all the way to Lake Constance. From easy walks in the Rhine Valley to more challenging excursions and snow-covered peaks, exploring Liechtenstein using the 400 kilometres network of hiking trails is one of the most popular activities among locals and visitors during the summer months. To celebrate the country’s birthday, the Liechtenstein Trail, which goes through all 11 municipalities, was launched this May. Explorers can discover 75 kilometres full of stories, sights, majestic views and idyllic spots to have a rest.
Parliamental buildings. Photo © Wibke Carter
Fun in snow and kitchen
From the middle of December, Liechtenstein’s only ski resort, Malbun, opens for downhill skiers, ski mountaineers and cross-country skiers, with guaranteed snow and a family atmosphere. The principality’s highest village (1,602 metres high) boasts excellent pistes, and winter sports activities are plentiful: ice climbing, tobogganing, winter hiking trails, snow shoe tours and mountain party huts.
Something a bit more unusual is offered in the small, family-run Hotel Turna, where Käsknöpfle making classes can be booked. The traditional national dish of pint-sized Liechtenstein is the rather small, doughy, pasta-style cheese dumplings, or ‘buttons’ (käs = cheese, knöpfle = buttons). Freshly made, they are typically served accompanied by spicy grated cheese, crisp fried onions and apple sauce. Every family has their own recipe, but it’s a dish that is enjoyed all year round especially on a sunny terrace in summer or in front of an open fire in winter.
Vineyards Vaduz. Photo © Liechtenstein Marketing
Raise a glass
Liechtenstein is a producer of wine, albeit in very small quantities. With its four hectares of south-west-facing slopes and mild climate influenced by the warm foehn winds, Herawingert is the country’s centrepiece of viticulture and ranks among the best vineyards of the Rhine Valley. Visiting Liechtenstein presents a unique opportunity to try one of the rare drops either in a local restaurant or on site at the Princely Wine Cellars in Vaduz, where award-winning, estate-bottled wines like the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are on offer at the Hofkellerei.