Small and oft-overlooked on the European tourist route, the teardrop-shaped nation of Liechtenstein offers up a surprising diversity of destinations, going from remote Alpine villages on the plateaus of the Rakiton to up-and-coming cities with industry, modern art and regal castles alike.
Let’s explore the 15 best places to visit in Liechtenstein:
This tight-knit capital of a tight-knit country is home to a humble 5,100 people, and sprawls out along the meanders of the Rhine River right on the edge of the state’s border with Switzerland.
In the 17th century, it was here that the ambitious Hans-Adam I secured the dynastic seat of the family of Liechtenstein, by acquiring dominion over the Vaduz valley and entering the upper echelons of power in the Holy Roman Empire.
Today, the town is shrouded by both the serrated peaks of the Swiss Glarus Alps and the fairy-tale spires of the great Vaduz Castle alike.
The latter is still the home of the country’s princes, and offers a nostalgic throwback to the 16th-century past of the nation with its turrets and precipitous bulwarks, while the city itself conceals other attractions, like one acclaimed KunstMuseum, oodles of wine cellars and Liechtensteinish taverns to boot.
Tiny little laid-back Nendeln cascades down the ridges of the fir-clad Ratikon ranges just a stone’s throw from the border with Austria and the pretty Vorarlberg town of Feldkirch.
Ringed by swathes of woodland and shrouded by the snow-mantled peaks of northern Liechtenstein above, this town boasts one postcard-perfect setting, not to mention a certain off-the-beaten-track vibe that’s thanks to its place close to the more popular village retreat of Eschen.
Between the clean and comely streets, travelers will discover a smattering of small Austrian-style taverns, some Roman ruins, the niche Schadler Ceramics Workshop – which produces excellent handmade china pieces – and one or two wine cellars touting Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer alike.
Set high on the plateaus of the Alps around Triesenberg, betwixt cloud-topped summits and thick forests of silver fir and Norway spruce, the peppering of timber chalets that forms the heart of Steg is the very epitome of Liechtenstein’s mountain beauty.
Remoter than many of the more popular winter sports resorts in the country, the verdant valleys that encompass this tiny little hamlet bloom in the winter with hardy edelweiss and Alpine meadow flowers, and come dashed through with one shimmering, mirror-like high-altitude lake complete with crystal-clear waters and that trademark turquoise hue.
The village is also watched over by the 2,000-meter high Kirchlespitz, and is enticingly close to the famed ski fields of Malbun deeper in the Ratikon.
Set to the curious tones of Walser German (an interesting local vernacular language that developed after mass migrations over the Bernese Oberland in the Middle Ages), Triesenberg village can be found cascading its way down the slopes of the Alpine hills above Vaduz.
It’s the centre of a pretty and picturesque region that dominates the very heartlands of the country with its patchwork of verdant meadows and high-perched pastures of grass.
Around its edges, visitors can spy out a smattering of pretty timber barns and farmhouses, while the middle of the town is home to the St Joseph at Parish Church, complete with Austrian-style domes, onion-shaped cupolas and an enchanting mountainside cemetery.
4,000-strong Mauren can be found nestled neatly right on the borderland join between Liechtenstein and Austrian Vorarlberg to the east.
Largely overlooked amongst tourists as they pass through from the neighbouring (and virtually conjoined) town of Feldkirch, the settlement actually boasts a history going back all the way to the Bronze Age, while it was the 7th century that gave Mauren its first church spire; one that was to undergo continuous reconstruction over the following centuries.
Today, this parish is imbued with gorgeous Gothic glassworks and traces of the Romanesque style from the 16th century, while beautiful Mauren itself spreads out under the snow-mantled massif of the so-called Three Sisters peaks in the distance.
Also nestled under the trio of summits called the Three Sisters is the lowland, valley-bottom town of Eschen.
Clustering around the main roadway that runs north to south through Liechtenstein, this charming little spot and its spiked church spire make a great stop off for drivers rolling their way through the country.
The whitewashed parish – the Holy Cross Chapel – that looms over the open square in the centre of the village is perhaps the piece de resistance, while rows of elegant half-timbered homes with echoes of Saxony and Germany pop up ad hoc on the corners.
The best of these is the so-called Pfrundhaus, which hosts everything from Unterlander wine tasting to medieval music shows between its 14th-century walls.
The winter sports mecca of the Ratikon makes its home deep and high amidst the Liechtenstein Alps.
As the only real ski resort in the country, Malbun draws more than its fair share of visitors, boasting an altitude of more than 1,600 meters above sea level (nicely placed atop the treeline) and a great smattering of challenging red and easy-going blue runs.
Add to that a collection of truly modern and cutting-edge chairlifts (think bum warmers!) and the family-friendly Malbi Park Kinderland for the younger, beginner skiers, and it’s easy to see why this one is being hailed as Liechtenstein’s most accomplished family-friendly resort.
Of course, the views over the Vaduzer Tali valley and the high Central Eastern Alps are also to die for!
Sat in the shadow of the chiselled Regitzer Spitz of Switzerland, on the lowlands of southern Liechtenstein, Balzers clings to a pretty spot on the edge of the winding River Rhine.
The town is perhaps most famed as the home of the Old World Gutenberg Castle, which represents one of the only two surviving medieval fortifications in the country.
Dating from the 12th century, this hilltop keep rises like a limpet on its small knoll against the Glarus Alps, showcasing the development of medieval fortification in the region and offering enthralling tours of its interior rooms, its bailey and manicured rose gardens.
Meanwhile, Balzers itself spreads out below, throwing up wine bars and interesting chapels alike.
Liechtenstein’s economic and industrial powerhouse has none of the gritty energy of the major German boomtowns of the Rhineland further north.
Instead, this one’s 5,800 people make it at once the country’s biggest municipality and the most down-to-earth and modern.
Of course, the streets still come shrouded by the serrated tips of the Rakiton Alps, and the centre is imbued with the likes of the Church of St Laurentius, complete with a sharp Gothic spire and a charming stone façade.
It’s on the peripheries where travelers will find the depots and warehouses of the country’s manufacturing enterprises, while the Austrian-owned Schaan-Vaduz train station remains one of the most popular and busiest arrival points in the state.
One of the northernmost draws of Liechtenstein makes its home close to the lowland streets of Schellenberg, also found clustering around the banks of the Rhine.
Just outside of the town proper, right on the cusp of the Austrian border in the district of Hinterschloss, the crumbling bulwarks and keeps, palisades and towers of what was once possibly the country’s most impressive castle still stand tall.
The finest ruins are at the Upper Castle, which dates back to the 14th century and displays a fascinating array of interior rooms and stony fortifications.
Meanwhile, the Lower Castle dates back even further and offers a fine insight into the history of lowland Liechtenstein.
Both sites are eminently walkable.
Cut off in the remoter climes of the Ratikon, small and sleepy Planken is the quintessential high Alpine settlement.
Home to just 366 people, it’s visited mainly by hikers and mountain bikers who stop-by while crisscrossing the mountains, casing out the massif of the Three Sisters, or flitting between the popular trekker huts at Sucka and Furstensteig.
Others will come to glimpse the town’s simple and stripped-down timber church spire, thought to have had its origins in the middle of the 19th century (though reconstructed since then), while the clusters of welcoming, hearty Liechtensteiner inns make for some interesting mountain accommodation options to boot!
12. Schalun Castle
Schalun Castle is unquestionably one of the most enchanting ruined castles in Liechtenstein.
It sits nestled between the Alpine peaks just a short hike out of the capital at Vaduz, set under the shadow of swaying Spanish firs and spotted with lichen that’s been growing since the fortification was deserted and burnt down sometime before the 18th century.
The ruins themselves date from the 1100s, making them some of the oldest of their kind in the region, while the crumbling remnants of the court rooms and great hall that are still visible at the site exude a palpable fairy-tale, fantasy, Game of Thrones-esque aura that’s difficult not to love!
Bathed in fresh Alpine breezes right throughout the year and the home of the first ever health and recuperation resort in Liechtenstein, tiny little Gaflei remains a popular stop-off for hikers and trekkers making their way through the plateaus of the Triesenberg district.
The spot is set high above the Rhine Valley, and makes for sweeping panoramas of the Swiss Glarus Alps across the border to the west.
The popular walking routes that scale the valleys of the Gafleispitze and Alpspitze start from the town, while other trails delve deep into the Furstensteig area.
Close by is where travelers will also discover the exact geographical middle point of the country: at Bargalla.
This small, high-perched village on the Triesenberg plateau is known amongst hikers and trekkers for its homey, timber-clad walking hut, while others champion its glorious views of the Swiss Alps to the east and the snow-capped ranges of the Ratikon to the west.
Surrounded by pockets of perennially-green fir forests and the craggy bowl-tops of the central Liechtenstein peaks, the cluster of just a handful of timber barns and guesthouses that forms the heart of the place is truly beautiful to behold by both summer and winter.
What’s more, Silum makes a great pit stop if you’re heading eastwards by foot or ski touring, delving deeper into the valleys around Steg and the ski fields of Malbun.
Ruggell is about as far away from the mountains that it’s possible to get in Liechtenstein, which means this town is just a short, hour-long hike from the beginnings of the Ratikon ranges for most! The Rhine chops right through the heart of the centre here, babbling past the charming façade of the St Fridolin’s Parish Church and offering stretches of jogging and cycling paths as it goes.
Add to that the celebrated Ruggell Film Festival, which draws short film makers from right across the continent each year, and a central arts and culture centre, and a stop off at Ruggell makes for a heritage-packed visit for sure!