We’re not talking about France, Italy, Germany or Austria – but Liechtenstein, of course. Liechtenstein is not known for being holiday paradise, but it’s definitely worth a road trip. Castles and palaces, nature and mountains, history and action – and all this in a surface area of just 160 square kilometres. What is more, this has the unbeatable advantage that the country can be explored by car in a single day.
Theoretically, you could actually drive through Liechtenstein in a good half hour, but that’s not the idea of a road trip – and nor does it do justice to this compact little country. By the way, while the Swiss refer to Liechtenstein as a Ländle, or small nation, the people of Liechtenstein don’t. They use the word to refer to the Vorarlberg.
To make the round trip as flexible as possible, we take the train to Sargans, where our reserved Mobility car awaits us. Less than a quarter of an hour later we’ve crossed the Rhine (and the national border) and are in Balzers. This is a tranquil village that offers a taste of what Liechtenstein is particularly good at – historic buildings that have seen a lot but are well preserved. In Balzers, this applies in particular to Gutenberg Castle, which was built in the 12th century. Perched on a 70-metre-high rock, it offers a wonderful view of the surrounding mountains. Right next to it is the parish church of St. Nicholas, which is 110 years old.
The tour then heads towards Triesenberg – if you have children on board, a stopover is recommended at Seilpark im Forst (forest rope park) or the adjacent Robinson Playground in Triesen – to explore the south-east of the country. The route then goes on from Triesenberg to the Steg reservoir, where another stop is possible: either for refreshments at one of the two restaurants or to fish for brown trout in the reservoir (parking spaces available, online booking).
If you drive on a for a few more minutes, you’re already at 1’600 metres above sea level in Malbun, the country’s mountain sports centre. Numerous hikes are possible from here, but most are quite lengthy and should be combined with an overnight stay. If you want to stick to a day trip, you can take the chairlift up the Sareis and enjoy a picnic at over 2’000 metres. If you’d still like to go for a hike and are prepared to move at a snappy pace: Augstenberg (1h 30m), Pfälzerhütte (2h) and Nenzinger-Himmel (1h 30m) are definitely compatible with a day trip.
After this it’s time to head back to the Rhine Valley, to Vaduz: mecca of finance and foundations, capital and home of Prince Hans Adam II von und zu Liechtenstein. His residence, Vaduz Castle, is only good for a brief stop since viewing is not possible on the inside, unfortunately. But with origins dating back to the 12th century, the building is impressive from the outside, too. Vaduz also offers the opportunity to learn about Liechtenstein’s history and distinctive features. For a crash course, go to the Liechtenstein Center, while more detailed information is available at the LandesMuseum and the SchatzKammer (treasure chamber). Other sights worth a visit, depending on your interests, are the PostMuseum and the Kunstmuseum (museum of modern art).
After all this history and culture, you deserve a snack. Why not try a portion of Käsknöpfle (spaetzli served with cheese, fried onions and apple sauce) or Ribel: maize and wheat semolina cooked in milk water to make porridge and then roasted in a frying pan. If you prefer something more upscale, go to one of the Michelin-rated restaurants Marée orTorkel . If you don’t have to drive and would like something alcoholic, you should definitely choose a local product – both wine-growing and beer brewing have a long tradition in Liechtenstein.
The journey continues via Schaan, Nendeln and Schaanwald. This route is selected because it is in this region that the oldest architectural remains (2nd century) are to be found. For example the Roman fort in Schaan or the Roman villas in Nendeln. The other reason: the aim here is to make the journey last that little bit longer. That’s why you now cross the border into Austria in Schaanwald, and just a few minutes later you’re back in Liechtenstein – in Ruggell, the northernmost and lowest-altitude village. Anyone who still has energy can park the car at the sports field for a last brief walk: just over a kilometre to the north is a border triangle – in the middle of the Rhine.
Finally, head back to Sargans on the A13 in less than 20 minutes. Although the motorway is in Switzerland, Liechtenstein is always in view. And shortly before Sevelen there’s even one last sight to marvel at: the 135-metre long Old Rhine Bridge. It’s not only picturesque, but historically important, too – the last surviving wooden bridge that crosses the Alpine Rhine.
The big advantage of this road trip becomes apparent if you look at the route on Google Maps: although you pass through virtually the entire country, the total journey time is only a little over 100 minutes. So that gives you more time to get to know the country and its people. Safe travel!
Distance: 84,1 km
Journey time: 1h 42min