Although we made Zurich our first 2022 international vacation destination, our second day in Switzerland included four separate border crossings.
Located just 90 minutes away from Switzerland’s most populous city, the tiny microstate of Liechtenstein felt like a destination in its own right. In addition to being one of the smallest nations in the world, it’s also especially cozy in that it is one of just two doubly landlocked countries on the planet: it’s bordered by two countries (Switzerland and Austria) that are also landlocked. Liechtenstein is small enough that visitors could walk across it in just half a day, and despite its proximity to countries with strong national cultures it has no trouble holding its own. Although we skipped the walk in favor of trains and buses, we had no trouble seeing why so many visitors prioritize a few days in Liechtenstein when traveling through central Europe. If you’re thinking about a day trip to Liechtenstein, here are a few spots to add to your itinerary.
Vaduz CastleBefore our local bus had reached its stop, we could see Vaduz Castle looming above us. First constructed in the 12th century and expanded over the years and as new reigning families moved in and out, it has been the home to Liechtenstein’s Princely Family since the 1700s. It’s a working castle in that the Prince calls it home, which means public visits are not possible and there are no official tours to take. Liechtenstein citizens have an easier time visiting, as the castle is periodically open for special events. Additionally, if your visit to Liechtenstein’s capital city includes a stop at the Princely Theater, you may have the opportunity to watch a film that provides an inside look at life within the castle walls.
If you have never tried wine from Liechtenstein before, there’s a good reason why: it’s sold almost exclusively within the country as well as a handful of specialty shops in Switzerland. The Prince of Liechtenstein’s Vineyard and Wine Cellar are open six days a week (like most shops and restaurants they are closed on Sundays), and unlike the castle the vineyards are open to the public. Among the most popular is the Blauburgunder, which is a Pinot Noir varietal. Reservations are recommended although not required, so if you have some extra time during your day trip to Liechtenstein you may find it to be a relaxing spot to spend part of the afternoon.
Like so many European cities, Vaduz is full of charm, and much of that is expressed through the beautiful architecture that dots the landscape and lines the main streets. A quick walk will take you past spots including the Parliament Building, Town Hall (Rathaus), and the Cathedral of St. Florin. Because we arrived early in the morning, we were almost completely alone as we walked throughout the city, which also gave us all the space we needed for great photos.
Museum MileLike many countries, Liechtenstein has many museums dedicated to its history and traditions, and Vaduz is the perfect place to experience them. Known as the Museum Mile, several history and art museums near one another can more than fill your day. We especially enjoyed the Liechtenstein National Museum, which is a well-rounded experience offering local history and natural history in a former home that dates to the 15th century. From traditional clothing to the animals that call Liechtenstein home, there is quite a bit to learn and see as you traverse the historic building. The museum regularly hosts special exhibits; we had the chance to see an exhibit showcasing popular historic headdresses from Europe and Africa during our visit.
Our favorite museum was the Liechtenstein Treasure Chamber, where visitors can see an incredible variety of priceless artifacts. Even entering the Treasure Chamber is a special experience; after paying our admission fee, we were given a gold coin to insert into a slot at the museum’s entrance. The door opens for one person at a time to ensure only paid guests can enter. A replica of the Prince’s crown jewels are on display, as are several works of art, historic weapons, Fabergé eggs, and even lunar rocks brought back to Earth with the Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 missions. We were impressed by the variety of items on display; although the jewels were beautiful and certainly expected, seeing lunar rocks was beyond what we thought we would see. The museum is very small and won’t take more than 20-30 minutes to explore, and you can receive a reduced entry if you purchase a combined ticket with the National Museum. The only downside to our visit was a restriction on photos; although it was nice to experience the museum through our eyes and not the lens of a camera, a guard near the door intently watched us to be sure our cameras remained off.
Cross the Border at Alte RheinbrückeOur first border crossing from Switzerland to Liechtenstein took place as we made our journey first by train and then by bus as we traveled from Zurich to Vaduz. Before making the trip back to Zurich, we walked from Liechtenstein to Switzerland and back again by crossing the Alte Rheinbrücke, or the Old Rhine Bridge.
Our visit to Liechtenstein took place on a very quiet summer weekend day, and after exploring Vaduz we walked 20 minutes away from the city center toward the border between the two countries. The Alte Rheinbrücke is the oldest wooden bridge over the Rhine River, and today it caters exclusively to pedestrians and cyclists. Starting in Liechtenstein, we walked halfway across the bridge before pausing for a few photos with the sign that marked the border—Liechtenstein behind us, Switzerland ahead of us. From the other side, we spent some time admiring the river view before crossing once more. There are no customs agents, immigration forms, or checkpoints to distinguish the bridge as a link between two unique countries at all; if you were to cross but miss the sign you might not have any idea you had left Liechtenstein at all.
Thanks to our visit to the bridge, we made four separate border crossings during our day trip to Liechtenstein, and it was one of the highlights of our experience if for no other reason than the simple novelty of it. If your visit to Liechtenstein takes you to Vaduz, the Alte Rheinbrücke is a must-stop destination; the peaceful, quaint bridge is almost certainly unlike any other border crossing you have experienced!
Liechtenstein Passport StampsYou won’t be able to get a passport stamp at any official border crossing, but if you want a Liechtenstein passport stamp, you’ll find them at the Visitor Center in Vaduz. We tend to be selective when it comes to souvenir passport stamps because they take space away from required passport stamps, but neither of us could resist a stamp from Liechtenstein. It’s a fun reminder of our experience there when we flip through our passports while traveling, and if you can spare the space, you may be glad you got one as well. The visitor center is a worthwhile stop in itself; in addition to getting information about fun things to do during your day in Liechtenstein, the gift shop has a nice selection if a physical souvenir is on your list.
On a nice day, tackling part of the Liechtenstein Trail is a great way to see more of the country. While the trail itself extends more than 45 miles, several shorter loops are much easier to incorporate into a day trip to Liechtenstein. If your travels take you to Vaduz, the Vaduz loop is less than five miles and takes 2-3 hours to walk on average. You’ll have the chance to explore natural landmarks and do some castle spotting before the trail deposits you in central Vaduz, where you’ll see some of the impressive architecture extending through the city. If you have more than one day in Liechtenstein and want to walk the full trail, there are plenty of accommodations along the route that offer pause points to enjoy a meal and get a good night’s sleep before another day of exploration.
A Few Planning Tips for a Day in Liechtenstein
If you are planning a trip to Liechtenstein, there are a few things to keep in mind.
► Avoid a Sunday or Monday visit if possibleMuch of Liechtenstein closes on Sundays, and you’ll find your activities a bit more limited than usual. While Museums are open, many shops and restaurants are closed, as is the Prince’s Vineyard. Additionally, museums are typically closed on Mondays, so you may want to choose a different day for your visit if museums are important to you.
► Day Trips Are Easy from Zurich
We had considered taking an organized day trip to Liechtenstein, but if you prefer more independent travel, Liechtenstein is a very easy day trip to plan and take without a tour. We took a train from Zurich to Sargans, where we boarded a bus to Vaduz Post. Vaduz Post is a central bus stop and is just minutes away from key stops like the National Museum and Vaduz Castle, and our entire one-way journey took just a bit more than 90 minutes. We left in the morning, and we were back in Zurich by dinnertime. If you prefer organized tours, there are several that combine stops in Vaduz with locations throughout Switzerland and Austria for an even fuller day trip.
Visiting Liechtenstein perfectly combined a few things we missed when international travel was off the table for so many of us. It took us back to Europe, where we could immerse ourselves in centuries of history and incredible architecture that just looks different from the newer and more modern buildings we see at home. It provided us with a chance to see a new country, even if only for a day. Importantly for us, we easily fit it into a condensed long weekend trip packed with stops throughout Zurich as well as Jungfraujoch. A day trip to Liechtenstein is a fun way to see the country—but we would certainly understand if you extend a day trip into a few days to experience even more of the country. We already know we’ll be planning an extended visit the next time our travels take us to that beautiful part of the globe!
More Information: Tourismus.li
Want to discover more interesting places in Europe? Check out these posts from our archives!