One night in Vaduz

Walking across the border from Sargans in Switzerland, I arrive in Vaduz, looking for a place to stay. As I stroll absent-mindedly, wondering whether rooms are hard to come by on a Friday night in Liechtenstein, I bump into a scooter. Its owner asks if I want a hotel and, if so, do I want to spend lots of money? At the Hotel Residence, perhaps? Must have tourist written all over me. Or perhaps Vaduz is so small, he knows everyone else.

The country of Liechtenstein is essentially a family firm, headed by His Serene Highness Hans Adam II von und zu Liechtenstein. He resides with his immediate family in the fairy-tale 12th century stone castle, Schloss Vaduz. Special talents of the 32,000 inhabitants: making money.

I’m here on a slight whim, not remembering much from my last quick visit, more than 20 years ago. We were a band of teens on the way to Venice then, stopping in Liechtenstein just to get the coveted passport stamps.

When scooter man hears I don’t want to spend lots of money, he shows me to Hotel Engel. Means Angel that. Must be a good sign. My room is nice, and has a little balcony overlooking Städtle, the main street of this diminutive European capital.

View of Städtle,the main street of Vacuz, capital of tiny Liechtenstein
Balcony view of Städtle

An evening amble along Städtle takes me past interesting art, all part of Bad RagARTz, a temporary art exhibition in Vaduz and in the Swiss town next door, Bad Ragaz, where sculptures, like cows, are let out into the fresh air for the summer.

Public art in Vaduz, Liechtenstein Public art in Vaduz, Liechtenstein

Inside a small plaza, Café Nexus beckons with laughter, music and welcoming, cosy torches. Liechtensteiners are dressed for a night on the town; the men in handsome suits and the women in trousers, pretty sandals and discreet jewellery. It’s obvious – though not in a brash way – that this is a wealthy town. They seem social, lively people. A table meant for two, is easily shared by nine Vaduzers who don’t mind sitting close. Something pleasantly Mediterranean about the atmosphere here.

Next to me is a stylish outdoor bar with sleek black leather sofas. One man has his feet up, jacket off, tie loosened and a beer in front of him. Mobile phone in one hand, he handles a laptop and what looks like a contract with the other. Two women sit with their feet up, heads close, beers in hand, discussing a spreadsheet – business, but no stress.

Above, Schloß Vaduz looms. The ancient castle looks like it might tumble down on Hotel Residence any minute. I’m glad I wasn’t persuaded to part with a lot of money; I’d have more than one reason to lose sleep.

This is the only country named for the family who bought the land – the Liechtenstein family of Vienna. The year was 1699 and the purchase was the only way for this powerful family to get a seat among the ranks of Imperial Princes. A sovereign nation since 1866, the billionaire head of state wields more power than his colleagues around the continent. He is frequently political. In other European monarchies, that would cause a major stir and demands that the monarch withdraw and can we get rid of that archaic state form already.

The fairy-tale 12th century stone castle in Vaduz, Liechtenstein
Schloß Vaduz, under renovation

Tomorrow I venture out of town, up in the mountains. There’s more to this tiny country than money. Much more.


I’ve heaps more info and inspiration on this tiny Alpine principality on EuropeUpClose, including the practicals here, if you’d like to visit. For a longer narrative, have a look at this article on Boots’n’All.

10 Responses to “One night in Vaduz”

  1. Michael Figueiredo 4 July 2011 0022 #

    I really want to visit Liechtenstein someday… Actually I want to hit up all of Europe’s “little countries.” Last year I went to San Marino and was really impressed by it. It’s nice to know that Liechtenstein has a lot to offer too.
    Michael Figueiredo recently posted..Top 10: Things To Do in Buenos Aires, Argentina

  2. jade 4 July 2011 0049 #

    I like the idea of traveling to different smaller areas too- less people and more like peeking into a part of time, than just being a spectator.
    jade recently posted..Snowmass Swings Both Ways

  3. Ciki 4 July 2011 0102 #

    wow, Café Nexus in Liechtenstein sounds like my ideal chill out place! I would love to visit.. and oh, fancy being called.. Her Serene Highness.. so and so.. ! LOL.. that’s just so cute.. :P
    Ciki recently posted..The Launch of Kronenbourg Blanc

  4. Raymond @manonthelam 4 July 2011 0906 #

    Looks like a great place to spend the night!
    Raymond @manonthelam recently posted..Growing Old Before My Time

  5. Christina 4 July 2011 1813 #

    I’ve been to Switzerland a few times, but I’ve never made it to Liechtenstein. Looks like an inviting little place!
    Christina recently posted..Photo essay: three reasons to visit Verzasca Valley, Switzerland

  6. John Wilson 4 July 2011 2302 #

    Good post – I had forgotten that I had ever been to this country until your blog.
    How about 40 yrs. since I was there?
    Good info, and as always, good pictures.
    Look forward to your posts about the countryside.
    Cheers,
    John D. Wilson
    aka The Big Mozey

  7. Mark Wiens 5 July 2011 0738 #

    What a beautiful setting for a town. I’m looking forward to your post about venturing into the surrounding mountains! Have fun!
    Mark Wiens recently posted..Yangon’s Thiri Mingalar Market – A Sensory Buffet of Burmese Sights and Sounds

  8. I have wanted to visit Liechtenstein for awhile now and after reading your post, I want to visit even more! One of these days I’ll make it there and to other of the small jewels in Europe.
    Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista recently posted..Cesky Krumlov – I Want to Go There!

  9. robin 6 July 2011 1357 #

    I didn’t realise it was named for a family! You learn something every day…
    robin recently posted..Pájaros

  10. Marie R. 29 July 2011 1056 #

    I really enjoy your articles on these unusual and quirky countries, Sophie. I want to go back to Liechtenstein now!

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