Vaduz, Liechtenstein: things to do in an afternoon in one of Europe’s smallest capitals

Scene of beautiful Liechtenstein with the Red House
Beautiful Liechtenstein

This post contains affiliate links; updated 17th August 2019

“Blink and you could miss it” was my partner’s observation of Vaduz, Liechtenstein, after we’d spent an afternoon there.  In some respects, this is true – as capital cities go, it really is diminutive, with a population of less than 5,000 people.

But this doesn’t mean that you should overlook it as a place for a short trip: there is plenty to do on an afternoon out in Vaduz. And as it’s more akin to a small town than a capital city, it’s possible to see most things in a few hours.

Read on for more information on visiting Vaduz, Liechtenstein, capital of the world’s sixth smallest country…

Where is Vaduz, Liechtenstein?

Liechtenstein is a western European country, landlocked between Switzerland and Austria.

The fact that it’s so small means that it would probably be quite easy to drive through it without realising. However, its location and size also means it’s quite easy to combine with a trip to other countries.

Zurich in Switzerland is around 109 km away from the capital. Feldkirch in Austria is nearby (around 15km) and Innsbruck is 172 km away. It would also be possible to visit Liechtenstein from some of the more southern places in Germany.

We day tripped to Vaduz from Zurich, taking a train and then a bus and arrived in under two hours (see below for more details on how to reach Vaduz).

How big is Liechtenstein?

In the same way that the capital city of Liechtenstein is tiny, so is the overall population of the country at around 38,000 people.

Geographically, it covers an area of 62 square miles and the population of the capital, Vaduz, is even smaller than the tiny country town I grew up in. 

But this is probably not that surprising given that Liechtenstein is the fourth smallest country in Europe – technically it is a Principality, the head of state being Prince Hans-Adam II von Liechtenstein – and the sixth smallest in the world.

What to do in Vaduz, Liechtenstein

Vaduz Castle

For our afternoon in Vaduz, we focused on its main landmark, Vaduz Castle, a 12th century fortification, sat high on the hill above the city.

Vaduz Castle sat above Vaduz city centre
Vaduz Castle sat above Vaduz city centre

It’s a 20-minute walk from the main street to Vaduz Castle, up through the leafy hillside; the first part is pretty steep, but it does flatten out the higher you go.

At times, the pathway opens out and you’re treated to some wonderful views across the sprawling countryside below. Much of this is a lush green valley running beneath the surrounding mountains.  In the valley, some of the land has been laid down for vineyards.

Vaduz countryside and vineyards
Vaduz countryside and vineyards

The pathway eventually ends and you walk out onto a wide road that is the final stretch of the climb.  Here you get a superb view of Vaduz Castle sitting majestically on the cliff edge.

Image of Vaduz Castle with mountains in the background
Vaduz Castle

After the hot trek we’d had to get to the summit I was really looking forward to going inside and wandering around its gardens. Unfortunately, it’s closed to the public as the castle is the official residence of the Prince. 

Although a bit disappointing, I would still have made the effort to see it even if I had known this in advance: it’s definitely worth seeing the castle despite this.

Outside of Vaduz Castle
Vaduz Castle
Image of Vaduz Castle at the end of the pathway after walking from the city centre
Vaduz Castle

Wander around Vaduz city centre

Back in Vaduz city centre, you should take some time to wander around.  Walking away from the tourist office, you pass the Rathaus (Town Hall), a relatively modern building built in the 1930s. You can then stroll into Mitteldorf, where there are some of the city’s oldest buildings.

Vaduz's Rathaus or Town Hall
Vaduz’s Rathaus

The entire area is very small and consists of a few old, pretty and flower covered houses, but it does have a charm to it.  

If you wander past the neatly laid out vineyards, you will soon see the 14th century Rotes Haus, or Red House (named for obvious reasons!) with its simple yet eye-catching tower abutting against it. This is a great spot with lovely scenery to take in.

Vaduz's Rotes Haus or Red House with mountains in the background
Vaduz’s Rotes Haus

On the other side of the tourist information office is Vaduz’s Government building, a large attractive building in Peter-Kaiser-Platz square.

Image of Vaduz's Government building, a large attractive building
Vaduz’s Government building
Vaduz's Government building and square, with a church to the side
Vaduz’s Government building and square

A stone’s throw away is the more modern and modest Parliament building.

Picture of Vaduz's more modern Parliament building
Vaduz’s Parliament building

There is also a handful of cafes and restaurants in Vaduz city centre where you can stop and have some lunch or afternoon tea after your sightseeing tour. So there’s no need to rush back too soon from Vaduz.

Try the Liechtenstein wine and visit The Prince of Liechtenstein Winery

If wine is your thing, then Liechtenstein might be worth a visit for this alone (despite its small size, Liechtenstein apparently has over 100 winegrowers, some of which have won awards). 

You can visit The Prince of Liechtenstein Winery for tastings and take a look at their vineyards.  The winery wasn’t open when we visited, which was a shame; had we arrived a few hours earlier we may have struck lucky.

So a top tip would be to book in advance avoid disappointment and to make sure you can try out their wine on your short trip here.  If all else fails, we were told you can buy their wine in the tourist office on the main street.

Visit a Vaduz museum

Vaduz has a number of museums to visit. These include:

  • The Liechtenstein National Museum where you can learn more about the culture and history of this unique country. It is open every day except Mondays and entry is CHF 10 for adults.
  • The Postal Museum, comprising collections of stamps and displays on the history of the postal service.  If philately is a hobby of yours, this is somewhere you won’t want to miss.  It is open every day and is free to go in.
  • The Kunst Museum, a modern and contemporary art museum. It is open every day except Mondays; entry is CHF 15 for adults.
  • The Liechtenstein Treasure Chamber, housing a collection of artefacts owned by the Princes of Liechtenstein. Adults can visit the Treasure Chamber for CHF 8.00.

Get a stamp for your passport

It seems to be a thing to get a stamp for your passport when you visit Liechtenstein to show that you have visited the Principality.

You can buy one of these in the tourism office in Vaduz city centre. However, a note of caution: some articles I have read suggest that having a souvenir stamp may invalidate your passport in the eyes of some countries – in particular Finland; how true this is I don’t know, but it’s worth checking before you buy one. 

Admire the street art

When you walk around Vaduz city centre, you can’t help but notice the street art and sculptures adorning various places. These were sculpted by a range of artists and further information on these can be found on Liechtenstein’s tourist information website.

An example of a sculpture in Vaduz city centre
Street sculpture in Vaduz city centre

A quick read of this made me realise just how few we managed to spot. However, those we were lucky enough to see were definitely eye-catching and worth a stop to take a closer look.

If I went back, I’d look them up first and do a bit of a treasure hunt to find the rest…

An example of a sculpture in Vaduz city centre
Street sculpture in Vaduz city centre
An example of a sculpture in Vaduz city centre in the shape of a stiletto shoe
Street sculpture in Vaduz city centre

Getting around Vaduz, Liechtenstein

Vaduz is an easy place to see on foot. If you’re able to, it’s perfectly possible to spend your time wandering leisurely through the city centre, up to the castle, with time left to stop off for some food before making your way home.

Alternatively can take the city train (fittingly small given you’re in Liechtenstein!), for a sightseeing tour and sit back and take in the sights that way. There are several tours you can take, the shortest being 35 minutes and that whisks you to the main parts of the city (including the Red House and the historical area).

More information can be found on the city train’s website, or you could book a city tour with an alternative operator – see, for example, GetYourGuide.

How to get to Vaduz, Liechtenstein

We took the train from Zurich central station to Sargans.  Trains are fairly regular and take between 40 and 60 minutes. Change here for a 30-minute bus ride into Vaduz; buses are parked outside the station’s exit.

You can also reach Vaduz, Liechtenstein by train from Feldkirch in Austria to Buchs. You then need to catch a bus to Vaduz city centre.

Whilst these options do not seem on paper to be straightforward, in reality, they still make an afternoon trip to Vaduz possible and worthwhile.

Our journey from Zurich also took us through some wonderful countryside and Sargans had one of the nicest backdrops to a train station I’ve ever seen!

Sargans station with a mountain in the background
Sargans station
Sargans station with a train and mountain in the background
Sargans station

The Liechtenstein tourist information website provides information on travel, including bus and train timetables. Click here for more information.

You can also find more information and ideas for a visit to Liechtenstein in this guide book specifically on the country, or in guide books on nearby countries, for example Switzerland or a guide to the Alps.

If you do have the chance to visit Vaduz, I hope you enjoy it and find this post useful. Let me know if you have any comments!

If this part of Europe interests you, you might also find some of my other posts of use:

  • My afternoon out in Salzburg, Austria, learning more about the famous film the Sound of Music that was filmed here and seeing some of the stunning city sights and surrounding countryside

If you like small and unique countries and places, you might also be interested in my post on a short trip to San Marino and 5 must do things for a short weekend in Gibraltar. Enjoy!

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