Advantages Quiet, peaceful, copious banks and stamp shops
Disadvantages Not a throbbing metropolis, and pricey with it!
Taking the opportunity to travel to Liechtenstein as part of a few days holiday exploring Vorarlberg, Switzerland and Liechtenstein over the festive period, I chose to head to Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein – a tiny principality that nestles among the Alps surrounded by Switzerland and Austria.Getting there was no easy matter – Vaduz may be Liechtenstein’s capital, but it boasts neither a train station nor an airport. Fortunately the Liechtenstein Bus service (www.lba.li) took me from Feldkirch in Vorarlberg, through assorted villages to Vaduz, the capital. A day pass for the buses costs EUR 3.20 or CHF 5.00 – the Swiss Franc (CHF) being the currency in use in Liechtenstein although many shops also accept Euro. To get to Vaduz I had to change buses in Schaan – with the country’s only railway station (Schaan-Vaduz) being a stone’s throw away from the bus station there. To return to Austria I took the Montafonerbahn (a private regional railway) back to Feldkirch from Schaan-Vaduz. The Feldkirch-Vaduz journey took approximately 30 minutes, with very pleasant scenery on the journey. It should be noted that the station does not have a ticket office or ticket machine. From St Gallen to Buchs you will pass through Liechtenstein, but may have done so before you even realise you have.
Bearing in mind that only 5,500 people live in Vaduz, it should come as no surprise that the place feels like a village or very small town rather than a capital city. The choice of shops is exceptionally limited and there is relatively little to see – a trip will probably not need much longer than a few hours.Vaduz does boast some museums, which I visited on my trip, with the two most prominent being the Kunsthaus Liechtenstein and the Stamp Museum.
The Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein (Städle 32) had an exhibition entitled “From Paul Gauguin to Imi Knoebel” whilst I was there and it was worth a look at – all of the pictures belongs to the Hilti art foundation, who also own a considerable proportion of the paintings in the Kunstmuseum’s permanent collection. There are also frequent exhibitions of paintings belonging to Liechtenstein’s royal family at the Kunsthaus – although many items tend to be displayed at the Palais Liechtenstein. Admission cost me CHF 8. It was worth going to see, especially as unlike some exhibitions there was not simply too much on display with a few weak links, instead they had chosen a good representative selection of the artists they had collected and chosen to go for quality over quantity.The Stamp Museum is dedicated to one of Liechtenstein’s primary exports – stamps for collectors. It includes a complete collection of all the stamps that Liechtenstein has issued, assorted covers (some similar to British Mulready covers) as well as information about the postal service in Liechtenstein, and with assorted exhibits from Liechtenstein’s postal history, and thematic stamp collections from around the world. This museum is also free to enter, and is located in the same building as the tourist information office (Städle 37). The museum is worth a quick visit, although if you are not a philatelist, you’ll probably not spend more than about 5-10 minutes there.
The Tourist Information Centre is of primary interest for tourists seeking a Liechtenstein passport stamp – there are no border checks as such, other than on the border into the Principality from Feldkirch, when most people are just waved through in any case. To obtain a Liechtenstein stamp you have to part with CHF 2 or EUR 1.50 per passport – although the stamps are by no means as badly stamped as your common or garden passport stamp. They also have a wide range of tourist information about Liechtenstein as a whole, with town plans of Vaduz also available.The Crown Prince of Liechtenstein, Hans-Adam II lives in a castle perched up above Vaduz. As far as I know the castle is not open to visitors, although I could be mistaken. The castle towers down over the city impressively. There are also royal vineyards – Liechtenstein is a producer of wines, although again at premium prices.
Eating and drinking wise, Vaduz was fairly pricy. A two course lunch (soup for starter and a main course) with a large beer and a coffee afterwards set me back CHF 26.50 at Café Amann (Aeulestrasse 56) – ca. EUR 18 for which I would have got a far better lunch over the border in Austria. In hindsight I would have done well to have consulted www.gastroguide.li – which has listings, including price classes for eateries throughout Liechtenstein as well as just over the Austrian and Swiss borders. Cafés were generally pricey – for coffee I was paying over the odds in comparision with Vienna.I had originally looked at staying overnight in Vaduz, but the range of accommodation was not that outstanding and for the price at which it was offered, I chose instead to stay in Austria, choosing instead to head onto Bregenz on the shores of Lake Constance. Similarly the chance of throbbing nightlife in Vaduz was pretty remote – it seems that there is very little for the (not-so-) young to do – there were a lot of teenagers lurking on park benches drinking and smoking in Vaduz. The town's official website www.vaduz.li contained information on accommodation - generally prices are a bit higher than over the border in Austria, although they are similar to prices in Switzerland.
All in all Vaduz is worth a longer visit than just a cup of coffee, but is only really worth a half day trip to really. The city is very clean, but the sterility of the place does little to entice me to spend longer there. If you like postage stamps and banks you will be in heaven, otherwise the scenery on the bus ride through Liechtenstein to get there might be the most excitement you get!
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