Europe has plenty of micro-states, but for some reason it’s double-landlocked Liechtenstein that most often comes to mind when discussions are had as to which is the tiniest and obscurest of European nation states. What does Liechtenstein have going for it? And is Vaduz, the capital, worth a visit?
The founding of Vaduz
Vaduz was founded in 1322 CE by the Counts of Werdenberg who erected a castle (a modified version of which still remains) on a prominent ridge above the Rhine River valley.
The Werdenbergs, who still have a castle and town named after them in Switzerland, were destroyed by ongoing feuding in the 15th Century, which culminated in the Swabian War of 1499; Vaduz Castle was sacked in the war and the town burnt to the ground.
The Liechtenstein Family
In the 17th Century, the House of Liechtenstein, who already possessed large tracts of land in Austria, decided what they really wanted was a seat in the Reichstag (the legislative body of the Holy Roman Empire). This meant acquiring land not already commanded by the Imperial throne.
In 1699 they procured the Lordship of Schellenburg, and in 1712 they bought the neighbouring Countship of Vaduz.
In 1719 the lands were officially combined and awarded principality status. The new nation state was named after the family that had brought it into being: Liechtenstein.
The House of Liechtenstein had their seat in the Reichstag, but they had no real interest in the nation state they had just created. Decades would pass before any member of the Liechtenstein family would set foot in the country. It took 120 years before one of the Liechtenstein princes was willing to live there.
Is Vaduz worth a visit?
Vaduz is a pleasant city set in an attractive alpine landscape. It’s tiny, with a population of just 5,000, and it’s one of the few capital cities in the world that lacks its own airport (Thimpu, Bhutan is another); the nearest airport is 120 kilometres away in Zurich, Switzerland.
There isn’t much to do the city (the castle isn’t open to the public), and it does not stand out from – and you could say it is less impressive than – many similar cities in Switzerland and Austria.
If you have time constraints, then Vaduz, Liechtenstein is probably a city you can skip without feeling too much regret. But if you are on a mission to visit the world’s two double-landlocked countries (the other is Uzbekistan), then visiting Liechtenstein is a must. 🙂