How do you define “visiting” a country? A layover in an airport? Going through passport checks? Spending a certain amount of time there? My definition has always been; getting your feet on the ground on the other side of the border. This would stretch the idea of a ‘visit’, but it does allow me to include Lithuania in my list of visited countries.
Liechtenstein is one of those countries where some may think that, because their train passes through it, they have fully experienced it. While the view from the Feldkirch, Austria to Buchs, Switzerland train is filled with marvellously mountainous scenery, there are rarely any stops in Liechtenstein. I recommend that you come to this 160 km2 country for at least a few hours.
Disembarking the train from Zurich to Sargans with us was a couple doing just that; taking a brief self-guided tour of the capital, Vaduz. Together we found the #24 bus, which took us to the edge of this small city – population 5,696 (many of whom seem to work in the banking sector) – where we walked to the Alte Rheinbrücke (Old Rhinebridge), a covered wooden footbridge that stretches the width of the immense Rhine and which was built in 1871.
Fortunately the bridge is just a 10 minute walk from the bus stop, from where we caught the #21 to Malbun. How powerful these bus engines must be; from the 455m altitude of Vaduz we were transported through Triesenberg (where many Walser people live) and up to Malbun at 1600m. Being so high up, Malbun is Liechtenstein’s only ski resort, but when we visited in early summer we saw that it also makes for an excellent hiking destination.
From Malbun leads a variety of trails, ranging from white-knuckle cling-to-ridges scrambles, to gentle strolls along valley floors. If I ever return here I’d be keen to undertake the two-day hike down to Vaduz. Malbun features a chairlift that operates year-round, from the top you can see the huge peaks of Austria and Switzerland, and enjoy refreshments in the friendly café, on the terrace of which patrons can gaze at panoramic views.
After a day of walking it was a joy to discover that our hotel (Hotel Turna) had a modern and peaceful spa in the basement. It was even more of a joy to realise that one of the very few (possibly only) restaurants open at this time of year had been decorated to look like a cave. Someone had gone to huge efforts to mould stalagmites, stalactites and little nooks from what must have been tonnes of plaster. The pizza served here was rather good too.
Instead of taking the bus directly back to Vaduz we opted instead to walk down the valley to Steg. Although the trail never strayed far from the road, there were so few vehicles that peacefulness prevailed. Here and there were little waterfalls, mountaintops constantly loomed above. At Steg is a man-made lake and yet more opportunities for long-distance hikes.
Because our time in Liechtenstein was almost up, we opted to return to Vaduz and have a quick look around this tiny capital. The highlight here is Vaduz Castle which sits high above the city, and which can be reached via a pleasant and well-signposted walk. The castle is home to Liechtenstein’s royal family and so you can’t actually go inside, but the view of and from the castle is well worth the steep climb.
Back in town and the main attractions here are the KunstMuseum (which also has a great café) and the Liechtenstein National Museum. Nothing here can be described as cheap and so, before we completely blew a two week budget in two hours, we walked to the Parkplatz Rheinpark Stadion where the national and local football team plays. Here we caught a Flixbus for the 35-minute journey to Chur, Switzerland.
We stayed at the Hotel Turna in Malbun, which was well located for the bus, cable car and hiking
Sargans is a 55-minute train journey from Zurich. From Sargans buses leave from the station and cross into Liechtenstein
Vaduz is on Flixbus’s line from Munich to Milan and is an easy and affordable way of getting in and out of Liechtenstein