Once travel restrictions are lifted and for those seeking a short term distraction from the pressures of life in the fast lane, the Principality of Liechtenstein, located on the banks of the Rhine at the heart of the majestic Alps and nestled between Austria and Switzerland, is the ideal spot to unwind.
Liechtenstein was so named after Prince Johann Adam Andreas purchased the Lordship of Schellenburg in 1699 and the County of Vaduz in 1712, leading to the unification of the regions after only five years, when Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia, Croatia, Hungary and Serbia, commanded that the territory be named Liechtenstein and it became a sovereign member state of the Holy Roman Empire.
As a result of Napoleon’s victory at the Battle of the Three Emperors at Austerlitz in 1805 and the abdication of Emperor Francis II, the feudal government ended and paved the way to Liechtenstein’s independence.
Today, Liechtenstein remains a constitutional monarchy and in 1989, on the death Prince Franz Joseph II, his son, Prince Hans Adam II assumed the regency. At around 160 square kilometres, Liechtenstein is the sixth smallest country in the world and prospered greatly after WWII due to the introduction of a low corporation tax, attracting a large number of international companies. Liechtenstein now has more registered companies than citizens and has achieved the third highest GDP per person worldwide.
Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein, offers visitors an intriguing glimpse of a colourful history and a fascinating culture. One of the most admired attractions is Vaduz Castle, an imposing palace and residence of the Prince of Liechtenstein, which was constructed as a fortress in the 12th century and is located on a hill, 120 metres above the capital.
Although the castle and its grounds are closed to visitors, a gentle trail, which meanders through the woods, leads to tranquil spots where walkers are richly rewarded with breath-taking views of the castle and the stunning surroundings.
For devoted fans of challenging outdoor sports, Liechtenstein offers 400km of walking paths leading from the valley right up into the Alps. The Liechtenstein Panorama Trail is one of the most popular marked hiking trails, which covers a total distance of 48 kilometres and departs from the mountain village of Malbun, which is also the only skiing area and only 13 kilometres from Vaduz.
For nature lovers, the Falconry Galina Hotel in Malbun is where you can get up close and personal with birds of prey and admire the artistry of a professional falconer. The ‘birds of prey in flight’ performance, which features hawks, eagle owls, buzzards, falcons, common ravens and golden eagles, takes place from Wednesday to Sunday afternoons, subject to weather conditions.
There is also the opportunity to go on an ‘eagle hike’, taking the chairlift from Malbun to Sareis, escorted by the falconer and a golden eagle. Once you reach the top you can witness the eagle’s expert flying skills, gliding through the air with ease, as you walk back down to the valley.
Liechtenstein is a well respected producer of wine and one of the most popular attractions in Vaduz is the Prince of Liechtenstein’s winery, home to the Herawingert vineyards, spread out over four hectares. Visitors are welcome to wander around the vineyards and sample the produce, which includes an excellent Pinot Noir.
For a scrumptious luncheon, head for the Torkel Restaurant, also located in the royal vineyard. The medieval building, which dates back to 1712, now houses this impressive eatery, which features an enormous old wine press dating back to the 18th century. The menu offers a wide range of traditional fare and of course the food and the service are first rate.
For weary travellers seeking the highest level of comfort and service, the Park Hotel Sonnenhof, located on Mareestrasse, is just the ticket. Consider relaxing in a junior suite, measuring 40 to 45m², which is furnished to a very high standard and features an ultra comfortable bed swathed in crisp linens, a spacious seating area and a terrace with a view of the Rhine Valley and the Alps. Room amenities include free Wi-Fi, a Nespresso machine and a soft robe and slippers to ensure you feel at home.
Hotel amenities include an excellent spa, a Finnish sauna and an indoor heated pool; perfect for a late afternoon dip. For an excellent dining experience, the hotel’s Marée restaurant, recipient of a coveted Michelin Star, provides outstanding service and an inspired menu. Sample the delicious fillet of sea bass, served with lemongrass, tarragon spinach and mango basmati rice. It simply melts in the mouth. And be prepared to take quite some time selecting one of the tempting treats on the dessert menu.
Be sure to take a leisurely stroll around the pedestrian only zone between the government district and the town hall and pause for a while to breathe in that Alpine air. Stop off at one of the local cafés; order a generous helping of käsknöpfle, a dish similar to pasta and oozing with melted cheese. Accompanied by a couple of local beers, this hearty dish will put a spring in your step.
Visit the Landesmuseum (the National Museum), which is housed in an impressive building dating back to 1438. Wander around at leisure and view the permanent exhibition, which presents an extensive collection of objects expertly displayed throughout 42 rooms providing a deep insight into the culture and history of this charming country.
One of the main exhibits, which instantly catches the eye, is a glittering gold coin, minted in 1694 to celebrate the day when Prince Johann Adam Andreas I was admitted to the Order of the Golden Fleece.
The Liechtenstein Treasure Chamber, which opened last year, is sure to attract a large number of visitors. Exhibits, belonging to the Princes of Liechtenstein and other private collectors, include a selection of works of art made using precious materials. There are fascinating examples of historic weaponry and knives and a range of dazzling gifts, which were once owned by Prince Friedrich II and Emperor Kaiser Joseph II of Austria.
Eye popping trinkets include Karl Fabergé’s Apple Blossom Egg, an elaborately decorated gauntlet once worn by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II, and a replica of the ducal coronet worn by Prince Karl I of Liechtenstein (1569-1627). There is also a fine collection of lunar rocks gathered by astronauts on board Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 missions.
For lovers of contemporary art, visit the Kuntsmuseum, also within the pedestrian zone. The painting and sculpture exhibition features exceptional works dating from the classical modernism era right up to the present time. Artists include Picasso, Gauguin, Hodler, Miró, Magritte, Kricke and Klein.
For an enchanting spring break consider an Alpine adventure in Vaduz, you won’t be disappointed.
Images courtesy of Liechtenstein Marketing.