A March 2003 trip
to Vaduz by Invicta73
Quote: Just like many other visitors to Liechtenstein, I decided to go there primarily due to curiosity about the fairly unknown country. Despite the lack of any particularly renowned sights, Vaduz proved to be an appealing place in which to spend some time.
However, my personal highlight of being there was undoubtedly going to the Liechtenstein Art Museum. Housed in an aesthetically pleasing modern structure, the gallery is a fairly recent addition to the local landscape. Although not particularly large, it successfully manages to showcase elements of the impressive collection that the country's monarchy has accumulated alongside other acquisitions and temporary exhibitions.
In addition, I would recommend making the most of the picturesque undulating setting. A fine way of doing such a thing is following the trail up to the castle. Even though there is no public access, the pretty royal residence is worth seeing closely, and also the views available from the elevated position are certainly scenic. After such exertions, a good method of relaxing is to sample a wine produced from the grapes that readily grow on the principality's slopes.
The only form of public transport in Liechtenstein is the post bus. As previously indicated, this is of no practical use in the capital itself, but the network does offer links to most of the country. Perhaps more importantly, the affordable and reliable system also operates on the routes to the closest Swiss and Austrian towns.
Located close to the heart of the capital, and open day and night throughout the week, except for Sundays and public holidays, it is a convenient spot to visit when either hungry or thirsty. At the rear is a fairly small bar area that is somewhat aesthetically reminiscent of a Mediterranean café where hot beverages and also cooler drinks, both alcoholic and soft, are available. Meanwhile, the slightly more rustic and bigger section closer to the entrance contains dining tables. The menu follows an Italian theme, featuring reasonably priced and decent quality pizzas and pasta dishes. In addition, the members of staff are friendly and efficient, and there is a nicely relaxed atmosphere.
However, it is especially noteworthy for the selection of wines that occupies a significant proportion of one wall, which is can either be drank on the premises or taken away. It features a quite typical range of international bottles, alongside numerous offerings originating in Liechtenstein. The output of the local vineyards, including those owned by the ruling prince, is an important part of both the economic and social life in the country, and is not more highly regarded elsewhere only because national demand leaves nothing to export. The reds are usually the best bet, but decent rosés and whites are not uncommon.
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Until November 2000, the national art collection was located in a former casino. The move to a modern purpose built home came about due to an initiative from the country's current monarch, Prince Hans Adam. When parliament initially objected to the idea, he simply dissolved the institution and continued anyway! The young Swiss grouping of Morger, Degelo & Kerez won an international architectural competition during the late 1990s, therefore earning the honour of designing the new edifice.
The result is an attractive building constructed using polished dark concrete, which could almost be described as a square monolith in appearance were it not for the presence of several large windows. There are six decently sized exhibition rooms inside the two-storey edifice, all of which have a sensibly understated décor.
One reason that the prince has taken such an interest in the establishment is that a significant proportion of the works displayed are part of what he and his family have impressively accumulated over the years, including masterpieces by Rembrandt and Jan Steen. However, since the founding of the original museum over three decades ago, there has been a changed of emphasis, as those in charge have focused on acquiring more recently created items. Exhibited are works by a range of leading artists from Hans Arp and Salvador Dalí to Henry Moore and Pablo Picasso, which together represent almost all of the last century's important styles, such as cubism, minimalism and surrealism.
Admission to the museum costs around a little less than 10 francs, and it is open all through the week, except for Mondays. There is a small shop, as well as a pleasantly furnished café that serves all of the usual fare, but additionally specialises in sushi, and entry to both is free and separate from that to the gallery itself.
Liechtenstein Art Museum
Attraction | "Vaduz Sights"
Probably the best-known and most important sight is the Liechtenstein Art Museum. The gallery is home to a good collection of works, including part of the renowned private collection owned by the local royal family.
Meanwhile, above the centre on a charming wooded hillside is a relatively understated, but really quite beautiful castle. Parts of the structure date back to the fourteenth century, although much of what stands today is the result of an extensive renovation about 100 years ago. It has been the principal home of the local royal family since the 1930s, and because of that is not actually open to the public. However, going up the footpath, which features some signs that provide pertinent historical information, to get a better look is still rewarding, as it is even nicer when seen close up. In addition, the views down into the settled valley below and across to the mountains opposite from the elevated position are also very pleasant, and there are several decent marked walking trails nearby.
Finally, there are some other potential points of interest in the area, including a pair of museums dedicated to a pair of quite notable facets of life in principality, namely skiing and postage stamps, which are both probably primarily worth visiting by those who are enthusiastic about the particular subject. However, the latter is free to enter, occupies only one room and adjoins the tourist office, which is where to obtain the nation's passport stamp, so it may be worth briefly browsing the exhibition anyway. In addition, among the profusion of bank buildings, there are a few examples of appealing older architecture. Perhaps the most noteworthy is the 19th century Cathedral of St Florin, elevated from being just a humble parish church as recently as 1997, which is externally charming and features some magnificent modern stained glass windows inside, whilst the home of the national parliament and the town hall are also both attractive edifices.
Vaduz Sights & Attractions
Before going there, I felt that finding many distinctive things in Liechtenstein could prove to be a challenge. After all, in addition to being one of the world's smallest countries, it is, perhaps more pertinently, completely surrounded by a pair of culturally similar nations that are both much larger and better known. In fact, had history turned out slightly differently, the principality could now instead be an Austrian province or a canton of Switzerland, the currency of which is the local legal tender. As it happens, the somewhat quirky independence almost definitely boosts significantly the number of tourists each year. In my opinion, the crucial question is whether there is any notable individuality in existence, which would justify such a situation and make a visit really worthwhile.
Guidebooks and suchlike frequently quote a variety of facts and figures that may potentially help to provide an answer, although some, such as it being the largest exporter of false teeth in the world, definitely do not! Nevertheless, others are actually more obvious when on the ground. For example, winter sports and viniculture are both make important contributions to the national economy, so unsurprisingly slopes set aside for skiing or growing grapes are very evident when in the countryside, but to be fair they are hardly unusual in the general vicinity. Meanwhile, the centre of Vaduz is home to numerous shiny headquarters of banks, reflecting the incredibly liberal financial regulations, whilst shops selling the renowned postage stamps, as well as a museum dedicated to the subject, are also located in the same area. In addition, the presence of the only German speaking monarchy anywhere in the world is the reason for the existence of the two main sights, the appealing royal palace that overlooks the miniature city from the mountainside, and the Liechtenstein Art Museum, which exhibits, among other pieces, parts of Prince Hans Adam's renowned collection. However, despite such things, there is still an overriding feeling that the typical regional character spans borders, although the combination of national capital and Alpine village is admittedly rather novel.
Additionally, speaking to people did not yield very much extra insight, although having arrived from Zürich it was admittedly immediately apparent that hello was no longer grüezi, but was instead grüss gott, which is primarily a very common Austrian greeting. However, meeting a shopkeeper who is a Swiss migrant worker did indicate a level of wealth found almost nowhere else, and talking with a local youth who was dressed from head to toe in a dog costume revealed that the then impending Fasnacht carnival was as popular there as in Basel or Lucerne.
In summary, by the end of my time there, it felt on balance that very few distinct things had been uncovered. However, I was only a casual visitor who stayed for just a short period of time, so the possibility of having missed many more subtle things is reasonably high. Nevertheless, even if no particularly obvious uniqueness serves to make it is a truly must see destination, Liechtenstein is still a charming spot.
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