Only slightly larger than Manhattan island, Liechtenstein is the world’s fourth-smallest country. It’s a quiet, unassuming place, ruled over by His Serene Highness Prince Hans Adam II, and has made a mint from nursing some Sfr90 billion in its numbered bank accounts, a living that has inevitably laid it open to accusations of dubious practice. Money-laundering aside, the main reason to visit is inevitably the novelty value. You have to feel sorry for little VADUZ , laboring under the weight of being capital of a historical oddity: the tiny town bulges with glass-plated banks and squadrons of whistle-stop visitors aimless with anticlimax. The central hub is the post office, where all buses stop, midway between the two parallel main streets, Äulestrasse and pedestrianized Städtle. Facing it is the sleek new Kunstmuseum (Tues-Sun 10am-5pm, Thurs until 8pm; Sfr5; www.kunstmuseum.li ), holding the world-famous private art collection inherited – and added to – by the prince, which includes exquisite works by Rubens, Rembrandt, and others. Perched picturesquely on the forested hillside above the town is the prince’s restored sixteenth-century castle (no public access). If you have some time to spare, catch bus #10 to Liechtenstein’s sole mountain resort of MALBUN , a small, blissfully quiet retreat up at 1602m.
Getting to Liechtenstein
Bus #1 shuttles over the Rhine to Vaduz from Sargans train station on the Zürich-Chur line (no border controls). Post buses from Vaduz serve all points in Liechtenstein as well as Feldkirch just across the border in Austria (passport needed), from where trains run on to Bregenz, Innsbruck, and Vienna. All Swiss transport passes are valid on Liechtenstein buses; normal fares are Sfr2-4.
The Vaduz tourist office , Städtle 37 (Mon-Fri 8am-noon & 1.30-5.30pm; April-Oct also Sat 10am-noon & 1-4pm; May-Sept also Sun same times; tel 232 14 43, www.fuerstlichemomente.li ), has good information and will bang a stamp into your passport as a memento (Sfr2). There’s an HI hostel at Untere Rüttigasse 6, beside Mühleholz bus stop in SCHAAN , 2km north of Vaduz (tel 232 50 22; £10-15/$16-24; closed Dec-Feb). The best-value hotel is friendly Uf der Säga (tel 392 43 77; £20-25/$32-40), in the countryside near TRIESEN , 5km south of Vaduz, alongside Mittagspitz campsite (tel 392 36 77). At STEG , near Malbun, Sücka doubles as a working farm and guest house, with dorms (tel 263 25 79; £10-15/$16-24). For food in Vaduz, Cesare , Städtle 15 (closed Sat & Sun), offers good Italian menus for Sfr20; while gourmet stand-up deli Eredi Florini , Herrengasse 9 (closed Sun), has delicious point-and-choose meals (Sfr12-20).