Vaduz dates back to the 1100s (at least, it appeared in manuscripts from the time); a castle dates from 1322, but the Swiss completely destroyed both in 1499. Until 1719, the Hohenems family held Liechtenstein. This is when the Liechtenstein family purchased it. The family originally came from Castle Liechtenstein in Lower Austria. They wanted to become part of the Imperial Diet, the central forum for power holders at the time, and so needed to acquire land that was only subservient to the emperor himself, hence the purchase of Liechtenstein. The emperor then created the Principality of Liechtenstein in 1719 and, showing how much the family actually cared for their new purchase, they didn’t even visit for another 120 years.
Vaduz today is a rather modern, small town that consists of the main street a few, very small parallel streets branching off of it and small ones connecting them together. As one would expect, the main attractions in Vaduz are very close together. In fact, most of them are right next to each other, with the exception of Vaduz Castle which overlooks Vaduz (the next parallel street at a higher elevation).
If you are preparing a visit to Vaduz, you have to like visiting museums. With the exceptions of the Cathedral of St. Florins, the Government Building and Vaduz Castle, all other attractions are museums of one kind of another. From the aforementioned list, only the Cathedral of St. Florins, built in 1873, is visitable. Opinion: I think this cathedral was the one with the best decoration in Liechtenstein. However, it was not well decorated. It was also in the minimalist style that we saw in Triesenberg and Balzers. The arched ceiling was a nice change and the interior was less white, which was for me a positive thing.
As the Government Building in Vaduz is the seat of the government of Liechtenstein; Vaduz Castle is the residence of the House of Liechtenstein (as in their main/only residence). Unfortunately, neither of those are visitable except on the outside.
While we were not planning on visiting any museums during our time in Vaduz, we accidentally pulled into the parking lot of what we thought was an antique clock shop. It turned out to be an antique clock museum. We were all but bound, gagged, and thrown inside, compelled to visit it by the proprietor. All jokes aside, we were there for a shot of Vaduz Castle from closer to the river, but we also got an hour plus long tour for of the history of clock making in Europe which was really quite interesting. We only just got out of an informative two-hour film presentation on the subject. We had to feign that the projector shut off after 10 minutes of the film from overheating, which it was certainly doing at the time. However, we saw amazing clocks from all over Western Europe (mostly German-speaking countries and the UK) that had been restored as necessary. We also had a tour of the restoration workshop where this guy worked, all for 20 Swiss Franc.
In addition to the museums, another visitable site is the old wooden covered bridge that connects Vaduz to Switzerland. Today, the wooden bridge only allows foot and bike traffic across it. However in the past, some version or other has been there since the mid-1800s. The modern bridge is from 1927; what makes it special is that it is the only remaining wooden bridge to span the Rhine. The roof was renewed in 2010.
All in all, Vaduz was not what we were expecting. While Liechtenstein is small, we expected that a village of 5,000+ people would have a little bit more to see. We thought especially with Liechtenstein’s novelty nature, it would be interesting but other towns had more to see in them. While it is a nice, picturesque little town, 30 minutes can easily be enough time to wander around without stopping for the museums. The castle also can’t be seen well from the town due to trees and buildings that get in the way of the view. The Castle is also directly on the road, meaning that pictures of the entire thing are hard to come by (if not impossible from the ground). What Vaduz really offers is a central location from which any part of the country can be reached in less than 20 minutes, so staying in a hotel there would be recommendable if you are looking to do a tour all over (we stayed in an AirBnB just across the border in Räfis (near Buchs), Switzerland) unless you are only going for nature.
Here are some more photos from around Vaduz:
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