Vaduz Then And Now: A Personal Pilgrimage

Vaduz profile

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In 1930 my grandfather, a keen amateur photographer, wrote an article for the Kodak Magazine about his trip to Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein. As a teenager I listened to him reminiscing about the “snowy mountains”, and I’ve been intrigued by this tiny principality ever since. Now, many years later, I managed to track down a copy of his article and I resolved to make my own journey to see how much had changed.

Vaduz castle
Vaduz Castle towers over the city

An Agricultural Community

I was surprised at how much was still recognisable from my grandfather’s article. This is partly due to geography: the majority of Liechtenstein’s population lives in a narrow strip between the Alps and the Rhine. Although Vaduz is larger now than it was in 1930 (more than 5,000 people now, as opposed to around 1,500 then), it seems that much of the expansion has been in the neighbouring towns of Schaan and Triesen. Even so, it is startling to find that it has retained much of its character as an agricultural community. Walk a few minutes from the city centre and you’ll find slopes covered with vines and cows grazing peacefully in the fields. A little further away crops and market produce grow in the dyke-protected riverside plain.

Vaduz past and present
This scene is little changed since 1930

The major landmarks are little changed. Vaduz Castle dominates the town now as it did in 1930, although it has been the royal residence since 1939 and it is no longer possible to walk around the courtyard as my grandfather did. The city church may be covered in scaffolding but the royal pew is still there. And we walked across the Rhine into Switzerland on the last remaining covered wooden bridge.

Covered wooden bridge
A covered wooden bridge crosses the Rhine

Vaduz In The 21st Century

In other ways Vaduz has changed out of all recognition. In 1930 Liechtenstein was a poor, agricultural based economy, and by the end of the Second World War it was so impoverished that the royal family had to resort to selling off artworks. However today it has one of the highest levels of per capita income in the world. Vaduz has become a centre for international banking, a result of its low corporate tax rates and strict banking secrecy. Industrial activity has also increased, to the extent that Liechtenstein is now one of the world’s leading manufacturers of dental products.

Vaduz city centre
Old and new buildings of the city centre

The increase in wealth and population has led to the construction of new houses and public buildings in the capital. Apart from the castle and the church, very few of the buildings now standing in Vaduz would have been there in 1930. The centre is impressively modern, the few older buildings surrounded by contemporary architecture and outdoor sculptures and artworks.

Open air sculpture
The city centre is full of open air sculptures

Another sign of the 21st century is the coaches full of daytrippers keen to explore the town. Their numbers may be few – Liechtenstein is still relatively undiscovered as a tourist destination – but it is easy to see why they come. With its mountains, castle and country town atmosphere one thing that hasn’t changed is the old fashioned charm of Vaduz.

How To Visit Vaduz

  • There is no airport in Liechtenstein but Vaduz is within easy reach of airports at Zürich and St Gallen in Switzerland, and Friedrichshafen in Germany.
  • From Zürich you can take the train to Sargans, then bus to Vaduz. Trains also run to destinations in Switzerland and Austria from the nearby town of Schaan.
  • If you are staying overnight have a look at the accommodation options on
  • Note that many shops and restaurants will be closed on Sundays.


9 thoughts on “Vaduz Then And Now: A Personal Pilgrimage”

  1. Wow! I live in Europe and have never even considered a visit to Liechtenstein. It’s one of the smallest countries in Europe I think isn’t it (apart from the Vatican City)? Now you’ve introduced us to it – I think it will be next on my bucket list, especially as you say it’s as yet undiscovered.

    1. Monaco and San Marino are smaller than Liechtenstein. But about two thirds of Liechtenstein is mountains, meaning that the bit where most people actually live isn’t much bigger than San Marino.

  2. How wonderful that you could return and explore the place your grandfather wrote about! Vaduz castle looks wonderful … I wonder, in such a small population, how hard it would be to get an introduction to the royals and see the castle!

  3. What a treat to see this tiny principality as it once was! I’ve spent just an afternoon in Vaduz, but was impressed with all the open-air sculpture. Reading about it makes me want to stop off for another look.

  4. Grey World Nomads

    Interesting to read that Liechtenstein resp. Vaduz was ‘poor’ and agricultural only in 1930. It’s nowadays the opposite – tourism and banks make it happen. I’m always surprised how fast you drive through this little country. It’s tiny.

  5. That is so neat that your grandfather wrote an article for Kodak AND you have the article! I enjoyed your post as I really didn’t know much about Liechtenstein….just that it was a small country. I certainly had no idea that it had one of the highest levels of per capita income in the world or that it was one of the world’s leading manufacturers of dental products. Love learning more about other countries.

  6. I’ve passed through Vaduz and Liechtenstein several times, but never stayed for long. I enjoyed visiting again with you and learning a little bit more about it than I knew, even if it was only for a few minutes.

  7. What a cool story. So great to get to see the place you had heard about for so long. We have been through Vaduz several times and it seems to have a storybook charm still.

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WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren.

I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), and I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…


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