What Should I Know About Liechtenstein?

Brendan McGuigan

Liechtenstein is a tiny nation in Western Europe. It covers a mere 62 square miles (160 sq. km), making it smaller than Washington, D.C., and one of the ten smallest self-governing nations on Earth. Liechtenstein is one of the most historically stable regions in Europe. The borders for the nation as it exists today were created in the early 15th century, and have not changed since then.

There is no international airport in Liechtenstein, but people can reach the country overland from Austria.
There is no international airport in Liechtenstein, but people can reach the country overland from Austria.

The nation is named after the ruling dynasty of Liechtenstein, which had its ancestral base in Castle Liechtenstein, in Austria. The family historically had close ties to the Habsburgs, acting as advisors to them throughout the years. For the early years of the Holy Roman Empire, the Liechtenstein dynasty held land only in fiefdom for other lords, making them ineligible under the existing system to be a part of the Council of Princes. To get around this problem, the Prince at the time, Johann Adam Andreas, purchased a small bit of land that was beholden only to the Holy Roman Empire, allowing the Liechtenstein dynasty to be raised to the princely rank.

Switzerland is a close ally of Liechtenstein.
Switzerland is a close ally of Liechtenstein.

In 1806, following the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and the creation of the Napoleonic Confederation of the Rhine, Liechtenstein became a sovereign nation. Although Napoleon would occupy the country for a few years, it quickly regained independence, which it has retained ever since. A more representative Constitution was adopted in the mid-19th century, and the country declared itself independent a few years later.

Since the end of World War I Liechtenstein has had a close relationship with Switzerland, which assists with many of its diplomatic responsibilities, due to its small size and lack of presence in many nations around the world. Since 2003 the monarchy of Liechtenstein has had more power than that in any other European country, with the Prince having the power to veto any law he wishes, and the power to dissolve the parliament.

Liechtenstein is perhaps best known for its status as a tax haven. Low rates of taxation have led tens of thousands of businesses to open operations in Liechtenstein, helping to make it a very wealthy country for its small size.

Liechtenstein mostly draws tourists who want to see this nation which is so novel in contemporary Europe. A strong monarchy, a tiny bit of land, and fairly picturesque scenery make Liechtenstein seem more like a country one might read about in a book than something sandwiched between Switzerland and Austria. The capital city of Vaduz is one of main attractions. A fairly small village, with only a handful of main streets, and an imposing castle looming over the town, Vaduz is not what one expects from a national capital.

There is no international airport in Liechtenstein, but you can reach the country overland easily from either Austria or Switzerland.

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