I knew Liechtenstein was a tiny country— the sixth smallest in the world, with 38,000 inhabitants, nestled between Austria and Switzerland—but I didn’t think it would feel like a gathering with a large extended family.
“It’s a very cosy community,” says H.S.H. Prince Philipp, who I met in the capital, Vaduz, a picture-postcard town on the banks of the Rhine that’s home to a population of not quite 6,000. The prince invited me for tea at Liechtenstein’s largest bank, LGT, which is owned by the royal family, known as the Princely Family, and is the largest family-owned private banking and asset management group in the world.
Prince Philipp, the younger brother of the reigning monarch, Prince Hans-Adam II, is the bank’s chairman, and under his leadership LGT has earned a global reputation for stability and personalised wealth services underpinned by the bank’s flat structure and the Princely Family’s traditional values.
LGT is one of many famous businesses from this prosperous principality, which boasts low taxes and political harmony. In fact, Liechtenstein has more registered companies than people and ranks as one of the world’s richest countries.
Prince Philipp paints a picture of royal life in this mountainous domain. “We don’t have bodyguards. We stroll around freely like any other person, so you might see us having lunch in a restaurant or hiking in the hills. We drive ourselves—no chauffeurs. And no private plane either— we fly commercial.”
With no airport of its own, Liechtensteiners usually fly out of Zürich; nor does the country have an expressway and, because it’s landlocked, there’s no seaport. It also has no military and the nearest train station is located 15 minutes away from Vaduz in Switzerland.
Prince Philipp at the LGT head office in Vaduz (Photo: Affa Chan/Hong Kong Tatler)
Every year on August 15, Liechtensteiners are invited to a National Day garden party hosted by the ruling prince and his family at Vaduz Castle, a 12th-century fortress that is not usually open to the public. It marks the birthday of Prince Franz Joseph II, who reigned from 1938 until 1989, and the Feast of the Assumption. Last year’s National Day party also celebrated the country’s 300th anniversary. It was on January 23, 1719 that the Austrian emperor united the two districts of the County of Vaduz and the Lordship of Schellenberg and named the new entity the Imperial Principality of Liechtenstein.
Part of a year-long programme celebrating the 300th anniversary was an exhibition at the Kunstmuseum, “Liechtenstein. On The Future Of The Past. A Dialogue Between Collections,” which thoughtfully juxtaposed old masters from the world-renowned Princely Collections, including paintings by Rembrandt and Rubens, with 20th- and 21st-century work by the likes of Miró, Picasso and Warhol on loan from major collections elsewhere.
Just down the street, during a guided tour of the country’s political heart, I even bumped into the prime minister and some of the 25 members of parliament, who regularly convene in architect Hansjörg Göritz’s strikingly modern Supreme House.
Liechtenstein’s snow-dusted peaks, flower-filled meadows and enchanting forests are a natural playground for lovers of outdoor pursuits. It’s little surprise, then, that this sporty nation chose to celebrate its birthday with a new hiking route to complement the existing 400-kilometre network of trails.
To end my tour, I headed to the Princely Wine Cellars, which are also celebrating their 300th anniversary. They were acquired by the family in 1712, although their winemaking experience goes back 600 years. A second vineyard in Austria has belonged to the Princely House since 1436.
Princess Marie, the wife of Prince Constantin, the third son of the sovereign, beautiful five-hectare boutique winery in the heart of Vaduz. She is regularly spotted inspecting grapes or hosting wine-pairing dinners at Restaurant Torkel, a Michelin-starred gem tucked away among the vines.
I met Princess Marie at the winery’s grand tasting room. Smart and refreshingly down-to-earth, this working mother of three, dressed in an elegant Michael Kors frock and knee- high heeled boots, is the epitome of a modern royal and the perfect ambassador for the monarch’s award-winning wines.
“Hopefully you’ve discovered the beauty of our remarkable country,” she says, while pouring us two flutes of royal Liesecco sparkling wine. “Here’s to the next 300 years: peace, prosperity and, of course, many more superb wines.”