LGT Gives Us The Royal Tour
I’ve only been in Liechtenstein for a few days and I’ve already met two members of the royal family, exchanged pleasantries with the Prime Minister and rubbed shoulders with the Minister of Social Affairs. I knew it was a tiny country—the sixth smallest in the world, with 38,000 inhabitants nestled on 160 square kilometres of alpine terrain sandwiched 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 meet in the capital, Vaduz, a picture-postcard town on the banks of the Rhine that’s home to a petite population of not quite 6,000. The prince has 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 myriad businesses that have found international success in 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, with a per capita income just below that of Qatar.
Despite his aristocratic bloodline, which dates back to the 11th century, Prince Philipp is delightfully humble. Before our meeting, his office informs me there’s no royal protocol to follow other than addressing him as Prince Philipp. When I confess to being a little nervous about this, my first audience with royalty, the prince smiles and says, “For Liechtensteiners, royal encounters are a fairly regular occurrence.”
Over a pot of Earl Grey and some delicious Swiss chocolates, 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.”
Flights are usually taken from Zurich, which takes approximately 90 minutes to get to by car, as Liechtenstein has no airport; nor does it have an expressway and, because it’s landlocked, there’s no seaport. It also has no military and the nearest train station is in Switzerland— located 15 minutes away from Vaduz, across the River Rhine.
By far the most popular way of mingling with the royals takes place annually on August 15 when Liechtensteiners are invited to a National Day garden party hosted by the ruling prince and his family at their regal abode, Vaduz Castle. High on a forested hillside overlooking the capital, this 12th-century fairy-tale fortress is not usually open to the public. Tourists wishing to snap a shot at the castle gates climb a steep path with dramatic views over the snow-capped Alps encircling the diminutive nation.
The significance of August 15 is that it links the birthday of Prince Franz Joseph II, who reigned from 1938 until his death in 1989, and the Feast of the Assumption—75 per cent of people in this German-speaking country are Roman Catholic. But this year’s National Day party had extra significance as 2019 is the country’s 300th anniversary. It was on January 23, 1719, that the Austrian emperor of the time united two districts, the County of Vaduz and the Lordship of Schellenberg, and named the new entity the Imperial Principality of Liechtenstein. The country took the name of the family who owned the land, the House of Liechtenstein, who continue to rule to this day.
The garden party was just one highlight on a yearlong programme of special events marking the 300th anniversary. Another is an exhibition at the Kunstmuseum that runs until January. Titled “Liechtenstein. On The Future Of The Past. A Dialogue Between Collections,” the show thoughtfully juxtaposes 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.
A beautiful embroidered stamp in the shape of a royal crown was also crafted to commemorate the country’s tricentennial. It can be found at the quirky Postage Stamp Museum. Both museums are on Vaduz’s short but sweet main street, Städtle, which is also home to the Treasure Chamber (expect everything from gleaming Fabergé eggs to lunar rocks), the National Museum and the Parliament Building.
Book a guided tour of this political hub and, if you’re lucky like I was, you might bump into the Prime Minister and some of the 25 members of parliament who regularly convene in architect Hansjörg Göritz’s strikingly modern yellow-brick creation. The atmosphere inside is remarkably relaxed, just smiles and friendly exchanges of the local greeting, “hoi,” which means hello.
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 400-kilometre network of existing trails. Hikers traversing the 75-kilometre Liechtenstein Trial will pass through all 11 of the country’s towns and can download the LIstory app for additional historical information as they criss-cross the mountains.
If you wish to end your trip with a birthday toast to this petite principality, head to the Princely Wine Cellars where, you guessed it, you might just meet another royal. This year also marks the 300th anniversary of the winery, which was acquired by the family in 1712, although their wine-making history 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, helps manage the 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.
On the last day of my whirlwind tour of this magical alpine realm, which began with a royal welcome from Prince Philipp, it’s Princess Marie who gives me a regal send-off. I meet her in 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 with her caramel hair cropped chicly short, 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,” she says. “Peace, prosperity and, of course, many more superb wines.”
See also: Prince Philip of Liechtenstein On Family, Investment and His Nation