What I learnt rollerblading the length of a country… in a day

·6-min read
rollerblading length liechtenstein
rollerblading length liechtenstein

Bam! I had landed on my bottom for a second time after wheeling down a small hill, and I was starting to think maybe skating the length of Liechtenstein wasn’t the brightest of ideas. But determined to see my plan through, I wobbled back up onto six wheels and scooted after my more experienced skating friend, Marjolein.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. We had originally planned to spend a long weekend in Liechtenstein, taking in the country’s fine alpine views, doing a spot of hiking and tucking into some of the microstate’s hearty cuisine.

However, a week before we left on our Liechtenstein break from Utrecht in the Netherlands – where we were both based – the country introduced a mandatory 10-day quarantine for visitors from high-risk areas, which included us.

Determined to make the trip work, I gave the tourism authority a call and they told me that transiting through the pocket-sized principality would be possible, we just wouldn’t be allowed to stay.

While on the phone, I was scanning my apartment when suddenly my rollerblades caught my eye, and so the idea was born. As a child, I loved rollerblading and it was something I’d picked up again during the pandemic, with the flats of the Netherlands proving great training terrain.

I knew Liechtenstein was small and a quick Google search revealed that it was just 15 miles long from top to bottom, with what looked like a cycle path running the length. So Marjolein and I set off to Liechtenstein armed with a new plan of action.

It was a backside-numbing drive from Utrecht, more than nine hours, but as soon as we saw the magnificent snow-dusted peaks coming into view against a candyfloss-hued sunset, we knew we’d made the right decision.

vaduz castle - Getty
vaduz castle - Getty

Liechtenstein, which encompasses most of the eastern half of the Rhine Valley, is enveloped by Austria and Switzerland, so it doesn’t get much better when it comes to postcard-perfect mountain scenery. As we weren’t allowed to stay in the country, I found an empty Scout hut on the Austrian border, complete with showers and a radiator, that cost us a bargain €10 (£8) for the night.

The next morning, we woke around 8am, packed up our sleeping bags and hiked through the dewy grass to the border to start our rollerblading. To our relief, the cycle path which ran alongside the fast-flowing Rhine was as smooth as butter. Loose gravel would have been a killer for our wheels.

It was October and there was a slight chill in the air but as the sun rose it crept into the high teens, and we stripped down to T-shirts. Along with being smooth, the path was also very level. There were just a few dips where the trail passed under roads and it was on a couple of these where I lost my footing, wheeled into the verge and fell on my backside.

As we whizzed along on our bright pink and blue skates, passersby on bikes and foot gave us inquisitive smiles and occasional waves. It appeared skating wasn’t a popular sport in Liechtenstein and we were quite the novelty. Now and then we caught glimpses of Liechtenstein’s fairytale-like interior, with breaks in the shimmering trees giving way to church spires and tiled rooftops.

We also got a good look at Vaduz Castle, which dates back to the 12th century. The grand building, perched nearly 400ft above Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein, is the palace and official residence of Hans-Adam II, the current Prince of Liechtenstein.

Another historical feature we came across during our skating expedition was the Alte Rheinbrücke, a covered wooden bridge linking the municipalities of Vaduz in Liechtenstein and Sevelen in Switzerland. The 440ft structure was completed in 1901 to replace a previous bridge, and today it’s the only remaining wooden bridge spanning the Rhine.

rollerblading length liechtenstein
rollerblading length liechtenstein

Eventually, we saw on Google maps that the end was in sight, and we upped our pace a little. After navigating a bend, passing a helicopter base, some cornfields and a picturesque farm with cattle grazing in the front paddock, we reached a small car park where a taxi was set to pick us up to return us to Austria.

Taking the skates off felt so good, with our feet finally able to breathe after being bound up. It took us two hours and 34 minutes to complete the 18-mile journey in total, with an average speed of seven miles an hour. Slower than biking but quicker than walking, rollerblading had allowed us to soak up Liechtenstein’s spellbinding scenery at a fair pace.

It was a shame that we didn’t get to explore more of this little but lovely country – the world’s sixth smallest – but that's all the more reason to return.

The top five sights in Liechtenstein

Gutenberg Castle

Liechtenstein is home to five castles, and one of the most photogenic fortresses you can visit is Gutenberg, which dates to the 13th century. The landmark, perched atop a hill in the village of Balzers, serves up superb views of the surrounding countryside and mountains beyond. The bailey is open to visitors free of charge throughout the year, while the chapel and rose garden are also free to enter from May to October.

Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein

Located in a striking futuristic cubic building, Liechtenstein’s modern art museum has been turning heads in Vaduz since its construction in 2000. Designed by Swiss architects, the gallery features artworks by many prominent artists, including the realist Gustave Courbet and surrealist Marcel Duchamps.

Prince of Liechtenstein winery

Oenophiles will be in their element at this winery, which features 10 acres of southwest-facing slopes reserved for pinot noir and chardonnay grapes. Tours of the vineyards are on offer, along with tasting sessions in the characterful cellars.

liechtenstein trail - Getty
liechtenstein trail - Getty

The Liechtenstein Trail

Unveiled in 2019 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the country's sovereignty, the 47-mile Liechtenstein Trail winds through all 11 of the country's municipalities. Most people take five to six days to complete the route on foot and it can also be tackled by bike.

Skiing in Malbun

If you’re looking to ski or board without the crowds, Malbun makes for a less touristy option. The ski resort, located in the eastern exclave of the municipality of Triesenberg, serves up 14 miles of piste catering to those of all abilities, along with four lifts (three of them chairlifts).

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