Big City Tales

The Loveliness of Small Cities in Liechtenstein and Luxembourg

March 1, 2018
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While the monarchies of Liechtenstein and Luxembourg may not garner the same attention as other European royalty, there is no denying the loveliness of the small, yet very regal-like capital cities in their respective countries.

Liechtenstein

Nestled in the mountains between the countries of Switzerland and Austria, Liechtenstein is one of the world’s smallest countries with a total population of under 40,000 people.

Vaduz is the capital city and is located along the Rhine River. The city’s most famous landmark is Vaduz Castle, home to the prince of Liechtenstein and his family. The castle sits atop a steep hill in the middle of the city and is easily visible from all directions.

Every August, the royals host a huge party at the castle to celebrate National Day and the Feast of the Assumption. All residents are welcome to take part in the festivities that includes food, fireworks and festive costumes.

Other points of interest include Government House, City Hall and the Cathedral of St. Florin. Visitors to the city and other parts of Liechtenstein will note that there is a daily mandated relaxation period between the hours of noon and 1:30 p.m. with “quiet time” strictly observed.

Luxembourg 

As the world’s only remaining Grand Duchy (its head of state bears the title of Grand Duke), it seems fitting that Luxembourg and its capital, Luxembourg City, exude old world charm. In fact, owing to the preservation of ancient city quarters and fortifications, Luxembourg City’s Old Town district was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Along with Brussels and Strasbourg, Luxembourg City is one of the designated capitals of the European Union (EU) and is home to the European Court of Justice, the European Investment Bank and other EU institutions.

Some of the popular sights to see in Luxembourg City are the Royal Palace, the Place d’Armes, and the Adolphe Bridge, with its large central stone arch and lovely views of the gorge forged by the Petrusse River.

Outside of the capital region, fans of fairy tales will enjoy the numerous ancient castles that dot the landscape. Vianden Castle, located in northern Luxembourg, has been fully restored to its former glory and is noteworthy for being one of Europe’s largest and most beautiful fortified castles.

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Island Hopping in Stockholm

March 20, 2013
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Stockholm is a city of connected islands and islets.

As capital cities go, Stockholm ranks as one of the world’s most beautiful but an even greater claim to fame is its highly unique geography.

Spread over a series of 14 islands connected by 57 bridges, the mix of natural waterways and lush green spaces, along with a temperate climate makes island hopping in Stockholm a ‘must-do’ activity!

While some islands are mainly residential hubs not worth a look-see, others are full of attractions that shouldn’t be missed.

Stadsholmen/Old Town

A good place to start is Stadsholmen, Stockholm’s City Centre, which is literally located on the water in Riddarfjarden Bay. Along with three smaller islets, Riddarholmen,  Helgeandsholmen, and Stromsborg, this area is designated as the Old Town of Stockholm (Gamla stan) and is home to a plethora of historical buildings. Here are three to check out:

  • Stockholm Stock Exchange – Before entering the peaceful halls of the Nobel Library and Museum, take a stroll outside through Stortorget Square where the site of the 16th century Stockholm Bloodbath paved the way for revolution and the coronation of King Gustav I.
  • The Royal Palace – The elaborate Baroque design of Kunliga slottet is befitting of the Swedish monarchy, serving as both its official residence and administrative offices.
  • Stockholm Cathedral – Famous for its Brick Gothic architectural style and statue of Saint George and the Dragon, the cathedral is also the oldest church in the area.
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The Royal Palace in Stockholm’s Old Town district.

Djurgarden/Royal Game Park

Popular with locals and tourists alike, Djurgarden is the place to go for all sorts of recreational fun. As part of the Royal National City Park, which extends into the municipalities of Solna and Lidingo, this island features scenic footpaths and waterfront promenades along with a host of museums, an old-fashioned amusement park (Grona Lund), and a public garden (Rosendals Tradgard) noted for its rose blooms.

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A swan graces the waters of Royal National City Park.

Kungsholmen/Functionalist Style

Once considered to be primarily an industrial district, Kungsholmen underwent a significant transformation in the early 20th century. Residential complexes and public institutions replaced factories creating a new vitality and a new architectural style, functionalism, was also introduced. According to the principles of functionalism, buildings should be designed based on their purpose. The series of residential buildings along Norr Malarstrand are a good example of functionalism at work.


Sodermalm/Bohemian Alternative Culture

Fans of Swedish mystery/crime writer Stieg Larsson will want to head to Sodermalm, where many of the events contained in his Millennium series of books take place. The island has also provided fodder for other distinguished Swedish writers and poets, and the famous actress Greta Garbo hails from this area.  The Sodra Teatern is the oldest theatre in Stockholm and with seven functional stages is able to offer a diverse range and large number of cultural events.

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A charming store front in Sodermalm.

Here an island, there an island…

Whether you visit all 14, or just one or two, island-hopping is part of the Stockholm experience (not to be confused with Stockholm syndrome!) and should be fully embraced. For those who do, the reward is a copious amount of gorgeous landscapes and the best possible views of the Capital of Scandinavia…’Yo ho ho, an island hopping we will go!’

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The citadel on Kastellholmen Island.