It’s a small world, and these are some of the smallest countries in Europe.
Vatican City (0.44 km2)
Officially, the tiny walled enclave of Vatican City is not a country but a ‘sovereign city-state’ ruled by the whichever Pope is currently in office. With a mere 900 residents, it’s the smallest independent state in the world, by both area and population. Half of Vatican City is a garden. Small is beatific, indeed. Definitely a must-see on a visit to the capital of Italy, you may well marvel at St Peter’s Basilica, explore the Vatican Museums and get your photo taken with a Swiss Guard.
Vatican City is worth a visit because It’s the global heart of the Catholic faith – no matter what your religious beliefs, that makes it a very important place. It is easy to reach as it is in Rome – one of the most beautiful, bustling and historic cities in the world. Need more reasons to visit? Michelangelo – Wikipedia says: “Italian sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and engineer of the High Renaissance who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art.” Say no more!
Monaco (1.95 km2)
Visit Monaco and get your mind blown by plush apartments and fancy yachts! Monaco, the tiny principality ruled by the Grimaldi family since 1297, is often called a playground for the rich and famous. It is a sovereign city-state surrounded by France, and the sea. It is a multiple record holder, having the highest population density in Europe (16,403.6 people per square kilometre) and the world’s lowest unemployment rate (an unbeatable 0%). Monaco has the world’s most beautiful casino and with a minimum bet of just €5, you can try to luck at one spin of the roulette wheel.
The coast of the French Riviera is incredibly scenic with jaw-dropping views of the Mediterranean, therefore indulge in some strolling along the coast and chilling at some of the public beaches along the way. The Rock of Monaco hosts Monaco-Ville, the oldest of Monaco’s four quarters. Among the glitz and glamour of Monaco’s other quarters, the old town is where you’ll find winding streets and characterful buildings. The royal family resides here in the impressive Prince’s Palace of Monaco. Head there before 12 p.m. to see the historical changing of the guard in the Palace’s square. It is much cheaper to stay in Nice and visit Monaco by train.
San Marino (61 km2)
The tiny Republic of San Marino is the oldest surviving sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world, founded on 3 September 301. San Marino is a must see for the lovers of history and admirers of picturesque panoramas. It is one of the world’s smallest and oldest republics located smack in the centre of Italy’s Le Marche and Emilia-Romagna regions near the Adriatic Sea. San Marino is a lovely enclave in Italy and makes it easier to visit while traveling around. It is an easy trip from Florence, Bologna and a 30-minute (5 euro) bus ride from Rimini Central Station. Hopping from Italy to San Marino is easy without any border controls with the same language and currency. Since there are no border controls, you can get a passport-stamp for 5 euros at the tourist information office between the hours of 10 am and 5 pm.
What makes San Marino stand out is its rich and unique history. Italy was made up of several tiny independent states a thousand years ago. Most of the independent states have disappeared from the map as they were gobbled up by expanding kingdoms around Europe, San Marino clung to its independence from its remote and fortified perch atop Mount Titano. San Marino was exempted from takeover even during the 19h century unification movement that created the nation of Italy.
Everything about the nation’s history can be learnt at the National Museum (3-euro entry).
The San Marino cuisine is delicious and heavily inspired by neighbouring regions mixed with local herbs and ingredients. This tiny nation is a green oasis and a perfect place to relax and relish the serene surroundings filled with unspoiled land, rolling hills, wineries and fortresses. Another catch for a weekend get-away is tax-free shopping! Despite its size, the country boasts several chic shops and boutiques.
Liechtenstein (160 km2)
The sixth smallest country in the world, little Liechtenstein is sandwiched between Austria and Switzerland. Liechtenstein is in fact a record holder – it has the world’s lowest external debt. Thanks to its perfect position in the Alps, it is one of the best destination for winter sports as well as summer activities such as nature trails, horseback riding, rock climbing and hiking. The capital Vaduz is more popular as a tax haven than for city breaks and Städtle street is the main shopping district. There are a few amazing museums to visit such as Landesmuseum, Calculator Museum, Postage Stamp Museum, FIS Ski Museum, and Kunstmuseum.
If you wander around by yourself around for an entire day, Liechtenstein may disappoint you but if you plan a few excursions and organize a couple of activities, you will find that it is a delightful little country.
Malta (316 km2)
The Republic of Malta is not actually an island but comprised of three islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino. Malta enjoys hot summers and a clement winter climate thanks to its location, making it a perfect year-round tourist destination. The honey-coloured capital of Malta, Valetta is full of stepped streets and wonderful views. Locals are very welcoming and hospitable. Malta was part of the British empire for around 160 years (gaining independence in 1964), which shaped the country and its inhabitants, most of whom now have a good command of the English language which makes it easier for English-speaking tourists.
Valetta has beautiful hidden gardens. There are plenty to choose from, but from the Upper Barrakka gardens you can see the Saluting Battery and take the lift down to the Grand Harbour.
Andorra (468 km2)
Andorra is the seventh smallest country in the world. Just to get an idea, you can fit the whole of Andorra into the city of London more than 3 times over. Andorra is lying in the eastern Pyrenees mountains, bordered by Spain and France. Andorra, just like other tiny nations above, it too attracts millions of day-tripping tourists due to its tax haven status. The excellent ski resorts and spas are major attractions during winter for tourists from all around the world. The capital, Andorra de la Vella, is lined with high-end shops and Pyrenees Department Store being one of the top attractions for shopaholics. One of the most attractive is the Iglu Hotel, which is located at an altitude of 2,350m and has five rooms made entirely from ice and snow, as well as a restaurant, spa, living rooms and a warm room.
Andorra’s charm is heavily influenced by the many Romanesque-style churches which stand out amongst the mountainous landscape. Made from stone and slate, some of the most striking include the church of Sant Joan de Caselles, the church of Santa Eulalia and the church of Sant Clement de Pal. Andorra’s cuisine is without any doubt influenced by France and Spain. Apart from cuisine, the language and many cultural traditions are shared with Catalunya. If you are in Barcelona for a weekend, there are several day trips to Andorra available.