Guide to Europe’s smallest nations

Adventures come in all shapes and sizes, and as Europe’s smallest nations show us, big doesn’t always mean better. Spread across the continent, you can find half a dozen micro countries, and each of these small states offers up something different to suit all types of travellers.

When you first think of micro countries in Europe, your mind probably wanders to teeny-tiny Vatican City, the smallest country in the world. But the Vatican is in fact only one of many micro countries to visit in Europe. Many of these destinations can easily be combined with trips to their neighbouring nations, so you can double your country count on one holiday.

1. Andorra

Located between France and Spain, among the Pyrenees Mountain Range, the official language is neither French or Spanish, but Catalan, due to the neighbouring Spanish region of Catalunya.

Primarily known as a winter destination, due to the alpine mountains and ideal Skiing conditions (it boasts the highest altitude capital in Europe), it makes for a beautiful year-round destination due to the impressive mountains, popular boutique stores (and often duty-free shopping), and its mix of health cuisine and thermal spas.

Most comfortable to access from the Spanish side without a car, by flying into Barcelona or Girona, it’s not an easy day-trip, so you’ll want to spend at least a night here not to rush and merely ‘tick it off the list’.

2. Liechtenstein

Following a city-break to Zurich, I hopped on a train to see some of the country’s famous nature, and when the train stopped at a station advertising a bus to another country, I knew I had to hop off and make a day-trip of this principality!

The bus quickly whisks you to the capital, Vaduz, located along the Rhine River, where mountains and greenery surround the bicycle-friendly streets, underneath the watchful eye of the royal-residence, Vaduz Castle, dating back to the 12th century. The modern art museum in the city is also well worth a visit.

But like its neighbours, much of Liechtenstein’s beauty is in its nature, where vineyards, castles and epic mountains await. While Vaduz is an easy day-trip, to really soak up the country’s natural attractions, you’ll need to extend your visit. The 75km hike along the relatively new Liechtenstein Trail will show you all the highlights of the nation in the summer months, though by winter, its main draw is the Skiing. The network of hiking and cycling trails are well marked, and that fresh mountain air is the perfect contrast to a city-break in Zurich.

3. Malta

Malta might be a surprise contender on the list of Europe micro countries, as with seven islands across its archipelago, and a relatively high population for its size, many people don’t realise it is a microstate at all.

Since 1974 Malta has been a proud republic, and it is also a member of the European Union unlike many others on the list. While it gained independence from the U.K. nearly sixty years ago, what surprised me when I visited was how British it still seems, in part due to the party bars in St Julien full of British tourists, and the number of expats living here.

That said, if you get away from the night-club dense streets in summer, it’s a wonderful country to visit, and is packed with history, served in bite-size portions.

Gozo, the second island of Malta, quickly accessed by ferry, was my favourite place though. I loved the laid-back vibe of Xlendi Bay where I stayed. Sadly, the famous icon of the Azure Window collapsed a few years back, but the beaches, coast and rock formations are still stunning and Malta, for a micro country, might offer the best diversity of all those on this list.