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Travel tips

5 of the smallest countries in Europe to add to your travel wish list

Dec 12, 2023 by Steph Herron

Looking for a way to make your dream European adventure extraordinary? Try adding one (or five) of the smallest countries in the world to your travel bucket list. We know your travel dreams are big, but the countries that fulfill them don’t need to be. Whether you’re a history lover looking to step into the past, a nature enthusiast longing to see breathtaking landscapes, or a foodie eager to discover local delights, these small countries offer experiences that are anything but. Keep reading to learn all about five of the smallest countries in the world that should be on your bucket list (and which tours to take to visit them).

1. Vatican City

If you’re asking yourself, “What is the smallest country in the world?” look no further than Vatican City. Some people find it surprising to learn that the Vatican is its own country. Just a short drive from (and within walking distance of) Rome’s city center, the Vatican draws in travelers from all over the world every day—and for good reason, as it’s the perfect addition to any Italy tour. Despite its small size, the Vatican holds huge cultural significance. Whether you’re looking to marvel at the Sistine Chapel or take out cash at the world’s only ATM that offers Latin as a language option, Vatican City will deliver. In fact, the smallest country in the world is home to the largest church in the world: St. Peter’s Basilica. It’s common to see travelers overcome with emotion when processing the grandeur and beauty of this site.

Best way to see it? By adding our Iconic Sights: Vatican City excursion

A day spent in the Vatican can be overwhelming without proper planning. With so much to see and so many travelers coming to take in the same sights, it’s important to make every moment count. That’s why we recommend enhancing your tour experience in Rome by adding our expertly crafted Iconic Sights: Vatican City excursion. Nothing will feel as satisfying as walking by lines of less-prepared travelers with your expert guide (who will ensure your experience in the world’s smallest country is nothing less than spectacular). And for an extra-memorable experience, be sure to check out our list of everything to know about visiting the Vatican in Rome.

Tour to see it on: Grand Tour of Italy

Our expert recommendation? Treat yourself to a true Italian adventure with our Grand Tour of Italy. This tour will allow you to spend a magical day in Vatican City while also discovering the true heart of Italy as a local expert whisks you from city buzz to lakeside bliss to rustic countryside tranquility. Traveler Suzanne opted for this Grand Tour and remarked, “I thought Florence was my favorite part of the trip… until we visited the Vatican in Rome and entered St. Peter’s Basilica. There are no words to express the beauty. No words.” See for yourself how words fail to describe the smallest country in the world.

Explore Vatican City on tour

2. Monaco

Formula One, Grace Kelly, and 007 are likely just a few of the images that this small country brings to mind. If you enjoy the finer things in life, you may already feel an unmistakable pull to the second-smallest country in the world. Monaco sits between France and Italy and, despite its size, has garnered a resounding international reputation. Approximately the same size as Manhattan’s Central Park, what Monaco lacks in square footage, it makes up for in wealth—earning it the nickname “the Billionaire’s Playground.” With nearly one in every three residents holding millionaire status, excessive displays of affluence are no surprise in this tiny nation.

Longing to experience the opulence of Monaco?

Whether or not you opt to roll the dice in the world-famous Monte Carlo Casino, you’ll observe glitz and glamour on your trip to Monaco. While we understand the temptation to see what the cards might have in store for you at the blackjack table, our team of travel experts know that time in Monaco and on the French Riviera is valuable, and there is much more to take in than casino interiors. Monaco is comprised of four quarters, and the famous Monte Carlo is just one of them. Our suggestion? Head to the oldest quarter of Monaco, Le Rocher, to learn the small country’s rich history.

Tour to see it on: Provence, the Riviera & Tuscany tour

Our Provence, the Riviera & Tuscany tour offers the perfect opportunity to explore Le Rocher with a local expert. This spectacular Old Town is perched on top of a high rock formation emerging from the Mediterranean. On this tour, you’ll traverse charming cobblestones, uncover the unique history of the opulent principality, and take in all the sites these medieval lanes have to offer (you might even catch yourself daydreaming while gazing out at the yachts docking in the harbor). You’ll also see Saint Nicholas Cathedral, a 13th-century church that is a burial site for Monaco royalty (including Grace Kelly) and take in the beauty of the Prince’s Palace, where royals reside to this day. Pro tip: You can determine whether the palace is currently occupied by checking to see whether a flag is raised over its peak tower.

Explore Monaco on tour

3. Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein is a small Alpine treasure sandwiched between Switzerland and Austria. Roughly the same size as Washington D.C., it’s the sixth smallest country in the world. If you’ve ever felt wanderlust for Switzerland’s rolling landscapes, you’ll be interested to know that Liechtenstein is comprised of similarly exquisite scenery. In fact, the two countries look so alike that Swiss troops have accidentally wandered across Liechtenstein’s borders on three separate occasions. After the most recent occurrence, the Swiss government actually sent a formal apology letter detailing how the troops were lost and had no intention of venturing across the border. The official response from Liechtenstein? “These things happen.”

Why add Liechtenstein to your travel wish list?

If this amusing history teaches us anything, it’s that the small nation of Liechtenstein is a quick and easy addition to any travels through Switzerland. Despite the similarities with its larger neighbor, the small country holds unique appeal. The nation’s capital, Vaduz, maintains all the charm of a European capital city with one special benefit: it’s much less visited. Liechtenstein is actually one of the least-visited countries in the world. This means that you can stroll through the virtually empty streets and enjoy quiet Alpine bliss while taking in the spectacular scenery. Time in Liechtenstein provides the perfect opportunity to slow down for a moment in your travels and treasure the dreamy wonders of the Alps.

Tour to see it on: Switzerland, Germany & Italy tour

Without an airport or train station, getting to Liechtenstein can be a task—but our experts can easily whisk you there on our Liechtenstein tours! Travelers on our Switzerland, Germany & Italy tour, for example, can skip the planning and enjoy a stop in Liechtenstein sans stress. You’ll hear all about the small country on your scenic drive in from your expert Tour Director before stopping for some free time to explore its quiet capital. We recommend heading to Liechtenstein Center (Vaduz's tourism office) to score a passport stamp, stopping at a charming café for a beverage, and gazing up at the Vaduz Castle, which looms above the capital city like something out of a fairytale. We have a feeling a visit to Vaduz will leave you longing to discover more cities in the mountains.

Explore Liechtenstein on tour

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4. Luxembourg

The small country of Luxembourg is approximately the same size as the smallest state in the United States: Rhode Island. Located between France, Germany, and Belgium, this tiny country shares similarities to these surrounding countries, yet holds its own strong identity. An interesting example of this? Luxembourg is the only country in the world to still have a grand duchy, meaning the ruling heads of state are a grand duke or grand duchess. It shouldn’t then come as a shock that the country’s motto is “Mir wëlle bleiwe wat mir sinn” (meaning, “We will remain as we are”). Luxembourgish is not a widely spoken language, but the spirit of the saying showcases how this small country has managed to maintain its power, independence, and identity through the centuries.

Looking for a few reasons to love Luxembourg?

There are countless reasons why Luxembourg should not be overlooked despite being one of the smallest countries in the world. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you’ll be intrigued to know that over a third of Luxembourg's land is covered in mesmerizing forest landscapes. Home to awe-inspiring hiking trails dotted with castles and lined by storybook scenery, this terrain won’t disappoint. Another major benefit of traveling in Luxembourg is that public transportation is free. If you’ve ever taught yourself to navigate trains and buses in foreign countries, you know this is a traveler’s dream. No need to worry about validating tickets or facing fines—just hop on a train free of charge and enjoy the journey through the tranquil emerald landscape to your destination.

Tour to see it on: Amsterdam, Luxembourg & Brussels tour

On our Amsterdam, Luxembourg & Brussels tour, you’ll spent two wonderful nights in Luxembourg getting an expertly crafted view of the small country and its capital city (which both hold the same name). Are you a history fanatic? If so, you’re sure to relish the guided walking tour of the Luxembourg American Cemetery. This emotional experience will transport you back in time to learn about the Battle of the Bulge and the American soldiers who gave their lives in this pivotal World War II battle. Afterward, wander through the historic UNESCO-listed Old Town of Luxembourg City. You’ll come to adore the capital’s unmistakable charm as you take in the beauty of the Grand Ducal Palace and religious structures dating back to the 13th century.

Explore Luxembourg on tour

5. Slovenia

Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, means “beloved” in the native language. Consider this a sign that you’ll fall in love with the wonders of this small country. Our travelers find that this hidden gem of Eastern Europe boasts some of the continent’s most breathtaking landscapes. While it clocks in as the 45th-smallest country in the world (making it the largest destination on this list), it’s still an ideal spot for travelers looking to uncover Europe’s beauty and culture in a smaller, less-traveled destination.

Wondering what Slovenia has to offer?

This small country has something for everyone. If medieval fortresses and mountain landscapes call to you, there’s the haunting Predjama Castle. For restless adventurers, there’s the option for a fast-paced ride through the cavernous Postojna Caves. If a seaside escape is more your speed, you’ll be wowed by Venetian buildings scattered along the rocky Adriatic coast in the village of Piran. And for those looking to immerse themselves in nature, Slovenia is even home to one of Europe’s most beautiful national parks: Triglav National Park.

Tour to see it on: Croatia & Slovenia: The Old-World Adriatic tour

Our Croatia & Slovenia: The Old-World Adriatic tour shows off Slovenia’s beauty in spades. Immerse yourself in the capital city of Ljubljana, and extend your stay to take in the stunning beauty of Lake Bled. Perhaps the only thing more spectacular than gazing up at the Alpine mountain landscape of Lake Bled is looking down to see the same background reflected in its turquoise glacial water. While you’re there, we recommend sampling kremna rezina (the region’s famously decadent, cream-filled puff-pastry dessert) and stopping to learn the tragic fable behind the island’s bell tower. Traveler Sharon returned from this tour saying, “Everyday was more amazing than the last! Absolutely loved Plitvice Lakes, Postojna Caves, Predjama Castle, and Mostar. But nothing can compare with Slovenia! Ljubljana’s Old Town is so perfect and then there is Lake Bled! Our hotel had a perfect view of the lake and castle. Then there is Lake Bled cream cake. Highly recommend this tour!” Take Sharon’s advice and experience Balkan bliss for yourself on this adventure.

Explore Slovenia on tour

Looking to discover countries small and large? We have big adventures that deliver. Shop all tours today.

About the author | Steph Herron
Since moving abroad for college at the age of 18, Steph’s never doubted that travel is her passion in life. When she isn’t seeking opportunities to satisfy her wanderlust—and inspiring others to do the same—you’ll find her exploring Boston’s vegan food scene, shopping for eclectic pieces to add to her closet, or rewatching 90s romantic comedies.

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