Microstates in Europe: A Traveler’s Guide

Microstates in Europe: A Traveler’s Guide

Microstates are a bit like national parks. They are small, often not on the map, and they can be challenging to get to—but they are fascinating and worth visiting if you can. 

Like national parks in North America, microstates differ from other places worldwide. Microstates have limited resources and fewer people than other states, so what makes them thrive?

These seven European countries have found ways to stand out from their neighbors. This article will cover everything you need to know about what makes them special and why they're so unique in the modern world.

The Microstates of Europe

  • Andorra
  • Liechtenstein
  • Malta
  • Monaco
  • San Marino
  • Vatican City


Andorra is a small country between France and Spain, only around 468 square kilometers or 180.7 square miles. However, despite its small size, Andorra has a strong identity of its own—its language (Catalan), culture, and traditions. The country is famous for its tax haven status, which means it's a great place to go shopping.

Andorra is also one of the most visited countries in the world, with millions of tourists coming each year to explore what it has to offer. 

The combination of beautiful scenery, great skiing, and an excellent shopping destination makes Andorra an ideal spot for any traveler looking for something new and different. 

The country has become an important transport hub for travelers from all over Europe who wish to explore France or head further south into Spain by car or bus.


Liechtenstein is a small country located between Switzerland and Austria. Its population is about 35,000 people, and its capital is Vaduz. The country's economy relies heavily on the banking industry, which makes up around half its GDP. Liechtenstein is also the smallest country in Europe by area and population size.

Liechtenstein has many natural beauties, such as beautiful lakes and mountain ranges, making it popular among tourists from all over Europe. 


Malta is a small island in the Mediterranean Sea that has earned its place on this list as one of Europe's smallest countries. The country is known for its beaches, especially during summertime when tourists flock to them by the thousands. In addition to its beaches, Malta also has an energetic nightlife scene and delicious restaurants.

Malta has been occupied by various civilizations over the last 5,000 years, including Greeks, Romans, and Moors. Some say Malta's name comes from "Malet," meaning "refuge." Great Britain took over the islands in the 1800s but gained independence in 1964 after a referendum approved self-government.

Malta is a deeply interesting microstate with a long history of beautiful and meaningful culture and religious significance. Visiting here will almost certainly be worth your time if you're looking for a place to check out next time you're in Europe.


Monaco is a small country in Southern Europe along the Mediterranean coast. It's the second smallest sovereign state in the world by size (after Vatican City) and has an area of approximately 1 square kilometer with an estimated population of 37,000 in 2016. 

Monaco shares international borders with France on three sides and also borders Saint-Martin, which falls under French control but is otherwise self-governing.

Monaco is part of the European Union (EU) but not part of the Schengen Area or Customs Union. This means you must show your passport when entering and exiting Monaco by land (or sea), although this process is usually quick and easy. 

There are only two border crossings into/out of Monaco: one near Menton on France's border with Italy; and one near La Turbie on France's border with France itself.

When visiting Monaco from abroad, allow yourself plenty of time before or after your trip to enjoy everything this charming country offers.

San Marino

San Marino is a small country located in the Apennine Mountains of Italy. San Marino is known for its scenic views, history, and culture. It is also known for its tax haven status. The country's tourism industry has grown substantially over the last decade as more people discover that San Marino offers an opportunity for privacy and security not found elsewhere in Europe.

San Marino is a popular destination for wealthy people who want to escape high taxes in their home countries and make money from their investments there instead. Tourism is also big business here; many people visit yearly to see how much money they can make from investing in this special place.

Vatican City

Vatican City is the smallest independent state in the world, with an area of 0.44 km² (0.17 sq mi). It's an absolute monarchy, meaning it has a monarch who serves as head of state and government. The current Pope, Pope Francis, was elected on March 13th, 2013, after Benedict XVI resigned due to health reasons. 

Vatican City is located within Rome, Italy but does not belong to Italy; instead, it's an independent country created by an agreement between France and Italy in 1929. 

This ensures that when the pope dies or retires, he can be buried inside Vatican City instead of being buried by his enemies outside of Rome's walls like many other popes were before him during Holy Roman Empire days.

A visit to Vatican City should be a part of any trip to Italy, so make sure you stop by if you're ever in Rome.

What Is a Microstate?

A microstate is a small country with few or no natural resources and often no military or diplomatic relations. They are usually not recognized by other countries but have their embassies, international agreements, and membership in international organizations such as the UN.

However, the word microstate is sometimes a bit of a misnomer. Although they're called microstates, their size is often similar to that of other small European countries and states. The more accurate term would be small, independent countries or small, sovereign states—but you can't do much about the marketing around this topic.

Microstates are different from other types of countries. They aren't part of an overarching state or government; each has its constitution and rules that don't necessarily align with those in surrounding areas (or even neighboring microstates). 

This means that what's considered legal in one country could be illegal elsewhere within Europe and vice versa.

There are many unique aspects of these microstates that often make them highly relevant in the modern world: 

  • Shopping: The low taxation rates mean that prices are generally lower than in other European countries – making it an excellent place for tourists who like shopping and want to keep their expenses down.
  • Banking: The lack of financial regulation makes these small nations ideal for offshore banking services. Companies can attract international clients who want easy access to their money without dealing with burdensome rules and regulations from local authorities.
  • Tourism: People from all over the world come here as tourists because they can enjoy an attractive lifestyle while taking advantage of the low costs associated with living abroad (e.g., renting a property).

Traveling To Microstates

Most microstates are easily accessible. Since they are generally located close to other countries, they can usually be reached through regular travel and transportation.

When it comes to the individual microstates, getting access to them is widely varied, simply because they are independent nations in almost all circumstances. If you want to visit a microstate on your next visit to Europe, research your options to find the most suitable method of transportation to get there.


If you're looking to do some traveling throughout Europe and want to visit some places that many of your friends likely haven't, then microstates could be a good option. Even though they may be smaller, these places all have culture, character, and beauty.

One of the aims of ETIAS, is to ensure international travel is as easy, safe, and efficient as possible.

If you have any questions about ETIAS, you can review the travel requirements. Also, to determine if ETIAS will impact your travels starting in 2024, you can take the ETIAS assessment.



What Is The Difference Between A Microstate And A Micronation? | WorldAtlas

The Holy See | The Vatican

Malta | History, Language, Map, People, & Points of Interest | Britannica