As well as being home to some of the most powerful countries in the western world, Europe also hosts a handful of sovereign states who like to play by their own rules. These tiny microstates may slip under the radar of most travellers, but what they lack in size they more than make up for with scenic, historic and cultural delights.
Possibly the best known European microstate is Monaco, crammed into a tiny 1.95 square kilometres along the Cote d'Azur (the French Riviera) and the iconic setting of the annual Formula 1 Grand Prix motor race. Palatial Monaco is ideal for walking tours through the four districts: historic Monaco-Ville, harbour-bound La Condamine, garden-clad Fontvieille and the star of the show, Monte Carlo.
Wedged between France and Spain in the Pyrenees mountains is the Principality of Andorra. Tourism is the backbone of Andorra, where the ratio of retailers to residents is astounding and ski resorts do a roaring trade around Vallnord and Grandvalira when winter sets in. After the snow melts, the alpine landscapes are ready for hardy summer hiking.
Malta does well to fit such an exotic mix of beautiful beaches, intriguing history and mouth-watering cuisine into its Mediterranean archipelago. The three main islands of The Republic of Malta (Malta, Gozo and Comino) are dotted with megalithic temples, lively town squares, a few key World Heritage Listed sites and charming villages that present dozens of colourful cultural festivals throughout the year.
Landlocked Liechtenstein, tucked between Switzerland and Austria, is a real treat for conscious travellers who don't overlook it on the map. The Principality is traced by the grand Rhine River on its western front and filled with lofty mountains, ideal for a scenic drive, bike ride or hike from the capital Vaduz or nearby Schaan.