This hidden principality offers some of the most dramatic scenery and best skiing and snowboarding in the Pyrenees. Away from the slopes, Andorra is a haven for duty-free shoppers.
Tiny Andorra is wedged between Spain and France in the eastern Pyrenees. Best known by tourists as a mecca for skiing and shopping, this mountainous country thrives on tourism, servicing ten million visitors a year. It's also a tax haven, and even though it's not a member of the European Union, the euro is its currency anyway. The people themselves are extraordinarily healthy, with the highest human life expectancy in the entire world, a stunning 83.5 years (Japan comes second at 82 years.)
Andorra is the same size as the city of New Orleans nad its entire population is just 72,000. It was a poor country until the end of the WWII when it decided to reinvent itself as a ski haven for Europe. Its economy has been growing ever since.
The capital city, Andorra la Vella, is Europe's highest capital city, at 1025 meters. Although the official language is Catalan, also commonly spoken are French, Spanish and Portuguese. Andorran culture is historically Catalan.
Andorra la Vella has a lot of traffic — all those shoppers lurking the 2000 shops selling luxury and electronic goods — but get out of town on Andorra's back roads and you'll find some of the most dramatically scenic views in all of the Pyrenees. Andorra also has the best skiing in all the Pyrenees — some of the largest and best ski schools in all of Europe are here. The ski resorts have recently invested millions in upgrades, not to mention cafes and restaurants, and even in summer, there's a lot to do, such as hiking, mountain climbing and mountain biking.
In the capital, everyone heads to Placa del Poble (People's Square) which is actually up high on the roof of a very modern government building. With far-reaching views of the Pyrenees peaks and valleys, this is a popular hangout throughout the day and comes alive even more so at night
Casa de la Vall, built in 1580 and once owned by a filthy-rich family, now serves as the country's parliament. Its Sala del Consell has been called the coziest parliament chamber in the world.
For nightlife, La Borsa — located in the Historic Quarter — is a highly unusual and ever-popular bar. A computer screen in the corner flashes the prices of each drink, which fluctuate wildly based on that particular night's consumption. Believe it or not, the bar also has a casino, making you think you're in Monaco. Cerveseria l'Albadia doesn't have a casino but is for more serious beer lovers, serving ten classic beers on draught.