Little Europe: Andorra

Little Europe: Andorra

Until little more
than a generation ago, Andorra was an impoverished
and isolated backwater. Churches date back to
the 12th and 13th centuries. Their stony, romanesque
bell towers stand strong as the surrounding Pyrenees. That same local stone
is used today as a building boom illustrates how, lately, the principality
has flourished. Since World War II, the population
has increased tenfold. Recently, Andorrans have become
quite wealthy. The mountains that kept
the principality both isolated and poor are now a source
of its prosperity. Hiking and skiing are
understandably big business here. And Andorra employs
those special economic weapons so popular among Europe’s
little states — easygoing banking,
duty-free shopping, and low, low taxes. It’s morphed from a rough-and-tumble
smugglers’ haven to a high-tech, high-altitude
shoppers’ haven, famous for its low prices. While Andorrans
speak Catalan and have an affinity for the Spanish region
of Catalunya and Barcelona, the commercial environment here
is international as can be. The country’s capital
and dominant city, Andorra la Vella, is a mostly
modern town with the charm of a giant shopping mall. While most know this place
for its shops and for what locals claim
is the biggest spa in Europe, pockets of old-world charm
do hide out in the old center. The Casa de la Vall is the country’s
Parliament building. A private residence
back in the 16th century, today it houses Andorra’s claustrophobic
parliament chamber. It has 28 seats — that’s four representatives for each of the seven
parishes — with portraits of the current
co-princes on the wall. While a humble reminder
of a simple past, Andorrans still look
to this building for leadership, as their country builds an ever-better life
for its citizens.

87 comments on “Little Europe: Andorra

  1. WIAT… Did he said "the Spanish region of Catalonia IN Barcelona? I think I´m hearing the wrong thing, but if he said that, it´s the oppsite: Barcelona is IN Catalonia, and Catalonia is not a region, is an Autonomous Community ^^

  2. @CarmenMCS He says, "While Andorrans speak Catalan — and have an affinity for the Spanish region of Catalunya and Barcelona — the commercial environment here is international as can be."

  3. Absolutely charming! This is a must see next European vacation. I can hardly wait! I don't ski,but I will visit in winter,also.

  4. what a nice place nestled within a mountain range in southern europe, i oftwen wonder how a country this small can manage their own buisness, it just seems highly unlikely that you can scrape by, nevermind survive, are you sure your're not getting a helping hand from a neighbouring country. greece is having their financial woes so how is it that andorra is never spoken about. how do you handle money, where dose it come from?

  5. USA, UK, France, Spain, Greece, Australia, Mexico, Argentina, Russia, Italy, etc.. are the best countries in the world! (In the quality of life)
    Even though, Andorra is a nice and healthy place to live because of the small capital of the country, but if you want to study in a good university, you have to move to a bigger one like London, Paris, Athens,Rome..etc..
    Have a nice afternoon..!

  6. Actually, that doesn't surprise me because Andorra has not any good or big university to study, so he chose to move to a bigger city!
    And also, it's differnent to live in a city with millions of citizens and better quality of life (that applies to a few cities)..
    For instance, It's like leaving a village in the US and going to New York.. That's my opinion but every man has a different one!
    Have a nice afternoon!

  7. Cara pense antes de falar alguma coisa blz !!!!! Em Andorra as línguas oficiais são francês, espanhol e catalão!!!!!! não só o Catalão!!!

  8. Economic weapons? You mean economic freedom! Why is it that the vast majority of people are economically ignorant? Oops, I forgot, it's because of government schooling.

  9. I'm currently here now. It's truly breathtaking. The balance between nature & man, primeval medieval and modern are astounding to me. Rick Steve's you've inspired me to come here and I'm SO GLAD I did.

  10. I truly love and believe in Andorra..really a global place..mother nature has blessed Andorra with Andy and wealth has she has with elsewhere.. Love andorra..Love Andorra people ..Love Andorra culture 😍😍😍👍

  11. I had a quick visit over there last month returning to Barcelona. Mixed feelings, loved the mountains and nature, but everything else sucked. La Vella is supercramped gray concrete town with new empty hotels and banks everywhere. I think Andorra has lost its connection to past. If it is poor and rural who cares, it is atleast genuine. Parking fees seems to form big % of GDP. When returning to Spain car was checked carefully for alcohol and cigarettes. Later read that allowed tax free limits of most products were very low.

  12. "… with the charm of a shopping mall." LOL… no thanks. Unless I need a tax haven, I don't think there would ever be a reason to visit.

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