Andorra la Vella 🇦🇩 | Christmas Markets and Duty Free Shopping - vTomb

Andorra la Vella 🇦🇩 | Christmas Markets and Duty Free Shopping

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If you want to visit all countries in Europe, of which there are between 47 and 50, depending on how you look at it, you will at some point have a micro-nation in the Pyrenees on your bucket list.
That country is called Andorra, and it is a three-hour bus ride away from the well-known tourist hotspot Barcelona, Spain.

On my quest to visit all countries in Europe before turning 30 next year, I made a very spontaneous decision to visit Andorra a few weeks before Christmas. So I flew into Barcelona, took a bus and there I was, in Andorra la Vella, the capital of tiny Andorra!

Sitting on the bus for three hours in complete darkness, I didn't know what to expect - and I couldn't be more surprised. The whole place was lit up, and believe me, Andorra definitely means business when it comes to Christmas lights!

So how does Andorra, this tiny and remote country, get eight million visitors per year? Landlocked between France and Spain, most visitors are from those two countries. Many of them like to go skiing in winter, or hiking in summer,
but the biggest factor is duty-free shopping. All of Andorra is duty-free and the value added tax or VAT is set at just 4.5%, making it a very attractive destination for shopping. Walking around town, you will notice an abundance of cigarettes, perhaps more cigarettes than anywhere else outside of airports. One pack of Marlboro, for instance, sets you back EUR 3.30 - that's less than half of what you'd pay in neighboring France.
You will also see a lot of cheap alcohol, perfumes, pharmaceuticals and electronics. Some of the goods are real bargains, others seemed more like tourist traps.

Let me be honest, Andorra la Vella may not be the most beautiful capital of a European country. The surrounding nature is very pretty, though, and the historic district of Andorra la Vella is definitely worth an hour or two.
My favorite building here was the 16th century Casa de la Vall, the headquarters of the Andorran parliament. The Principality of Andorra has retained its independence throughout the centuries as a feudal state and it took until 1993 to receive a constitution. Today, Andorra is a member of the United Nations and the Council of Europe. The official currency is the Euro, but the country is not part of the European Union. Therefore, you have to pass through immigration and customs at the border crossing and declare any goods you might bring to Spain or France exceeding the value of EUR 900.

Visiting Andorra was fun and I wish I had more time to explore the mountains. I never thought that I would say this, but Andorra is about more than just ticking off yet another country on your bucket list.

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