Whether you’re a wine buff, hiker, cyclist or city tripper, you’ll find adventures aplenty on the shores of Lake Constance. This magnificent region deserves to be your next getaway. Here's why...
Lake Constance – also known as Bodensee – offers a moment of calm amid some of Europe’s most bombastic geography: Germany’s mighty Swabian Alb lies to the north, while the Swiss Alps loom in the south. Its tranquil waters lap the borders of both countries, as well as the south-western tip of Austria – with Liechtenstein a few kilometres away too.
The lake’s unique culture encompasses the best bits of all countries: here, we look to the German side – spanning 170km of the northern shore – to discover award-winning vineyards, charming towns, and soothing thermal baths aplenty.
From uninhabited slivers of land to Unesco-listed treasures, Lake Constance is dotted with islands – all easily discovered on boat tours and ferry trips. Reichenau boasts a beautiful trio of churches and an abbey monastery, which dates back to 792. Hire a bike or follow one of the walking trails between the churches, stopping for ice cream and tranquil lake views.
The smaller isle of Mainau is famous for its flowers: you can stroll through the tulip meadows of Spring Avenue, picnic beneath giant redwoods in the Arboretum, and inhale the sweet-scented Rose Promenade. Set aside a day to discover it all, with a tour of the island’s magnificent Baroque palace too.
You can explore the tranquil waters of Lake Constance in kayaks and canoes, or give stand-up paddleboarding and windsurfing a go. The area is criss-crossed with excellent hiking trails, too. Our tip? Follow the SeeGang – ‘Lake Course’ – between Konstanz and Überlingen, for 53km of pathways through forests, ancient ruins, and quaint lakeside towns.
The Bodensee-Radweg cycling trail (also known as the ‘Lake Constance Cycle Path’) hugs the picturesque shores – a 300km trail through Germany, Austria and Switzerland. With no cars, plentiful hotels and only the very occasional hill, it’s ideal for a leisurely week-long jaunt. Short on time? The 65km section between Bodman and Lindau is particularly idyllic, encompassing the Pfahlbau Museum’s Stone Age houses, Meersburg’s two castles, and the city sights of Friedrichshafen – before finishing in the pretty island town of Lindau.
Soothe your cycle-weary legs in one of Lake Constance’s tranquil spa towns: you’ll find mineral baths all around its shores, but some of the prettiest are in Germany.
Überlingen Therme offers a large thermal pool with massage jets, saunas, and an area especially for families. You can plunge straight into the lake (the spa has direct access), or wallow in the Panorama Sauna for steamy views of the water and Alps. The Konstanz Thermal Bath also has facilities for all ages, with balmy plunge pools and aromatherapy saunas.
At Meersburg Therme, don’t miss the Pfahlbauten saunas: these quirky saunas are modelled on the Stone Age pile dwellings, similar to the dwellings that can be explored in the Pfahlbau Museum. The spa’s lake-view thermal pools are pretty spectacular too…
With their mild temperatures and rich soils, the shores of Lake Constance are rich in natural produce. Just look to the markets: they’re chock-full of fresh fruit, local honey, and artisan schnapps. In lakeside restaurants, you can feast on grilled whitefish, pike and perch just steps from where they were caught – served alongside vegetables from the bounteous farms of Reichenau. Fresh and flavoursome, this is ‘slow food’ at its best.
In autumn, the apple harvest is in full swing. The lakeside orchards are renowned for their crisp and juicy fruits, and during September’s ‘Apple Weeks’, they take pride of place on every café menu – with pies, cakes and streusels galore. You can take guided tours of the orchards, and pick your own apples by hand.
The perfect accompaniment to those glittering lake views? Try a glass (or two) of Müller-Thurgau, a sweet – often apple-scented – white wine produced in Germany’s waterside vineyards. Müller-Thurgau was originally grown in the Swiss section of Lake Constance, and is now one of the most popular grape types in the whole region, flourishing on the German shores too.
Grapes have been grown in this region for over 2,000 years, and many of the wineries are open to the public: highlights include Weingut Aufricht, Winzerverein Hagnau, and Staatsweingut Meersburg – which has been creating wine for more than 800 years. Look out for wine festivals, too: in Nonnenhorn (July), Hagnau (August), and Meersburg (June).
Meanwhile, the regions of Tettnang and Ravensburg – near Friedrichshafen – produce excellent pale ales and wheat beers. Head to the Leibinger brewery for a guided tour and tasting: it uses locally-grown hops and malt from Upper Swabia to create some of southern Germany’s finest beers – a recipe perfected over the last 125 years.
Whether you’re gazing at it from a hot mineral pool or the flower-filled shores of Mainau, Lake Constance is always spectacular – but it’s particularly beautiful when viewed from above. Head to Friedrichshafen for a scenic tour with a difference: the city is the birthplace of Zeppelin airships, and you can catch a flight from the city’s Bodensee Airport.
These graceful giants are smooth and serene, offering bird’s-eye views of the water, vineyards and valleys – and down to the mighty Alps in the south. Afterwards, check out the Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen: it’s home to the world’s largest collection of aircraft.
Combining magnificent locations with must-see cultural events, Lake Constance’s German shore is renowned for its festivals. Every spring, Meersburg’s New Castle welcomes some of the world’s finest chamber musicians to the Hall of Mirrors – a spectacular setting for classical music. Salem Monastery and Palace host open-air concerts throughout summer, while Kulturufer Friedrichshafen is a ten-day fiesta of music, dance, acrobatics and parades.
During advent, look to Lindau and Konstanz for enchanting Christmas markets – then celebrate the end of winter with Carnival. This vibrant February festival welcomes the changing seasons with marching bands and masquerade parades, and offers the chance to try on – and dance in – traditional Alemannic costumes for yourself.
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