Lake Constance, or “Bodensee” in German, is situated at Germany’s southern border. Europe’s second-largest lake after Lake Geneva, its shoreline also goes through Austria and Switzerland. The Lake Constance region is a popular vacation destination for Germans and international travelers: while the lake is perfect for activities such as water and winter sports, hiking or cycling, the surrounding countryside features UNESCO World Heritage sites, attractive cities, nature and adventure as well as regional culinary delights. Get the most out of your stay at Lake Constance with our top 10 things to do and see in the Lake Constance region.
The city of Constance, or Konstanz (am Bodensee) in German, is the largest on the lake and the only German one on the southern shore of Lake Constance. Its historical center features many museums such as the Archeological State Museum and Rosgartenmuseum, the Konstanz Council and the Gothic Cathedral. From Konstanz, you can easily visit the “vegetable island” Reichenau, home to three churches and UNESCO World Heritage site thanks to its Benedictine monastery of the Middle Ages. The “flower island” Mainau blossoms in spring, while summer is perfect for bathing in the lake in one of the city’s many spots. In the fall, enjoy the wine festival or thermal baths and visit the Konstanz Christmas market in winter.
2. The Lake Constance Trail
Lake Constance is perfect for active holidaymakers. For hikers and cyclists, there are hundreds of trails offering lake views, passages through orchards and farms and over gently rolling hills. The most challenging and impressive is the “Bodensee Rundwanderweg”, or Lake Constance Trail. Over a route length of 270 kilometers, you can circle the entire lake, which is possible in roughly four to seven stages by bike. The trail is of medium difficulty with an ascent and descent of just about 400 meters each. Infrastructure and signage along the way are excellent and highlights include nature reserves, islands and the Stilthouse Museum.
The Swiss cantons of Schaffhausen, St. Gallen and Thurgau all border Lake Constance. Visit the medieval towns of Schaffhausen and Stein am Rhein to experience the historic charm and sample the regional fresh and fruity wine. Don’t miss Europe’s largest waterfall at the Rhine Falls where you can take a boat and actually stand on a rock in the middle of the waterfall!
The St. Gallen region is an impressive pre-Alpine landscape dominated by the view of the Alpstein massif. All around the lake, the opportunities for hiking and cycling are plentiful and open-air pools, water spots, museums and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the St. Gallen abbeys attract visitors and cultural travelers.
Did you know that one of the Napoleons lived at Lake Constance? Visit his castle at the Napoleon Museum in Arenenberg. Thurgau is also known for campsites at the water’s edge, excellent apple cider and Müller-Thurgau white wine and local fish, which you can sample in the many award-winning restaurants of the region.
While you’re in Switzerland, you absolutely must visit Säntis, the 2,502 meters high Alpine peak. Not only will you get a panoramic view of Lake Constance and the foothills below, you can actually see six countries from the tom. You can hike up the mountain or conveniently take the cable car.
Friedrichshafen is the city to go up and away at lake Constance. You can revisit the city’s importance to aviation at the Dornier museum, which recreates 100 years of air and space travel in an aircraft hangar. The Zeppelin Museum is the world’s largest exhibition on the history of airship travel. You can tour a Zeppelin hangar in Friedrichshafen and take a flight in the airship and float over the lake and along the Alps as you take in everything from above through the panoramic windows. Staying closer to the ground, Friedrichhafen’s observation tower also offers views of the lake, the Alps and the city. There are indoor and outdoor pools for refreshment, trails with historical themes to walk and cafes and a beer garden to enjoy and give your holiday a maritime flair.
The unique Bavarian city of Linda is actually an island sitting close to the shore of the lake. Surrounded by the lake’s scenery, you have an excellent view from the lakeside promenade of the snow-capped Alps towering on the other side of the lake. The old town is known for picturesque alleys, lively squares and old buildings dating back centuries. Wander through Lindenhofpark or climb the lighthouse. In summer, experience the pool and park of Hotel Bad Schachen, while spring allows you to experience the apple tree blossom. In winter, the Lindau harbor is the most beautiful spot to visit an authentic Christmas market.
Bregenz is the Austrian city on the lake. The capital of the region of Vorarlberg is known for its hospitality and a charming mix of lake and mountain life with breathtaking natural beauty. Climb the Pfänder mountain for one of the most stunning views of Lake Constance and watch the sunset on the lake from “Fischsteg” or the Sunset steps. Bregenz has live music nights in spring and the “Bregenzer Festspiele” in summer, a musical spectacle with theater, opera, classical music and jazz on the world’s largest floating stage and all over the city. Take a walk through Kornmarktplatz to marvel at the city’s architecture and experience summer markets or the Bregenz Christmas market in December.
The classic medieval town of Meersburg sits just across from Konstanz on the other side of the lake and is only a short ferry ride away. Explore its romantic, cobbled alleys and squares to take in historic and beautiful facades. Make sure to visit the Meersburg Castle to go back one thousand years in time to the Middle Ages. Germany’s oldest and continuously inhabited castle, this fortress was never taken by invaders. The New Castle next door has a fantastic terrace view of the lake. You can also walk the paths winding through the vineyards on the hill and sample Pinot Noir, Müller-Thurgau, White Burgundy, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc at the State Wine Estate Meersburg.
The Allgäu highland to the east of Lake Constance in Bavaria and Austria is one of EUrope’s most stunning landscapes: you’ll find majestic mountains, dense forests, crystal alpine lakes and quaint villages. You can cycle there all the way on the Danube-Lake Constance way or the long-distance upper Swabian-Allgäu way. Discover baroque masterpieces and Swabian castles, relax in a wellness spa, the thermal springs or the small lakes in the summer, eat “Kässspätzle” and drink Swabian beer or go on adventures in the skywalk park, walking through mountaintops. From skiing, snowshoeing and sledding in winter to hiking and cycling in summer, Allgäu is perfect for experiencing pristine nature.
Carnival in southern Germany is different from how you’ll experience it in Cologne or other parts of the country. The cheer around Lake Constance is “Ho Narro” or “Narri Narro” and the masks and costumes are deeply steeped in traditions, customs and local lore, all to chase away winter during the “fifth season”. Schloss Langenstein has dedicated an entire museum to “Fasnacht” as it’s called in the region. If you find yourself in the area on ‘Fat Tuesday’ (the Thursday before Ash Wednesday), you can experience carnival in Konstanz, Überlingen, Ermatingen and all around the lake. Particular to the town of Constance is the “Hemdglonkerumzug” on the night of Fat Thursday’, a parade in white nightshirts.
Some visitors are confused by the label “four-country region Lake Constance” because only Germany, Switzerland and Austria actually surround the lake. The secret fourth country is the Principality of Liechtenstein, which is only a highly scenic half-hour drive from the lake. Visit the capital Vaduz and take in the impressive view from above the city, go on the unique Adler hike, tour the royal winery, the State museum, the Art Museum, Walser Museum or the new treasury, explore the nature conservation areas, the Triesen forest or the Neuguthof theme park and go skiing in the Malbun area.
The beautiful scenery and many activities in the Lake Constance region are of course the main attraction and reason to go, but did you know the many more advantages of travelling? Find out what they are!