With a circumference of more than 270 kilometers, Lake Constance is one of Europe’s largest lakes. It connects Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, making it a must-see for anyone looking to tick three nations off their travel bucket list at once! Here are my top tips for everyone visiting Lake Constance.
1 | Take a Dip
Let’s start with the most obvious thing to do at a lake: its clean water makes Lake Constance the perfect swimming spot. Owing to its size, it takes some time for the water to warm up, so I’d recommend visiting between June and October if you fancy taking a dip. In August, the waters can reach up to 25 degrees Celsius! If swimming in the lake isn’t for you, head to one of the many thermal baths around the lake, where you can relax while enjoying incredible views.
Many of the lake’s bathing spots also offer other leisure activities, such as beach volleyball, basketball, mini golf courses, and playgrounds for the little ones. There are also plenty of restaurants and kiosks, if you need to re-energize after your swim. While some lidos charge for entry, there are plenty of free options to enjoy.
2 | Get Your Bike at the Ready
Cycling around the lake is the best way to see all the highlights. If you’re an experienced cyclist, try the 260-kilometer-long Bodensee-Radweg (Lake Constance cycle route). Fast peddlers could complete this route in one day, but it’s a good idea to take your time so you can really enjoy the area. Less-experienced cyclists can try tackling small sections, so as not to miss out on some of the spectacular views along the way!
The Bodensee-Radweg will take you through many picturesque locations, such as the German towns of Constance, Überlingen, and Lindau, the Austrian city of Bregenz, as well as Swiss spots, such as Rorschach, and Stein am Rhein. You’ll also get to experience quaint timber-framed villages, luscious vineyards, and the beautiful Rhine delta. If you get a little sweaty on the way, don’t worry: there are plenty of opportunities to cool down in the lake!
Cycling enthusiasts can try their hand at one or more of the five detours, that will add some extra kilometers onto your route. Try heading to Reichenau Island close to Constance in Germany, which will add on 16 kilometers, or out to the Rhine Falls near Schaffhausen in Switzerland, which requires you to cycle an extra 36 kilometers.
3 | Visit Constance
With just over 80,000 citizens, Constance is the lake’s largest city. For a great view over Constance, the River Rhine, the lake, and, on clear days, the Alps, climb the 193 stairs of the Konstanzer Münster (Constance Minster). If you’re not too tired afterwards, enjoy a stroll around Constance’s Old Town, which is home to picturesque backstreets, and quaint shops and cafés. Don’t miss out on the neighboring district of Niederburg, which is the city’s oldest quarter, dating back to the middle ages. If all this sightseeing has worn you out, head to one of Constance’s many tranquil lakeside parks, or take a relaxing walk through the woods.
Don’t miss out on Reichenau Island, which is easily reachable by boat, or via a beautiful tree-lined avenue. The active travelers among you can cycle or skate over this avenue, but it’s also possible to reach the island by car or bus. The Reichenau offers plenty of green spaces and vineyards for its visitors, and its eighth-century monastery is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Another must-see attraction is the stunning flower island of Mainau, which is home to impressive flower displays, a tranquil castle park, and beautiful botanical gardens.
4 | Take a Ferry Trip
A visit to Lake Constance is incomplete without hopping on a boat. You could take a sightseeing boat tour, or a trip on one of the car ferries, which are popular among locals. These ferries connect many locations, such as the German cities of Constance and Meersburg (15 min), as well as Constance and Friedrichshafen (50 min).
You can also cross the German-Swiss border by taking the ferry from Friedrichshafen to the Swiss town of Romanshorn, which takes 40 minutes. A ferry trip isn’t only the perfect opportunity for a panoramic view of both the lake and the Alps, but is also an easy and fun shortcut across the lake.
5 | Feed Popcorn to the Monkeys
The Affenberg Salem is located between the German cities of Überlingen and Meersburg. In addition to storks, deer, and birds, this 20-hectare forest is home to about 200 Barbary apes. The monkeys have so much space to roam and play that it’s almost as if they’re in their natural habitat! Visitors can observe the monkeys from a loop road, and even feed popcorn to them along the way. Thanks to park’s large area, the monkeys can choose whether they want to interact with visitors, or enjoy some peace and quiet in the woods.
Please remember that these monkeys are wild animals, so you shouldn’t try to corner or pet them, or feed them anything but the popcorn provided by the park.
6 | Visit the Castles in Meersburg
At Lake Constance’s northern shore, you’ll find the small German town of Meersburg. Surrounded by lush vineyards, it’s built on a hillside, which ranges between 400 and 500 meters in height. A stroll around the Old Town will make you feel like you’re living the pages of a history book, thanks to its old buildings, cobbled streets, and two impressive castles.
The town’s most popular landmark is the old castle, Meersburg. Dating back to the seventh century, it stands proud over the town and the lake. Don’t miss out on the castle’s 30 rooms, including the knight’s hall, dungeon, torture chamber, and stables. The so-called New Castle is fairly young in comparison. Built in the early 18th century, the ornate castle reflects the Baroque style, with an impressive façade and magnificent interior.
7 | Travel Back in Time
Archaeology enthusiasts should be sure to visit the Pfahlbauten in Unteruhldingen, Germany. This open-air museum was founded in 1922 and is one of the largest in Europe. It exhibits many archaeological findings, as well as 23 reconstructed pile dwellings from the Stone and Bronze Ages.
Take a tour to discover what life was like in the area 3,000 years ago. Kids will love the Pfahlbauten, where they can become an archaeologist for a day, dig for remains, and learn how to professionally document their findings.
8 | Visit the Rhine Falls
Okay, so I cheated a bit on this one: the Rhine Falls are actually located on the Rhine River (which is connected to the lake), but they’re still worth a mention!
You can view the 23-meter-high and 150-meter-wide waterfall from several observation platforms. If you don’t mind getting a bit damp, take a boat tour to get as close to the falls as possible. Be sure to hop off the boat at the rocky island in the middle of the waterfall, and climb up the stairs to another observation deck for breathtaking views.
Some boats also stop at Laufen Castle. Dating back over 1,000 years, this castle has been used as a youth hostel since the mid-1940s. Alternatively, head to the smaller, 12th-century Wörth Castle, which is located on an island in the Rhine.