Looking to plan a holiday that has you nestled between 3 countries? Lake Constance (Bodensee) is at the foothills of the Alps and straddles Germany, Austria and Switzerland. So, if you are looking to travel to as many countries as you can, this might be a good way to do that; and it is a short drive to Leichtenstein, one of Europe’s smallest countries.
As the most southern tip of Germany, it tends to be a popular holiday for Germans all-year round. It offers the perfect combination of a beautiful lake, picturesque towns, majestic Alps and is full of culture and history. Lake Constance is the largest lake in Germany, encompassing 270km of shoreline, and is separated into 3 parts: Lower Lake (Untersee), Upper Lake (Obersee) and Überlingen Lake (Überlingersee). Many are attracted to this area because of the hiking, biking, swimming, sailing, windsurfing; as well as, touring old castles and beautiful gardens.
This was our last stop on the 450km German Alpine route, starting in Schönau on Lake Königssee in the East to Lindau on Lake Constance in the West. The German Alpine Road is the oldest touring road in Germany, dating back to 1879, which takes you through picturesque rolling hills, lush meadows, towering trees, charming towns, calming lakes, and of course, the Alps. It was the perfect way to end a long and very active 2-week tour.
We decided to make the town of Konstanz our home base while in this region and stayed at the modern hotel, RIVA, which is steps from the waterfront. RIVA, a villa-style boutique hotel, offers the highest-quality amenities you would ever want to find. From 5-star dining to spa services, a sauna and wellness center to a rooftop pool with gorgeous views of Lake Constance, it really has it all. Not to mention the gorgeous interiors, especially the spectacular, self-supporting spiral staircase with floor to ceiling windows and teak and white marble accents throughout. RIVA is the place to stay and dine when in this area.
Konstanz is the largest town on Lake Constance. The history of this town dates back to the medieval times where a circular wall, 20 towers (only 3 stand today) and city gates surrounded the city. Perhaps the most historic building is the roman catholic church, Konstanz Minster. Although most of it was constructed in the 14th century, there are earlier references dating back to the 7th century. Don’t miss the opportunity to climb the 193 steps to the observation deck for panoramic views of the city and Lake Constance.
This charming old town is wonderful to just stroll through its web of winding streets, chocked-full of half-timbered houses, cobble streets and plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants to enjoy.
Another significant and historical building that lies along the waterfront and dates back to 1388 is the original Kaufhaus (or can be referred to as Konzilsgebäude), which was an old warehouse built specifically for trade with Italy. A definite highlight is walking along the waterfront where you have wonderful views across Lake Constance. Another great way to explore the waterfront is by bike. If you have the time, you can do the full 270km circuit and ride through Germany, Austria and Switzerland. We had limited time, and spent a day riding along Switzerland’s route, taking in the local town of St. Gallen.
Some of the finer townhomes that fall along the waterfront trail in Konstanz.
Meersburg is located directly across the lake from Konstanz. We took the ferry across, which only takes about 30 minutes. When you first arrive to the town, either by boat or car, you will be in the lower town (Unterstadt). The lower town has a resort feel, with many hotels, pier-facing restaurants and touristy shops catering to the high tourist season in the summer. The uptown (Oberstadt) is where you will find the charming historic town. You can walk between them via stairs or a steep street. Meersburg, a name that literally translates to “Castle on the Sea” – is home to two old castles. The oldest of the two, is simply referred to as the Old Castle (Alte Burg) and is a well-preserved medieval fortress, which can trace its history all the way back to the 7th century.
Or, do as we did, and that was just meander the twisty web of cobbled alleyways and take in the colourful historic townhouses that are filled with boutiques, cafes, wine taverns, and restaurants. You can easily spend an entire day getting lost in this charming town.
The stairs that take you from the lower town (Unterstadt) to the uptown (Oberstadt) have you climbing along the vineyards of Staatsweingut Meersburg and under the umbrellas of wisteria.
At the top, you will be awarded with amazing views of Lake Constance. And why not stop and enjoy some local wine in their wonderful terrace. Despite the rain and damp day, we didn’t miss out on this opportunity!
One of the most popular of all the tourist attractions around Lake Constance — and for good reason — is the spectacular 110-acre “flower island” of Mainau. It lies on the southern shore of the Überlingen Lake, south of Konstanz, and is home to a million different flowers and plants. It is also where you will find the Mainau Castle, built in 1746, making it a beautiful backdrop to all the flowers and plants. Germany is well-known for creating beautiful parks and gardens, and this said to be among the best in the country. Unfortunately, the day we set aside to visit, had rain in the forecast for the entire day.
We only just scratched the surface when we visited this region. It is the type of place that you really want to spend more quality time in, as it was just so relaxing. There was also a certain novelty in the fact that you could wake up in Germany, cycle into Switzerland for the lunch and then go to Austria later that afternoon for coffee and a strudel.