Lake Constance in southern Germany is one of the largest lakes in Central Europe. Crossing the borders of three countries, it boasts clear waters, charming lakeside towns and historic landmarks.
As a holiday area, the Lake Constance region offers a unique blend of natural beauty, historic charm and cultural experiences.
Visitors can enjoy outdoor activities on its clear waters, explore medieval landmarks such as Meersburg Castle and the city of Konstanz, attend lively events such as the Bregenz Festival and indulge in the regional cuisine paired with local wines.
The diversity of the landscape and the wealth of activities on offer make Lake Constance an unforgettable travel destination.
We're going to be looking at some of the unique sights and destinations on the German side of the lake, so join us and dive into the exploration of this lovely region.
The major part of the Lake Constance shoreline is in Germany, but there are sections of the lake in Austria and Switzerland. It is around 63 kilometres long and 14 kilometres wide.
The lake is divided into two sections. Upper Lake Constance (Obersee) is the eastern end of the lake and is the area most people would think of as 'Lake Constance'. Lower Lake Constance (Untersee) is the part to the west of Konstanz before the river Rhine flows out of the lake.
Incidentally, Lake Constance is known as the Bodensee in German. If you are a little confused about the names Constance and Konstanz, these probably come from one of the later Roman Emperors who controlled this region.
The name Bodensee probably stems from the town of Bodman at the western end of the Upper Lake.
Lake Constance actually has its own airport in Bodensee-Airport Friedrichshafen, only a few kilometres from the shoreline. The airport serves a limited amount of charter holiday destinations, however, although it connects into the Lufthansa network via Frankfurt.
There are several major airports with scheduled international flights located near Lake Constance. The nearest ones are:
The western end of the lake at Konstanz has rail services through the Black Forest to Karlsruhe. Konstanz train station is also connected to the Swiss rail system with express services to Zurich and Lucerne.
Friedrichshafen, on the northern lake shore, has two stations: one at the harbour and one in the town. It connects into the main German rail system via Ulm, although there are occasional long-distance services east to Austria and north to Dortmund.
Lindau, at the eastern end of the lake, is linked to Munich and Zurich by a high-speed service, which only stops at the Lindau station on the mainland. The railway station on the island is still served by a connecting local train and there is a slower service from the island to Munich. The island station is also part of the S-Bahn regional services from the Austrian town of Bregenz.
Lake Constance has good connections to the German and Austrian motorway systems.
Lindau, for example, is only a few kilometres away from the junction with the A96 to Memmingen and Munich. This motorway also crosses the Austrian border towards Bregenz and Bludenz and turns into the A14.
The far western end of Lake Constance is not far from the A81, which runs north towards Stuttgart and Würzburg, while driving south over the Swiss border from Konstanz accesses the A7 towards Zurich or the A1 to St Gallen.
There are regular car ferry services across the lake. The most popular crossings are:
There are plenty of small towns and villages along the German shoreline of the lake, but we have chosen four of the most popular towns as potential bases for your stay:
The largest city on Lake Constance, Constance boasts a well-preserved medieval town centre with narrow streets and half-timbered houses. Its prime location on the lake gives visitors easy access to picturesque beaches and the water-based activities while staying in comfortable hotels or guesthouses.
Situated on a hillside with breathtaking views of Lake Constance, Meersburg is ideal for those seeking a charming setting steeped in history. The town is home to the stunning medieval Meersburg Castle and features cobbled streets lined with timber-framed buildings. Visitors can choose from cosy guesthouses or lakeside hotels while exploring the enchanting surroundings.
Known as the birthplace of the Zeppelin airship, Friedrichshafen combines modernity with a rich historical heritage. Visitors can stay in contemporary accommodation while enjoying easy access to attractions such as the Zeppelin Museum and the Dornier Museum. Friedrichshafen's harbour promenade also offers beautiful lakeside walks and lively restaurants.
Situated on an island connected to mainland Germany by a bridge, Lindau offers an idyllic setting for visitors seeking a unique experience. The town offers picturesque views of the harbour, dominated by its iconic lighthouse and Bavarian lion sculpture. Lindau's many boutique hotels and guest houses make it an excellent base for exploring both Lake Constance and the nearby Alpine regions.
Often referred to as the 'Flower Island', Mainau is a botanical paradise teeming with colourful gardens, lush foliage and an enchanting arboretum. An ideal retreat for nature lovers, visitors can explore 45 hectares of blooming seasonal displays, historic buildings such as the Baroque castle, and tranquil landscapes.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the monastic past of the island of Reichenau is of great cultural and historical importance. Visitors can explore three well-preserved Romanesque churches with fascinating architecture and religious artefacts.
The Pfahlbau Museum Unteruhldingen offers visitors a glimpse of life in prehistoric times with its open-air museum of reconstructed pile dwellings that once stood over the lake. These archaeological marvels provide an insight into early human settlements around Lake Constance and offer educational tours that bring ancient history to life.
The Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen explores the fascinating history of airships through interactive exhibits and rare artefacts. Visitors can learn about these innovations in aviation while exploring full-scale replicas of historic airships such as the Hindenburg.
This picturesque Austrian town on Lake Constance boasts a rich cultural scene, highlighted by the annual Bregenz Festival. Here, visitors can enjoy world-class opera performances on an impressive floating stage while taking in breathtaking views of Lake Constance. Bregenz also offers charming streets and beautiful lakeside promenades perfect for leisurely exploration.
The mild temperatures of Lake Constance make it popular for swimming and sunbathing during the summer months. There are many designated bathing areas along the shoreline, some with sandy beaches.
Lindau, Friedrichshafen and Constance all have official bathing areas (these are known as a 'Strandbad' in German) where other water sports are often available.
Note that some beaches may charge an entrance fee, while others are free. Also note that many of the official areas have lifeguards. However, it is important to check the times when they are on duty.
Lake Constance is a popular destination for water sports enthusiasts due to its vast size and beautiful surroundings. Here are some popular activities and places to visit around Lake Constance:
Sailing is a popular activity on Lake Constance. There are numerous marinas and sailing clubs around the lake offering boat hire, sailing courses and guided tours. Popular locations include Konstanz, Lindau and Bregenz.
The lake offers suitable conditions for both beginners and advanced windsurfers or kitesurfers. The best spots for these activities are on the German side of the lake, particularly in areas such as Überlingen or Reichenau Island.
SUP has become increasingly popular on Lake Constance in recent years. You can hire paddleboards or join group tours at several locations around the lake. Top locations include Meersburg, Friedrichshafen and Radolfzell.
Explore the calm waters of Lake Constance in a canoe or kayak. Hire is available in many towns along the shore, such as Immenstaad or Langenargen.
The Lake Constance Cycle Path, also known as the Bodensee-Radweg, is a popular and scenic cycle route that loops around the lake.
The entire route is approximately 270 kilometres (167 miles) and offers a varied landscape with picturesque towns, medieval castles and churches, vineyards, orchards and breathtaking views of the Austrian and Swiss Alps.
The route follows mainly tarmac or well-maintained gravel roads close to the lakeshore. It is relatively flat and is suitable for cyclists of all abilities.
The German shore of Lake Constance offers a variety of hiking opportunities, with trails for all levels of experience. Here are some popular walks and areas to consider:
The Lake Constance region hosts a wide range of events throughout the year, from music and theatre festivals to traditional Christmas markets and wine events. Here are some of the key events to keep in mind when visiting the area:
Held in May or June in Konstanz, this is a celebration of sailing competitions, rowing regattas and various cultural activities.
Held annually in July, this three-day festival features live music, food stalls, market stands, children's activities and fireworks over the harbour.
Held annually in July and August, this prestigious festival presents open-air opera performances on a floating stage on Lake Constance. There are also concerts, plays and other cultural programmes.
Held in Meersburg in September, this festival celebrates local wines with tastings, live music and culinary delights from the region.
Many towns around Lake Constance host traditional Christmas markets in November and December. Notable markets include those in Konstanz (Konstanzer Weihnachtsmarkt), Lindau (Lindauer Weihnachtsmarkt), Friedrichshafen (Friedrichshafener Weihnachtsmarkt) and Bregenz (Bregenzer Weihnachtsmarkt).