Lake Konstanz (Lake Constance) also called the Bodensee is the third biggest lake in Europe, its waters originating in the Swiss Alps with the Rhine River flowing into it in Konstanz and out of it too on the Swiss southern end, where the River then forms a border between Switzerland and Germany and then between Germany and France flowing onwards to the North Sea in the Netherlands.
Lake Konstanz is over 60 kilometres long and 14 kilometres wide with small towns and villages dotted along its foreshores, the lake also forming part of the border between Germany, Austria and Switzerland. This is a beautiful part of the world to see with the snow-capped Alps forming a background to the lake, villages and towns. Here on these pages we have set down some information to help you make the most of your time here. I hope you have a great time.
The German city of Konstanz has a population of around 85,000 people and lies on a peninsula that juts into the lake on the northern end of the lake with the Rhine River on one side. The city has history dating back to Roman times when it was a Roman Fort and its cobbled laneways in the old part of the city (Aldstadt) have that quaint feel of a historic city, with the 1000 year old Cathedral and other buildings. Part of the old Roman Fort’s foundations can still be seen in the Münsterplatz.
Today, the city has a large student population and attracts tourists who come here to see the old town centre, shop, take in the pretty lake views, lakeside promenades and catch ferries to other parts of the lake. Standing proud on a jetty that stands out at the end of the Ferry Dock is the 9 metre high Impéria Statue of a woman holding aloft in her hands Pope Martin V dressed only with a tiara and Emperor Sigimund naked but for a crown. The statue was only erected in 1993 – symbolic of both church and state and apparently created based on the story “La Belle Impéria’ by French writer, Honoré Balzac (1799-1850).
Konstanz is the birthplace of Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin (1838-1917), a pioneer of the Zeppelin Airship and you can see a statue of him here in the Stadtgarten Park in Konstanz and also there is a Museum in Friedrichshafen, on the other side of the Lake from Koblenz.
By way of background von Zeppelin joined a Military Academy in Ludswigsburg, near Stuttgart, becoming an Army Officer in 1858 and then in 1863 he travelled to the United States as an observer with the Union Army during the American Civil War. It was here in St Paul, Minnesota that he witnessed the Union Army using a massive Balloon to carry a person about 200 metres aloft to gain a better view over the enemy.
Back in Germany, von Zeppelin drew up initial ideas and plans for a large oval cigar shaped air ship around 1874, but it was not until 1885 that his first prototypes were built with the first Zeppelin launched in 1900. He then went on to form the Luftschiffenbau Zeppelin GmbH Company in 1908 and in the 1920’s the Zeppelin-Goodyear Company was formed in the USA – which also produced a number of airships, often for advertising purposes, but also used during World War Two.
Between 1928 and 1937 Zeppelin Airships made some 136 crossing of the Atlantic from Friedrichshafen in Germany to the USA, including some flights to Brazil too. These trips carrying passengers were long but also luxury travel adventures, with full service butlers and food service on-board.
In May 1937 the airship named the Hindenburg when attempting to land and dock in Lakehurst, New Jersey exploding into a massive fireball, with 36 of the 98 passengers and crew being killed.
While airships were used in both World War One and also World War Two, the era of the great passenger airships was at an end, but the name Zeppelin lives on.
From Konstanz, you can catch a Ferry to other parts of the Lake, but if the weather is hot enough, you might also check out the beach area called Strandbad Horn, go kayaking or sailing or paddle boarding. You might also like to cycle the 62 kilometre cycleway that runs around the lake itself too.
To the north of Konstanz there is an area called Marienschlucht, a forested gorge area that has the ruins of an old castle there named Kargett Castle that was destroyed in 1525. There are walking tracks through the forest, but the area may be closed, as in 2015 there was a large landslide that closed the tracks to walkers. Check with the Tourist Office if you want to try and see the old castle in the Gorge here.
There are also two islands close to Konstantz too –
Mainau Island – covers an area of 45 hectares and is around 7 kilometres from Konstanz just off-shore, making it easy to get to by ferry or road. Here you will find a garden and Mainau Castle built in 1746, with a massive park/garden with many trees dating back over 150 years. The island garden is open year round, and depending on the season, you will see masses of roses, rhododendrons, a million tulips and even a giant Sequoia Tree, Palm trees and others. There are restaurants here too and a Butterfly house, so go early if it is high season to avoid the big crowds of people who come here.
Reichenau Island – is located in the Rhine River Estuary, a short bus or boat ride west from Konstanz. There are around 2000 people living on the island, the main point of interest being the three UNESCO Listed churches and their frescoes that are here – St Mary and Marcus, St Peter and St Paul and St George – all dating back to the 9th to 11th Century. The Benedict Monastery that was here dated from the year 724AD but closed as a monastery in 1803. Being a low set island, some of the island is a wetland where migratory birds come to nest, while other parts of the island are used for growing vegetables.
Meersburg with a population of about 6000 is located on the d opposite shore of the lake to Konstanz, about a 30 minute ferry ride away. Here you will see the Nees Schloss (New Palace) that was home to the Prince-Bishop of Konstanz between 1750 and 1803. The gardens and Palace are open to see, and inside the Baroque interiors and great staircase with its sculptures to the sides and painted ceiling above it are spectacular.
Meersburg itself has many small cobbled laneways, the half-timbered houses, hotels, wine bars and atmosphere and you will also find thermal baths here too. From Meersburg you can also follow one of the paths – the Shore trail or High Trail – that will take you along the coastline of higher up in the hills through the vineyards – distances of just 5 to 10 kilometres, giving you a real feel for this great area bordering the lake. You could also walk inland to Salem – where the Salem Castle and elite boarding school is located.
Unteruhldingen – Something quite incredible!
About 4 kilometres north of Meersburg is the village of Unteruhldingen where you will find the Pile Dwellings (Pfahlbauten) - Lake Dwellers houses built on stilts above the water that date back to the Neolithic Bronze Age between 4000 to 850BC. Although the houses you see here now connected by walkways are reconstructions, they were built to reflect what the original tribal homes looked like, using the same materials and construction methods .Today this UNESCO World Heritage site is an open air museum with artefacts and information about the Archaeological discovery of the wooden stilts that date back to 850BC and older. You can also see the original underwater piles too, making the Pfahlbauten. Definitely this is a MUST SEE destination if you come to Lake Constance.
Birnau – is about 10 kilometres from Meersburg or just 6 kilometres further on from Unteruhldingen, so not far and here you will find the Pilgrimage Church, built is the lavish Rococo style between 1746 and 1749. The church with its high bell tower stands out above the lake and vineyards, but it is the interior which will leave you amazed – with the whole interior in the Baroque Rococo lavish in its detail and design.
Friedrichshafen – is next to the Lake and roughly 20 kilometres south of Meersburg. It is home to the Zeppelin Museum and also the Dornier Aerospace Museum too (see above for more information about Count von Zeppelin). Both museums are worth seeing, the Zeppelin Museum also housing a replica of part of the Hindenburg airship, while the Dornier Museum is equally impressive. During the summer months, you can also take a trip on an airship to see the Lake and countryside from above. A ferry service operates from Konstanz to Friedrichshafen too.
Heading inland from Friedrichshafen is the city of Ravensburg and if you are a jigsaw fan, this is the place where the famous Ravensburger puzzles, games and jigsaws originate. Here is Ravensburg, you will also find the Ravensburger Museum and Ravensburger Spieleland Theme Park, with its waterslides and other amusements too. They call the city the “City of towers and gates” and the old part of the city has many historic buildings in and around the Marienplatz
Travelling further south along the lakeside, you will come to the city of Lindau, close to the Austrian border. Lindau is situated on an island separated from the mainland but connected to it by a short walkway promenade, with the water between the mainland and island becoming a small harbour and marina. At the entrance to this harbour marina is a huge Bavarian stone Lion atop a stone pediment on one side and a stone Lighthouse on the other side. It is an impressive sight but in day and night, a little akin to the Merlions in Singapore. The island is small and extremely picturesque with historic town hall, gardens, streetscapes, the Peterskirche and the Stadtmuseum with an interesting collection of the island’s history and artefacts. Lindau is a popular destination for tourists and there are all the bars, restaurants and hotels to make your stay a fun one too. During the summer months, there is the sailing, windsurfing and other summer activities.
Lindau is also at one end of the Alpine Way Road (the Deutsche Alpen-Strasse) – a roughly 450 kilometre winding road or rail journey that takes you from Lindau to Bad Reichenhall (near Saltzburg in Austria) through the Bavaria Alps, winding and twisting its way through the mountain passes, over bridges and rivers, through small towns, farms and villages, past lakes, forests, snowy hillsides and amazing scenery. Many people claim that this is one of the best drives in all of Germany, and it is popular for Motorbike riders, people driving open top cars. Bad Reichenhall is a historic spa town too and just 20 kilometres further on is Salzburg in Austria. Bad Reichenhall is also about 20 kilometres north of Berchtesgaden and the Berchtesgaden National Park and close to the Königssee Lake – where electric boats are used to transport people around the deep lake that has steep forested sides much like a fiord. This beautiful region of Germany near the village of Berchtesgaden next to the Austrian border is where Adolf Hitler spent much of his time writing his Mein Kampf manuscript. His house, the ‘Berhof’ was destroyed after World War Two, but there is a Museum located in Berchtesgaden – the Dokumentation Obersalzberg that has records of Hitler and his time here. Standing on a high mountain ridge overlooking is Obersalzberg.
I hope that you have a great time seeing Lake Constance and all the scenery that is here in the south of Germany.
As always, Happy Travels!