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Bordered by Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, Lake Constance is an ideal destination for a short getaway or longer cycling holiday along the lake’s 270-kilometer shoreline.
Lake Constance, known in German as Bodensee, is a 540-kilometer2 lake in southern Germany offering amazing cycling, fascinating towns, and the unique possibility to visit three Central European countries on just a short boat ride from each other.
I visited Lake Constance on a prolonged weekend trip with my boyfriend. As I began planning the trip, I was sitting on the fence between focusing on the possibilities of the international area (trying to visit all three countries) or choosing a cycling-focused itinerary and concentrating on only one of the countries in more detail.
In the end, we went with the second option. Therefore, my guide focuses more on the German side, with our detailed Lake Constance 3-day itinerary. I hope our experiences will help you to make the best of your visit.
Here is my Lake Constance itinerary for 3 days, covering the lake’s main highlights on the German side!
|Day 2||Konstanz and Reichenau Island|
**This 3-day itinerary is based on what I did on my trip. We decided to have one base in Friedrichshafen and take day tours from there by boat and by bicycle. If you want to spend more time at each location, you could consider sleeping over in each visited place as well.
Tips for Planning your Lake Constance Holiday
Why visit Lake Constance, Germany?
For starters, the location of Lake Constance is pretty idyllic, occupying an extremely beautiful region of Europe. After spending 4 days around the lake (it was actually my second time visiting), I can say that I have not encountered any unattractive spots on the lake. Therefore, no matter whether you plan to spend your trip on the German, Austrian or Swiss side (or combine them all in one trip), Lake Constance is always a good choice.
With a variety of experiences on offer, Lake Constance has something for everyone. It’s a center for water sports, while its shores are home to swathes of vineyards and welcoming villages and towns.
Lake Constance: Things to Do and See
- Cycling: Thanks to the dedicated cycling route all the way around the lake, you can choose one of many shorter cycling trips or even plan a multi-day venture. To make a complete circuit of the lake, you should budget at least 5 days.
- Boat trips: A boat is one of the best transportation methods to get around Lake Constance. Needless to say, boat transportation is rather expensive, so budget around 10 euros per person per ride.
- Swimming: Sand and pebble beaches are found all around the lake, and there are summer lidos or swimming pools in Meersburg, Immenstaad, Wallhausen, Wasserburg, Bregenz and Arbon.
- Water sports: With its 536sq km of water, there is a lot of fun that can be enjoyed on the water, including windsurfing, canoeing, or paddleboarding along the coastline.
- Sailing: The lake is a magnet for sailors, and there are marinas in several towns. Regattas and sailing competitions take place throughout the summer months, including the long-distance Rund Um and Match Race Germany (www.matchrace.de).
- Sightseeing: The area is rich in castles, baroque churches, exquisite town squares, and curious museums.
How to get to Lake Constance
Lake Constance’s only airport is located in Friedrichshafen on the German side, so this is where you should start your trip if arriving by plane. We arrived at Lake Constance by road but still found Friedrichshafen to be a great base for exploring the area. Friedrichshafen is pretty in itself, is well connected with other towns by boat/ferry, for example, there is a direct catamaran crossing the lake from Friedrichshafen to Konstanz, the largest city on the lake.
Where to stay on Lake Constance
During our trip, we stayed at Holiday In Express Hotel, which cost 72 EUR per night including breakfast. If you book early enough or consider AirBnB, you might be able to find something around 50 EUR per night. However, if you book at the last minute, you might need to pay much more on accommodation – even up to 200 EUR per night.
Most websites recommend booking accommodation for your Lake Constance holidays about 3 months in advance. I hardly ever know where I will be traveling to so far in advance, so if you are spontaneous like me, you may have to pick from what is left at the time of your booking.
Cycling around Lake Constance
The Lake Constance cycling route circumnavigating the lake is 270 kilometers in total and runs through Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The flatter parts are situated in Germany, while the most descents and ascents are in Switzerland. The views of the lake from all sides with the Alps as a backdrop are really stunning.
If you are looking to do the whole cycling around Lake Constance, then it’s recommended to divide it into 7 stages:
Friedrichshafen – Lindau/Bregenz
Lindau/Bregenz – Rorschach/Arbon
Rorschach/Arbon – Kreuzlingen/Konstanz
Konstanz/Kreuzlingen – Stein am Rhein/Diessenhofen
Stein am Rhein/Diessenhofen – Überlingen
Überlingen – Friedrichshafen
The cycling route around the lake is well marked. Spring and autumn are the best seasons to do this (summer can be too hot!) Cyclists generally travel clockwise because the cycling path is closest to the lake when traveling in that direction.
3 Days Lake Constance Itinerary
We spent 3 full days exploring Lake Constance, with day trips by boat and bicycle from Friedrichshafen. In order to make a full trip around the lake at a similar pace, at least 7 to 10 days are needed (unless you want to rush). You can, of course, consider sleeping over in various towns around the lake, but then you will need to carry more of your belongings as you move around (such as clothes, toiletries, etc).
Day 1: Friedrichshafen, Home of the Zeppelins
Friedrichshafen, a town with a population of more than 60 000, is not a typical tourist resort, but still offers a lovely town center with a beautiful seaside promenade. Use the first day to recover from your journey and enjoy some of the highlights of this lovely town. Distances in Friedrichshafen are not too big, so it’s best to explore the town by bicycle.
Friedrichshafen made its name in the history of aviation as the birthplace of Zeppelin airships. In the late 1800s, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, who had seen hot air balloons used during the American Civil War, developed a rigid airship powered by gas. The first of his cigar-shaped models was launched in 1900 and passenger flights to America followed.
Even today, you will see zeppelins crossing the sky above Friedrichshafen and it’s an amazing thing to observe. If you want to learn more details, you can visit the Zeppelin Museum or even a hangar where the commercial flights take off from. You can of course experience this on your own, but beware that it’s rather pricey. For a 30-minute flight, expect to pay €200 EUR, and for 2-hour flight around 715 EUR. Detailed itineraries and price lists can be found on this website.
Do: Climb Moleturm, the 22-meter, admission-free observation tower with offers panoramas of Lake Constance & the city’s main landmarks (find the directions to Moleturm here). Visit the Zeppelin Museum, located in the striking former harbor station (admission €7.50), admire the baroque Schlosskirche (Palace Church).
Eat: Having a meal at one of the restaurants along the promenade is a must. Lovely, modern Restaurant Felders is definitely the best choice in Friedrichshafen and my personal favorite from our whole trip. Try the salad with grilled goat cheese; it’s excellent!
Move: Explore the town on two wheels! We even did a cycling trip to the next town, Fischbach, and back (6,7 km one way). If the weather is favorable, you can also consider taking a small boat tour on the lake, available from the harbor.
Day 2: Konstanz and Reichenau Island
Konstanz is the biggest city on the shores of Bodensee (Lake Constance). I was not sure whether visiting such a huge city would be worthwhile, but I really enjoyed it. We brought our bicycles to Konstanz and combined it with a cycling trip to the mainly agricultural island of Reichenau.
The history of Konstanz goes back to Roman times, when the settlement was an important centre of trade and spirituality. With a strategic position at the place where the Rhine river leaves Lake Constance, the importance of Konstanz grew continuously over the centuries.
Due to its proximity to Switzerland, Konstanz was not bombed during world war II and its historic old town remains intact. It is a historic city with a charming old town and could be called the jewel of the region.
Reichenau Island, the bigger of the two main islands near Konstanz, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its historic monastery, the Abbey of Reichenau. The island’s scenery is very different to Konstanz, it’s very agricultural, with its own distinctive scenery. The 4,5 km wide and 1,5km long island is perfect for cycling; I really enjoyed cycling on Reichenau and also the route between Konstanz to Reichenau, as the island is connected to the mainland by a thin strip of land.
Do: Make sure to visit Konstanz’s highlights: Climb the viewing tower of The Münster Cathedral, dating back to the 1100 AD. Explore the lovely harbour, with park and nearby Art nouveau houses beside the lake. Consider trips to nearby island of Meinau.
Eat: With the proximity of Switzerland, expect the service to be more pricey than Friedrichshafen. We came across a suitable alternative: food court at Markethale Friedrichshafen (location on Google maps here. If you are interested in snacks or getting more value out of your money for food in a supermarket instead of a restaurant, this is your place. For eating something more local, consider Farmer’s market taking place every Tuesday and Friday mornings in St. Stephans Platz.
Move: The easiest and best way to get from Friedrichshafen to Konstanz is by catamaran. The trip takes one hour and on a clear day, you get stunning views of the lake. The tickets are a little overpriced(we paid 21,50 EUR round trip per person, and 6,50 EUR each way for each bicycle.) In Konstanz, get on tow wheels and we follow an enjoyable cycling route to Reichenau island and explore it (9,9 km one way).
Day 3: Lindau
Situated on the eastern side of Lake Constance, Lindau is a cute town full of medieval and half-timbered buildings. Even though we visited it on a rainy day, we could still appreciate its beauty. All the historical sights are concentrated on the tiny 68-square-kilometer island of the same name, which is connected to the mainland by a road bridge and railway.
On the day of our visit, there was a local market taking place, so the town center was a little bit crowded. We parked our bicycles and continued visiting the cobblestone paved center on foot, which is the best way to explore, anyway.
I was planning to travel further to Bergenz, but we could not go through with our plan since there was a thunderstorm on the way. When you have good weather or if you are traveling by car, you can continue your trip and finish what we couldn’t; that part of the cycling path is supposed to be really nice.
Do: Come and gaze at the southernmost lighthouse in Germany (entrance fee: 1.80 EUR). If you have time, join one of the lake cruises in the harbor and experience three-countries in one trip (16 EUR for a 1,5-hour trip)
Eat: Da Capo Ristorante Pizzeria! We chose it randomly when exploring the old town. The pizza was great, but it can be quite busy so you may have to wait or consider other options.
Move: Cycle from Friedrichshafen to Lindau and back. It’s a pleasant 20-kilometer trip that can be done at any pace. The route is not totally direct and there are a few different route options along the way. I recommend checking GoogleMaps if you reach a junction and are not sure which way to turn.
I hope that this Lake Constance itinerary will help you to plan your trip. If you have any other questions, do not hesitate to ask them in the comments.
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