At the point where Germany, Austria, and Switzerland meet, discover a not-oft-found confluence of culture, cuisine, and landscapes. A particularly beautiful part of the world, the three borders come together in the form of a delta, which comprises the third-largest freshwater lake in Central and Western Europe. The shores are lined with quaint old towns, lavish resorts, and extensive biking trails. Choose a family hotel for some much-needed time with the ones you love, a country-house hotel for a stay with a historic flair, or a lake hotel, to get the absolute most out of your time at Lake Constance.
Where to stay on Lake Constance? Important regions at a glance:
Obersee: Germany’s northern shore
From Lindau to Stockach, Germany occupies more than half of Lake Constance’s shoreline. On this extensive coast, find year-round activities, stunning views over the water to the Alps, and plenty of wonderful lakeside hotels. The coast of the Obersee, or “upper lake” is speckled with castles, swimming beaches, and chance for sailing in the summer and hanging out in thermal pools in the chilly seasons. Whether a short, relaxing break or an extended family vacation, there’s plenty of sights to see and trails to explore on Germany’s coast; make sure to check out the Meersberg Castle, a 7th-century castle that looms over the coast, or opt for one of the many pre-routed bike loops. Lindau is a stunning lakeside town in Bavaria boasting a fusion of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque-era architecture, a famous harbor with a lighthouse, and a winding, cobbled old town. The rest of the Obersee is split between Austria and Switzerland, both sides offering charming castle hotels and more mountainous terrain than in the German north. At the meeting point of mountain and water, take your pick between slick, contemporary design in Switzerland, a mountain hotel right on the border, or that old-world class found only in Austria. Just to the east of Lake Constance is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe, Allgäu, which begins in Germany’s Swabia and stumbles over into Austria, dotted with other-worldly castles, the rugged Alps reflected in crystal-clear lakes, and terrain primed for skiing in the winter and wandering in the summer.
Uberlingen and Untersee: Konstanz town and quiet shorelines
The 11th-century city of Konstanz really offers the best of all worlds: oceanic exhibits for all ages at Sea Life Konstanz, remnants from medieval times, and a picturesque old town with lots of shopping and dining opportunities. The hotels here come with private beaches, a historical atmosphere, and luxurious facilities and amenities. Just off of Konstanz town is the flower-island of Mainau. This small island is truly a paradise, together with 45 hectares of gardens and Germany’s second-largest butterfly house. Northwest from Konstanz and out of the major Obersee area, find two smaller sections of the lake, Uberlingen and Untersee. Germany and Switzerland share the beautiful Untersee, as well as views of the Reichenau peninsula right in the center of it and the Schiener Berg mountain in the hinterland. The hotels on the coastline are seriously luxurious, boasting well-equipped spa areas and top regional cuisine served up in the in-house taverns. Uberlingen, the northwestern finger of Lake Constance is filled with golf courses, biking trails that run along the entire coast, and a surprisingly-rich cultural scene. The old libraries and churches, and the suite of galleries allow for mornings enriching the body with sun and swim and afternoons enriching the mind and spirit.
Good to know
Getting there: Lake Constance is served by one airport, Friedrichshafen in Germany. Once there, opt for the Bodensee Ticket, which allows public transport via bus, train, and ferry in all three countries that border the lake. A train ride around the lake is an event in and of itself, so it’s worth taking one if even just for the views. Renting a car really isn’t necessary in the region, but if you do, you’ll naturally have more uninterrupted access to the lake’s hinterland and vineyards.
When to go: A worthwhile visit in all seasons, deciding when to book a stay on Lake Constance is really just about your traveling preferences. Active vacationers should head between April and late autumn. Water sport-enthusiasts can start their season in spring but should remember their wet suit, as the water has a maximum of only 10 degrees C. In the summer months, when temperatures rise up to 25, the water can get up to 22 near the shore. In winter, ski slopes attract visitors to Lindau in Germany or Voarlberg in Austria. The in-between seasons are, as always, best for hiking and taking in the evolving foliage.