Lake Constance is the third largest lake on the European continent. It is located in the foothills of the Alps, between Germany, Switzerland and Austria. But the three neighboring countries share it only de facto: there are no formal agreements that define the boundaries between them within the limits of the lake. Lake Constance, which has an area of 536 km² with a length of 63 km and a depth of up to 254 m, is not considered a common possession, but more as not belonging to any country. It is a unique natural area, which has all the conditions for a full holiday.
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Video: Lake Constance
Numerous tourists who come here on vacation hardly think about the international legal status of Lake Constance. And very few people know or suspect that for years it was one of the most ecologically problematic bodies of water in Europe, thanks to the “efforts” of the Rhine, which brought its dirty waters here. There are no reminders about those not the most unpleasant times, because the environmental situation has been safely corrected. Today Lake Constance or the Swabian Sea – a unique body of water well known by these names – is a model of purity.
The lake, the largest in the Alps and very rarely frozen in winter, offers visitors ample opportunities for recreational activities. Do you want to bask on the beach? As they say, welcome. Are you interested in water sports? Or have a desire to fish? You can have both. And there are also many interesting things to do: cruises on Lake Constance on a comfortable boat or a white yacht, discover the local historical and cultural sights. Not to mention the concerts and festivals regularly held in the coastal German city of Konstanz, gathering a large audience of locals and tourists.
Lake Constance cannot be seen in isolation from the surrounding mountains and surrounding towns and cities. All together this creates an amazingly beautiful picture, all the shades of which are impossible to describe with words – this splendor, which is a harmonious combination of natural and man-made, should be seen at least once in your life with your own eyes. Transparent emerald water, the cleanest mountain air, wide opportunities for mud and thermal waters treatment – the nature or God obviously were in a great mood, since they managed to create such a magical place – unique in its kind.
Lake Constance stretches between Bregenz (Austria) and the municipality of Bodmann-Ludwigshafen in Germany. It reaches its maximum width of 14 km from the Romanshorn to Friedrichshafen. The deepest place – 254 m – is between Utville and Fischbach. The latter is a district of Friedrichshafen.
“The Swabian Sea” is essentially three bodies of water: the Upper Lake, the Lower Lake and the Rhine River, which connects the first two. In the northwest is the finger-shaped arm of the Upper Lake. It even has its own name, Uberlingen. It is often regarded as an independent water reservoir, the boundary of which runs between the Bodaryuk Peninsula and the town of Mersburg. The Bodaryuk Peninsula also serves as a natural boundary between the Upper and Lower Lakes. The latter, in turn, is divided into several, shall we say, regions by various geological deposits – moraines. They also have their own names: these are Lakes Gnaden and Zeller. The latter is west of the island of Reichenau, or more precisely, between the Mettnau and Höri peninsulas.
Along the perimeter of Lake Constance – a navigable lake, spread out in an ancient glacial valley at an altitude of 395 meters – are such world-famous resorts as Constance, Mersburg and Lindau. The water body is “rich” in as many as eleven islands, the most famous of which are Mainau and Reichenau. There is a ferry service between the islands and the cities. Since Lake Constance does not legally belong to any of the states of the region, and, moreover, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Republic of Austria and the Swiss Confederation are members of the Schengen Agreement, locals and tourists can travel around the water and visit any of these countries without a visa. Undoubtedly, it is very convenient: such opportunities are willingly used by everyone.
History of Lake Constance
About 100-110 thousand years ago the last of the glacial epochs on the territory of Europe began. It was during its existence, as it is believed, that Lake Constance was formed. And all thanks to the glacier on the Rhine. Even today you can still see it: it juts out on the surface of the beautiful alpine valley that stretches here.
About 10-12 thousand years ago the area around the “newborn” lake was swampy, with many forests along its perimeter. But this didn’t stop people from settling in the area and staying there permanently. The first buildings began to be erected from about 3000 BC. Fragments of ancient settlements of great interest for historical science, researchers find on the shores of Lake Constance even today.
Flora and fauna
The flora around Lake Constance is so variegated and diverse that it seems that nature has gathered so much beauty in one place – to the delight of people. Coniferous and deciduous forests neighbor in amazing harmony, lush alpine meadows are combined with fields where daisies, poppies, clover and forget-me-nots grow. If you visit these places in April, you can enjoy the bright colors of luxurious tulips and daffodils. In May, the azalea blooms in mesmerizing tenderness, and in summer, regal roses as well as dahlias, marigolds, zinnias and lion’s wings bloom. In the parks of cities adjacent to the coast, you can even find exotic trees – banana trees, palm trees, magnolias.
The local fauna is no less rich. The lake has long been home to ducks and herons, swans and red-headed dives, rare chongs. The underwater world can also be called populous and “multinational”. Of the local inhabitants can be distinguished pike, eel, pike-perch, blue grayling and perch. In the 80s of the last century all the trout disappeared from Lake Constance caused by water pollution with phosphate fertilizers. After the federal government took all measures to clean it of harmful impurities, the population of this fish has recovered.
The sights of Lake Constance
The magnificent nature of Lake Constance is complemented by the sights on its islands and shores, with breathtaking panoramas from all three countries. Cozy European towns and villages filled with medieval buildings, Reichenau Island with an ancient monastery, the famous Rhine Falls – not a complete list of places worth seeing for travelers coming to Lake Constance.
City of Constance
The most popular city on the German shore of Lake Constance is, of course, Constance. Its location is truly unique: it is located on the border of two parts of the lake and is one with Kreuzlingen, on the Swiss coast. It is not for nothing that there is a joke that when a local goes to bed, his head is in one state and his feet in the other.
There are a lot of young people in Constanta, because it is a university city. But not only members of the younger generation come here and not only for knowledge. There are many beautiful sights, and of particular interest are the fortifications of the late Roman era and various religious buildings. Medieval burgher houses and monuments from the Gründerzeit period also characterize the appearance of the town.
There is also the oldest municipal theater in Germany. In the city is a real, if I may say so floral landmark – the island of Mainau. It is located on Lake Constance, and it is connected with the “mainland” by a bridge. Surprisingly, on this small piece of land there is a truly tropical climate, which is not characteristic of Germany at all. Due to these conditions, rare species of Mediterranean flowers and plants – orchids, daffodils, tulips and hyacinths – have survived here. In summer the beautiful roses, exotic hibiscus and passiflora bloom here.
Another city on the German coast is Lindau. It also enjoys a well-deserved reputation as a holiday destination, with many historical and cultural monuments. Most of them can be seen in the island part of town, known as Old Lindau. It is connected to the mainland by a bridge and a dam. This town has the most beautiful port on the whole Lake Constance, founded in the early 19th century. On its territory there is a majestic monument to the Bavarian Lion, the height of which is 6 meters. The work was made by a local sculptor Johann von Halbing. Visiting the old burger’s house Kawatzen, you will find yourself in the city museum with very interesting exhibits. Another popular attraction is the town hall, which dates back to the Middle Ages.
The island of Reichenau, another of the “Swabian Sea’s” trademarks, deserves a special mention. It is the largest here (4.5 km long, 1.5 km wide) and is home to the ancient Benedictine monastery, founded back in the eighth century by the wandering preacher Pirmin. The oldest church on the island is the Church of St. George, part of its interior are frescoes discovered in 1880. The debate as to whether they belonged to the Carolingian or Saxon dynasty is still incomplete. Reichenau is inhabited, with about 3,500 people living here. Some are engaged in farming, others in fishing. Interestingly, in addition to traditional fruits and vegetables for our climate, even exotic kiwi have taken root on the island. And even more: the whole island with its ancient abode is included in the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
The City of Merseburg
Now move to the town of Mersburg with a population of just over 5.5 thousand people. It was founded at the end of the IX century, when it was a fortified fortress on the strategically important road connecting the region of Upper Swabia and Switzerland. From today’s perspective, the geographical location of Mersburg can also be called good: it is located at the crossroads of several famous sightseeing routes. The main attraction is the medieval fortress, inside which are the collections of the local museum. The interior of this building, which combines elements of Baroque and late Gothic, is also interesting in itself. Other city museums include the Zeppelin Museum, the Dornier Aviation Museum in the New Castle, the Municipal Museum, the house-museum of the poetess Annette von Droste-Hulshoff (she was born in Mersburg) and even the Museum of the Bible.
One of the oldest settlements on Lake Constance is Bodmann, a suburb of Ludwigshafen. It emerged from one of the local ancient settlements. The surviving fragments of the old fortress, which served as the residence of the Kaiser himself, speak for the age of the settlement. In earlier times the town was called Sernatingen. In the first half of the 19th century it was an important trading route to Frankfurt from Italy. The modern look of Bodmann is defined by the excellent infrastructure, equipped beaches and water sports schools. There are also boat rentals, excursions on the lake by boat, mini-golf.
You will not waste your time if you visit the village Sipplingen, which is rightly called the most beautiful on the lake. It lies perched on the southern slope of the Alps. Connoisseurs of beauty will appreciate the picturesque landscape of this place, the basis of which is the magnificent panorama of Lake Constance and the views of the surrounding mountains. Despite the fact that Zipplingen is a village, its well-developed infrastructure would be the envy of any city. There is a large beach, which is framed by lush green meadows, there are two marinas for yachts. Lovers of active recreation can take lessons in a sailing school. You can rent boats. Right on the coast, locals and tourists play miniature golf and even chess – all conditions are created for that. On the waterfront there are many bars and restaurants, where you can also have a good rest.
Finally, Friedrichshafen is the second largest German city after Konstanz on the shores of Lake Constance. If you compare it with neighboring settlements, it is still young, its name is in honor of the Prussian monarch Frederick I. In the tourist harbor, it began to turn in the middle of the XIX century. A curious fact: the city had a factory of dirigibles – the first in Germany. Should not be surprising that one of the favorite activities of tourists – it’s air travel over the city and the lake itself, made it on Zeppelin. Such trips seem to take you back to the beginning of the last century. The ticket costs for a flight of 30 minutes – 220 euros, 120 minutes – 795 euros. For children from 2 to 12 years of age there is a 20% discount. The most famous symbol of Friedrichshafen is the Schlosskirche, which was built in the Middle Ages. The city has many museums, the most popular being the Zeppelin Museum and the School Museum.
City of Bregenz
The most popular city on the opposite, Austrian coast is undoubtedly Bregenz, which also created wonderful opportunities for recreation and tourism. The symbol of the city is the tower of St. Martin, which today houses a military museum. Also of no small interest is the old town hall, whose history dates back to 1662, as well as the medieval St. Gall in the Gothic style. If you climb to the top of the Pfander you can see the panorama of the three states, which are united by Lake Constance. By the way, right on the water there is a stage, which traditionally hosts an opera festival. It is very loved by tourists, in addition, they can boast to family and friends that they have set foot on the biggest floating stage in the world.
To talk about Lake Constance and not mention the continent’s largest Rhine Falls? That would be an unforgivable omission. This fascinating natural spectacle, amazing by its power and rapidity of the falling stream, is located in a bend of the Rhine (however, already on the territory of Switzerland). The waterfall from the Lower Lake is separated by some 20 kilometers. It is impossible to forget how tons of water rush down from a height of 25 meters and crash against the rocks and shore. No less impressive and the width of the waterfall – about 150 meters! To make it easier for tourists to view it, there are several viewing platforms around the waterfall. The central platform is right in the middle, it can be reached only by boat. Rhine Falls is dedicated to the museum, which is located in the castle Laufen. There is a parking lot near it, and there is no charge for use.
How to get there
Lake Constance is located in the central part of the European continent. Europe is known for its well-developed transport system, which gives travelers the opportunity to choose the way they would like to get here. The plurality of options is due to the fact that Germany, Austria and Switzerland, adjacent to the lake, not only have modern air, rail and road transport, but also closely cooperate with each other in terms of transport links.
The fastest and most comfortable way to get to this wonderful place at the junction of the three states is by air. The regional airport, located in Friedrichshafen, is the closest air harbor to the lake in Germany. However, some tourists find it more convenient to fly to Munich, Zurich, Innsbruck, Stuttgart or Memmingen first. From these cities to the Lake Constance region are buses and trains. Travel time is 2 to 3 hours. It is advisable to buy tickets in advance on the website of the carrier, otherwise there may be no seats for the day you want. A normal adult ticket, for example, the train from Munich costs about 40 euros.
One of the alternative, but no less popular ways to get to Lake Constance is to rent a car. Find a suitable car is not difficult, because the centers that provide these services are available in many German airports. At the disposal of tourists a variety of cars: the size and model, and the class and filling. The choice of car can be influenced by several factors: for example, the total number of people who are going to travel, whether they have a lot or little luggage and, of course, the cost of the rental itself.
The famous Lake Constance (Germany) occupies an ancient glacial valley at an altitude of about 400 m above sea level, and is the third largest body of water in the center of Europe. Its area is just over 500 km2 .
Although the natural site is considered one of the most famous landmarks of the German states of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, it remains formally a neutral zone between the three states. Lake Constance is located directly on the border of Germany, Austria and Switzerland in the Alpine foothills.
What Lake Constance looks like
Lake Constance (as the body of water is called in German guidebooks) is divided into an Upper and a Lower Lake. They are connected to each other by the Rhine. Although the peak season for tourists is in summer, Lake Constance is almost never frozen in winter and remains navigable. The area around it is hilly, and in the southeastern part there are even rocks.
Scientists think that the shores of the lake were already inhabited in the Neolithic Era – III-IV centuries B.C. Remains of wooden buildings on piles and household items found by archaeologists in these places attest to it. Today tourists can see the ancient exhibits in the famous open-air museum near the town of Überlingen. Here the old village is being reconstructed using the same construction methods as in Neolithic times.
In ancient times, the Bodensee region was inhabited by the Celts, after which it became part of the Roman Empire. In the Middle Ages it was considered the property of the kings of the Franks, and then the area was divided between the German and Austrian principalities and duchies.
It is interesting that Lake Constance has a second name, Constance, which comes from the ancient Roman name of the Upper Lake Lacus Constantinus. The name “Lake Constance” presumably comes from the municipality of Bodman, where at one time there was a residence of Frankish kings.
In the middle of the body of water are 11 islands of varying size, both inhabited by people, and uninhabited.
Tourists should not miss the following sights of Lake Constance :
- The Austrian city of Bregenz. It is worth seeing the tower of St. Martin, which houses the military museum, the church of St. Gall in the 18th century in the Gothic style and the old town hall of the 17th century. Don’t miss the amazing opportunity to climb Pfander Peak, from the top of which you can see the landscapes of three countries bordering the lake at the same time. In July and August there is an international opera festival. The artists perform directly on the stage set in the middle of the lake on 200 stilts and the open-air auditorium has a seating capacity of 7,000. Ticket prices range from 28 to 272 EUR on average.
- German city of Konstanz. It is famous for the fact that some buildings are half in German territory, half in Swiss territory. The settlement is ideal for a comfortable holiday due to the large number of comfortable beaches and luxury hotels with views of the majestic Alps. During a tour of the city you will certainly be interested in the bishop’s cathedral, the medieval burgher houses and the remains of the Roman fortifications.
- The island of Reichenau is slightly west of Konstanz. It is the only island on Lake Constance listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most tourists come here to see the church of St. George with unique frescoes of X century and the old Benedictine monastery of VIII century, the founder of which is considered to be St. Pirmin.
- The island of Lindau with its medieval town of the VIII century.
- The island of Mainau in the northwestern part of the reservoir. At one time it was the residence of many crowned heads. Nowadays it delights the eye with a unique landscape park, a baroque palace and numerous gardens with tropical and subtropical flora. It is best to come here in the spring. At this time the island is covered with a carpet of flowers, consisting of 400 species of tulips. Or visit the Butterfly Pavilion, or go for a bike ride on the specially paved paths.
If you are interested in what else Lake Constance is famous for, be sure to take a look at the Rhine waterfall. It is more convenient to get there from Switzerland.
Lake Constance Excursions
Cruises on Lake Constance are operated jointly by ships of the three littoral countries, which are known as the “White Fleet of Lake Constance.”
This is where tourists can not only see but also travel on one of the oldest passenger ships of the local fleet, the paddle steamer “SD Hohentwiel”, built before World War I. It can be rented for charter voyages.
The lake has all conditions for connoisseurs of water sports. Go rollerblading or biking on the lake is possible without problems thanks to specially constructed paths. Fishing on Lake Constance is also a popular form of recreation. Here you can catch pike, perch, grayling and even trout.
Excursions around the lake are worth planning as follows:
- On the Swiss shore (southwestern part of the reservoir) visit Rorschach, Arbonne and Romanshorn with their ancient lanes, and then go to the Lower Lake, where the most attractions are located in Stein, Ermatingen and Gottlieben. From Romanshorn you can take the ferry to the German side to Friedrichshafen within an hour.
- In Kreuzlingen take the ship, go down the Lower Lake to Stein and travel along the river between the lakes until you disembark at Schaffhausen. On the opposite shore, ships depart from Rorschach and arrive in Reineck after traveling along the river.
It is very convenient to buy the international day card “Lake Consance EuRegio” (cost from 18 to 31 EUR), which allows unlimited travel by bus, train, cable car and ships in the region during the day. The “Lake Constance Experience Card” is a multi-day card that also allows you to visit about 200 attractions in the region for free. The summer version of the card is available from April 9 to October 15 and costs from 31 to 167 EUR, depending on the duration of the trip. The winter version is valid for the rest of the year and costs from 29 to 59 EUR.
Even if you do not know exactly where Lake Constance is located, it is very easy to get here. From Stuttgart and Zurich airports the trip on the autobahn takes no more than 2 hours. The trains take you to Lindau, Friedrichshavn or Konstanz.