Summer goes by fast in Germany, so it’s important to do it right. Lake Constance (the Bodensee) is a popular destination for vacationers of all ages to relax during this short-lived season. Being that there’s not so much coast in Germany (not to mention the other lake neighbors, Switzerland and Austria), the lake sort of fills the role of a beach vacation. Here’s how to do justice to a Lake Constance vacation.
- Stroll around with an ice cream
Italy isn’t so far away so there are gelato shops on every street corner in the quaint lakeside towns. Enjoy the traditional Fachwerk architecture of the guesthouses, restaurants, and stores – most of which are complete with colorful flowers under each window.
- Drink wine lakeside
If you go from town to town, you’ll notice rolling vineyards, in addition to orchards and hops fields. Most of the wine in this region is white. Be sure to sample a glass from an outdoor café so you can watch the sailboats, standup paddle boats, motor boats, ferries, cruise ships, Zeppelins, and hot air balloons. Try the local fish or seafood along with it. (Jump to restaurant recommendations here.)
- Visit a castle
Meersburg, for example, provides a good amount of information on its layout and history. It’s the oldest privately owned and still inhabited castle in Germany – built in the 7th century! Beautiful views of the lake and surrounding area can be seen from its once-freestanding tower, possible for a small added fee that includes a short guided tour.
- Keep an eye out for festivals
This actually goes for all of Germany year-round, but is a nice plus on a vacation. Last weekend was the Seenachtfest (Lake Night Festival) in the city of Konstanz with concerts and fireworks, among the standard fest fare.
Whether you’re trying to reach a festival or not, try taking a boat ride from one city on the lake to another to enjoy the scenery (including the majestic Alps) from different perspectives.
- Drive to Liechtenstein
From where we stayed in Kressbronn, the small principality of Liechtenstein was only about an hour south. Check your route in advance to see if it involves driving through Austria and/or Switzerland as it did for us. In that case, you’ll need to stop at a rest stop to buy a Vignette, a toll sticker that attaches to the windshield.
What is there to see in Liechtenstein? A steep winding road from the center of the capital city Vaduz leads to the Prince’s home, which can be viewed rather up close from the outside only. The wooded hiking trail that leads here has a series of signs with information about the castle, the royal family, and Liechtenstein’s history. The Prince’s wine cellars are also nearby and open for the public to patronize (unfortunately closed on Sundays).
Beyond that, Liechtenstein is known for producing stamps and Vaduz has a tiny but free Post Museum. Not far from the capital is Gutenberg Castle. Tours are by pre-appointment but the chapel and rose garden are open on Sundays. If you’re lucky like we were, maybe you’ll chance across a small wine walk while hiking through the vineyards of the hill. This is also a great place to see the Rhein River, relatively close to its source.
- Travel back in time and visit a prehistoric settlement
The Pfahlbau Museum in Unteruhldingen gives visitors the opportunity to interactively explore recreated homes on stilts built on the lake. The construction of the interconnected buildings is based on fossilized building and artifact remains dating back to the Stone and Bronze Ages. There are lots of hands-on activities here, currently a temporary exhibit of Stone Age “Olympics”.
- Feed popcorn to monkeys
Yes! At Affenberg (Monkey Montain) animal reserve in Salem, you can do exactly that. Note that there are more animals to see than just monkeys here. Particularly striking are the flocks of storks that make their bulky nests along the eaves of the bordering buildings. But the main attraction is definitely the opportunity to wander along through the Barbary macaque monkeys’ free range forest habitat. The monkeys will pick popcorn kernels right out of your hand, barely grazing your palm in the process. (Obviously many instructions to ensure people and animal safety accompany the free handful of popcorn before entering this area.)
*Bonus* Lake Constance restaurant recommendations:
- Kressbronn – Seegarten Kressbronn – Pricy but delicious seafood (among other options like schnitzel, wurst, and salads) by the lake with a gorgeous view.
- Meersburg – Hotel Wilder Mann – Outdoor terrace along the lake set under a shady awning of trees. Standard and creative menu choices, relaxing live music and a dance floor.
- Lindau – Garden terrace of the Stolze-Spaeth Hotels – Fancy menu and hotel atmosphere overlooking the lighthouse and lion statue in the lake.