Lake Constance is a vast lake shared by Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. It’s a popular vacation spot among both locals and tourists, thanks to a variety of fun and exciting things to do near the lake.
It’s popular for swimming, sightseeing, and nature trails, so you can spend your time at Lake Constance however your like. This detailed guide includes all the best things to do in the Lake Constance area, on both the Swiss and German sides of the beautiful lake!
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How to Get to Lake Constance
You can easily travel to the Lake Constance region by train. It’s only about an hour away from Zurich, and there are direct trains from the Swiss metropolis to smaller towns on the lake shore.
It is also possible to travel to Lake Constance from other parts of the country, but it will take a lot longer. Zurich is one of the closest transport hubs to the lake region, so it’s generally best to explore the lake in northern Switzerland while you’re still in the area.
If you’re traveling from western Switzerland, expect to spend 3-4 hours traveling to Lake Constanz. The journey will include several train changes, with the final one at either Zurich HB or Zurich Airport.
It’s a bit easier to reach Lake Constance from eastern Switzerland. You can usually take a train to Chur, where you can get on a direct train to Rorschach, a small town on the southern shore of the lake.
Things to Do Around Lake Constance
Mainau is a small island in the northern part of Lake Constance. It’s connected to the mainland with a bridge, so it’s easily accessible to all visitors. It’s the perfect place to visit if you want to spend a day in nature, exploring parks, and historical landmarks, and just enjoying the pretty views.
The tiny island is best known for its many botanical parks and pristine nature, but there’s definitely more to it than trees and flowers. It’s home to a very charming Baroque castle from the 18th century with a lovely chapel and sprawling gardens on the castle grounds.
Also, there are paths throughout the entire island that let you discover its mesmerizing nature. An important thing to note about Mainau is that there is an entrance fee for the island – it’s around 10 Euros for adults, while dogs and children under the age of twelve get to explore the island for free.
Reichenau is another island in Lake Constance but in a different part of the lake. It offers a different experience to visitors than Mainau – whereas the smaller island is known for its pristine nature and superb environmental practices, Reichenau is better known for its many vegetable farms. It’s a much bigger island so it will take longer to explore it, but at the same time, it has fewer tourist attractions worth visiting.
The bigger island also boasts a castle, but unfortunately, it’s not open for public visits because it is privately owned. There’s also the Church of Saint George, which is best known for its 10th-century frescoes. In addition to this Roman Catholic church, Reichenau island is home to four other churches you can visit.
But Reichenau’s most popular attraction isn’t even a situation on the island. It’s on the causeway that connects the island to mainland Germany. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Burg Schopflen is very popular with visitors thanks to its rich history and stunning scenic views.
Konstanz Münster is a historic cathedral in the town of Konstanz and one of the most popular attractions among tourists who visit Lake Constance. It’s situated in the old town of Konstanz near the lake shore and it’s open for public visits when there’s not a service in progress.
The church has an observation tower that’s open to visitors, and it’s easily the highlight of the visit. A stunning panoramic view of the lake stretches from the top of the tower, and it’s so wonderful that you could easily spend half an hour just staring out into the distance. It’s worth noting that there’s an entrance fee of 2 Euros for the observation tower, and it’s worth every cent.
While you’re in the area, don’t miss out on the opportunity to explore Konstanz’s old town. It’s a charming Altsdadt with lots of historic landmarks, including fountains, statues, towers, and city gates. There are also several interesting museums in the area, so you can easily spend an entire day exploring the beautiful city of Konstanz.
Rhine Falls is Europe’s most powerful waterfall, situated just a short train ride away from Lake Constance. If you’re staying near the lake, it’s definitely worth it to go on a day trip to this magnificent waterfall on the Rhine River and observe it in all its glory. The waterfall is in Switzerland, about an hour outside most towns on the lower lake shore.
This magnificent waterfall was formed during the last Ice Age, so more than 15,000 years ago. It is 23 meters tall and 150 meters wide, so it is truly an astonishing sight. The imposing presence of Rhine Falls has inspired many artists previously, most notable of which is Joseph Mallord William Turner, who immortalized it in his paintings.
The most popular ways of exploring the falls and their surroundings include boat trips, train rides, and hiking trails. There are plenty of observation decks in the area that offers magnificent views of this enchanting natural attraction, and they’re usually accessible by easy hiking trails anyone can do.
Pfahlbauten (Pile Dwelling Museum)
The Pile Dwelling Museum is one of the most interesting attractions on the northern shore of Lake Constance. It is a reconstruction of a village from the Stone Age, situated on an excavation site where the village actually existed once, many centuries ago.
There’s a wooden walkway between the dwellings, which makes it super easy to explore all the different attractions in the museum. More than 1,000 artifacts uncovered at various archaeological sites surrounding Lake Constance are exhibited at this museum, so visitors have a unique opportunity to gain insight into the ancient history of the region.
This open-air museum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so it’s definitely worth the hassle to reach the northern lake shore. The easiest way to get to Pfahlbauten is by ferry from Mainau to Unteruhldingen, which is just a five-minute walk away from the dwellings.
Salem Abbey is a palace complex around a 12th-century Cistercian monastery in the village of Salem, Germany. It’s some 10 kilometers away from the upper lake shore, in a surprisingly serene area surrounded by vast plains.
One thing to note is that you’ll most likely need a car to get to the Abbey, especially if you’re traveling there from the Swiss side of the lake. Public transport options in the area are not that great and a personal vehicle is definitely the fastest and most convenient way of reaching the former Cistercian monastery.
There are plenty of things to do and see at the palace complex, so plan to spend at least 3-4 hours exploring the area. Tour the abbey, walk around the vast palace gardens, try to make your way to the center of the labyrinth, and definitely visit the on-site museum to learn more about the history and importance of the monastery throughout the ages.
Lindau is a German town on the northeastern shore of Lake Constance, right next to the Austrian border. It’s known for a lovely old town that sits entirely on an island in the lake, and which is easily accessible by ferries from Meersburg (Germany), Rorschach (Switzerland), and Bregenz (Austria).
The island with Lindau old town might be small, but it has plenty of attractions to keep you occupied for hours. Visit the landmark Mangturm Tower, see the sculpture of the Bavarian Lion, tour Peterskirche, and check out the charming Diebsturm tower. Visit the City Museum of Lindau or the Kunstmuseum am Inselbahnhof to see some stunning artworks and learn a thing or two about the history of this charming town.
Gartendenkmal Lindenhof Park is the most popular attraction in mainland Lindau and it’s a 40-minute walk away from the heart of the old town. If you have enough time it’s definitely worth checking out, but otherwise, feel free to skip the tour of the mansion.
Lake Constance Trail
Lake Constance Trail, also known as the Lake Constance Cycle Path, is a popular long-distance circular trail that takes you on an adventure around the entire lake. The entire path is 270 kilometers long, and it’s popular for both hiking and mountain biking.
The trail passes through Switzerland, Germany, and Austria, so you get to visit all the countries that share this wonderful lake and discover countless natural and historical landmarks, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and mesmerizing viewpoints. It takes 5-6 days to complete this trail on a bike depending on how much ground you’re covering each day, and how distracted you get with the countless attractions.
Travelers who wish to explore this long-distance trail on foot should plan to spend at least 8-10 days hiking in the region. There are plenty of places where you can spend the night along the way, and this includes hostels, hotels, and various campgrounds.
I wouldn’t recommend attempting this trail in the winter – harsh weather conditions can make certain sections of the trails inaccessible in cold weather, and you might have to cut your adventure short. Plan to do this hike/cycle path in the spring or summer, for the most fulfilling experience.
Meersburg Castle is another excellent historical attraction you should check out if you’re traveling in the Lake Constance region. It’s situated in Meersburg town in Germany, which is easily accessible by a (car) ferry from Konstanz.
The castle dates back to the 12th century and it boasts 35 medieval rooms that are open to visitors. There’s also a cafe in the castle’s baroque hall, which stretches onto the outdoor terrace that offers a beautiful view of Lake Constance.
The castle is open from 10 AM to 6 PM in the winter and 6:30 PM in the summer. Ticket prices for adults are 12.8 Euros, and they can be purchased at the gift shop near the entrance.
This lovely medieval castle is situated in the heart of Meersburg’s old town, so don’t forget to explore other attractions in the area while you’re there. There are multiple observation decks in the area that offer gorgeous panoramic views, and you can even climb to the top of one of the towers that make up the city walls.
The Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen is an absolute must if you have a thing for technology museums. You can reach the town by ferry from Romanshorn on the Swiss side of the lake, and the museum is right there in the port so you can just walk to it as soon as you get off the ferry.
This museum is undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region, mostly because of its detailed exhibits on airships. Learn about airship history, see a reconstruction of the Hindenburg, and check out the museum’s impressive art collection.
The Zeppelin museum is huge and it takes at least a couple of hours to tour it properly and see all the different exhibits. There’s even an airship flight simulator that’s pretty popular with pilots, as well as a couple of interactive exhibits that the youngest visitors seem to enjoy the most.
The museum is open every day except Monday from 10 AM to 5 PM. Tickets are 11 Euros for adults and 6 Euros for children.
Basílica de Birnau
The Basílica de Birnau is a pilgrimage church from the Baroque period in Birnau-Maurach, Germany. It’s a pretty church on the outside, but you won’t be impressed until you’ve walked through the front gates and seen the impressive decorations inside. Don’t forget to look up while you’re inside the church – the painting on the ceiling is truly breathtaking.
Guided tours of the basilica are organized weekly, but visitors must reserve their spot on the tour at least several days in advance. Entry to the church is free and you can walk in whenever you want if there’s not a service, but you won’t get a guided tour. There’s also a gift shop on-site – buy something there if you want a souvenir from the Basilica, and you’ll help support the monastery.
The easiest way to reach the basilica is by driving. You can take the ferry from Minau to Unteruhldingen, and then you’re just 10 minutes away from the Basilica. It’s also possible to rely on public transport, but it will take longer and it includes walking from the port to the train station in Unteruhldingen.
Wildlife and Leisure Park Allensbach
If you decide at any point that it’s time to take a break from all the sightseeing, head to the Wildlife and Leisure Park Allensbach. The adventure park is situated in a forested area in the northern part of Lake Constance, and it boasts vast enclosures where wild boar, brown bears, and bison are allowed to roam freely.
The park is particularly popular with families, thanks to a variety of rides and playgrounds for children. They can have fun on the slides, ride in the small sightseeing trains, or just go nuts on the many playgrounds within the park. It’s a great place to visit if you’re looking for something fun to do, but at the same time, you want to spend the day outdoors soaking in the sun and enjoying the wonderful nature that surrounds Lake Constance.
Frequently Asked Questions About Lake Constance
Is Lake Constance worth visiting?
Of course, it is. It might not be as luxurious an experience as staying on Lake Geneva, or as fun as Lake Thun, but it holds a special charm that you won’t experience until you’re there. This is the third largest lake by surface area in all of western and central Europe, plus it is shared by three countries.
This means that you can discover multiple different cultures and historical attractions of different countries all within the span of a few days. Spend one day in Germany, then head to Austria, and end your vacation with a tour of the Swiss side of the lake shore. There are plenty of attractions to keep you occupied for days, as well as many hiking trails and beautiful landmarks.
The region around this lake has been inhabited for a very long time; some areas have been inhabited since the stone age, and there are museums and archaeological sites that will attest to that fact. There are also several UNESCO World Heritage Sites here, as well as an abundance of hiking and cycling trails worth exploring.
Can you swim in Lake Constance?
Yes, you can swim, sail, and even go windsurfing on Lake Constance even though it’s technically a glacial lake. The water quality of the lake is excellent, plus there are many lidos (beaches) with designated swimming areas and facilities for visitors.
It is possible to swim in the lake from June to September, but August is the optimal month for a relaxing lakeshore vacation if you don’t enjoy swimming in cold water. The average water temperature is around 25 degrees Celsius throughout August, which is more than high enough for an enjoyable swim session.