• Danik Bates

Lake of Constance, outside playground across three countries

Updated: May 7

The Lake of Constance otherwise known as the Bodensee is a huge lake located inside three countries and is one of the biggest freshwater lakes in Central Europe. With a shoreline of 270km long, most of the lake lies in Germany, the southern shoreline in Switzerland and a tiny piece in the east is in Austria. I will always have fond memories of my visits here as this was the place where I visited Austria and Germany for the first time back in 2006 and since then, have come back here often. The reason being I love to get away from it all, in times of troubles, or just to take in the perfect scenery from the top of the nearby mountains. In this post I would love to share with our readers what I did and show a little part of the lake through my eyes. A lot of the times I was torn from doing a quick trip around the lake and trying to shove everything into a day or a long weekend, or doing a lot of healthier and slower activities to which I opted for the second.


How to get to the Lake of Constance


By Air: The nearest airport is Friedrichshafen in Southern Germany with quick train access to the lake and other towns around the lake. Airports which are further away with great train connections are Zurich and Stuttgart.


By train: there are various train lines which run alongside or go to the lake. In Germany the main gateway is via Friedrichshafen and runs through Lindau to Bregenz in Austria. In Bregenz there are train connections for Innsbruck, Salzburg and Vienna as well as for St Margrethen in Switzerland which takes passengers towards Liechtenstein and Zurich.


By Car: There are various Autobahns which bring visitors by car from all parts of Europe from all directions. There are Autobahns to Munich, Stuttgart in Germany, Feldkirch and Innsbruck in Austria and Zurich in Switzerland. I have also done the drive to this area and there are so many routes to bring visitors to the lake.


Arrival


Most of the time I would fly into Friedrichshafen from the United Kingdom with a no-frills airline (however at the time of writing this in December 2021, there are no flights, so the nearest airports in this case would have to be Zurich, Stuttgart or Munich). The airport is located a few kilometers north of the lake-shore town of Friedrichshafen and there is a train station right outside the airport terminal. Once I made the journey into town which lasted a few minutes, I caught a connecting train to Bregenz via Lindau which runs alongside the North-Eastern shoreline of the lake (I will come back to this part of the lake shortly). Over an hour later I arrived in the town of Bregenz on the easternmost shoreline.


Bregenz


Known for its floating stage on the lake where many operas are performed, this small peaceful town is squashed between the lake and the mountain of Pfänder. The town is a typical one for this part of Europe, cobbled streets, bakeries, public houses, shops and a few hotels. For hikers and cyclists, this is a good base for those who want to stay in the town or buy supplies before heading along the lake shoreline or up into the mountains. The architecture of the buildings in the Old Town is worth walking around and checking up and as it lies on the side of a mountain, the further I walked up, turned around and I saw the beautiful rooftops of the town and the lake behind it (just!).


Exploring Mt. Pfänder - number one viewpoint over the Bodensee.


A top place to get away from it all at any time of the year has to be Mt. Pfänder which overlooks the Lake of Constance and Bregenz. When I first started traveling over Europe over a decade ago, one of the first hiking places I came across was this beautiful mountain which lies on the Austrian-Germany border. Since my first visit, I have come here on numerous occasions at various points of the year to check out the amazing views and of course, to go for a hike.

To get to Mt. Pfänder, head to Bregenz. The nearest train station is Bregenz Hafen (the stop before the main station in Bregenz) and is a few minutes walk or just go to Bregenz main station which is also within walking distance. There are signs everywhere, just follow the ones with a cable car stating Pfänderbahn.


There are two ways of getting up the mountain. First off is the hike and this can take up to a couple of hours as the mountain is 1,022 meters above sea level. To save time however, there is a cable car known as the ‘Pfänderbahn’ which takes visitors up the mountain in a matter of minutes.

Once at the upper station it is time to hike and there are various hiking trails for all abilities. My favourite hike was during the middle of winter one year with my best buddy Ollie. It had it all, a good workout, fantastic photography was to be had, some drama when Ollie nearly slipped down the cliff edge and took in all the amazing views. This one I will never forget and I still have people who know me asking why the heck we did a hike in the winter with a lot of snow on the ground. When we were young I used to respond, still learning and finding my way. Looking back at it now, one thing for sure is that I would never go for mountain winter walks in jeans and trainers again. I was soaked afterwards and the hand dryer inside the toilet on the top of the mountain, well, I am sure that never worked again as I spent ages drying my clothes out.

The best place for views from the summit is from the upper station of Pfänderbahn. On the western side of Mt. Pfänder, this is the best place to check out the views of Lake of Constance. Looking out to the lake, right down below is Bregenz. To the left is beautiful Switzerland and on the right hand side, the towns of Friedrichshafen and Lindau in Germany can be seen. In the summer months I would sit here for hours checking out the beautiful views.

Near the upper station there is a restaurant (which isn’t cheap though) where good meals are served (mostly meat). The number one thing for children to do is to visit the Alpenwildpark (which is free) and to see lots of ibexes (mountain goats), wild boar and red deer.


This trip can be done in a day, a short hike, a visit to the wildlife park and to grab a meal whilst taking a ride up and down on the cable car. For the experienced hikers, just keep heading eastwards right into the heart of the Austrian Alps where many more beautiful trails and views are to be had. When I need peace and quiet, to get away from the craziness of London urban life, I always come here to relax.


Take a walk or cycle along the lakeshore


One thing I did often was walk from Bregenz to Lindau along a walking path (which is also a huge cycle track) along the lake shore. The journey is just under six miles (around 9.5km) and if walking non-stop, would be around two hours to do. However with the amount of stops I was taking just to capture the lake scenes and talk to people, this took me a lot longer. Also this was the first time I walked across from one country to another, however there was no signpost on the path to state this. With the map in hand I had on me, I knew where the border was and it was this….


Lindau


Located on a small island (with the same name as the town) on the northern shores of the lake, this is probably one of the smallest towns I have come across in Germany, however is also one of the cutest with its timber buildings and its historical sites. What I love about the town is there are some fine restaurants and bars here, especially those with lakeside views. I spent a couple of hours once just drinking in a bar and relaxing in the sunshine before boarding a train to go elsewhere. In front of me whilst doing this would be the famous landmark of the town which is the entrance of the harbour (when coming from the lake) where there is a lighthouse and a Bavarian Lion sculpture. I would say to anyone coming here to have a walk around (Lindau is not that big) and a building to check out is the Old Town Hall which was built in 1436. There is the Mangturm Tower located by the harbour where for a small fee and a walk to the top, visitors can have a 360 degree view of Lindau and the lake. I also loved looking at the many fountains dotted around the place in the summertime.



Friedrichshafen


Heading back to Fridrichshafen, I took the train. Cycling and walking can still be done from Lindau but it would have been another 22km (14 miles) by foot. This part of the journey is not as scenic as the rest of the lake as the railway line bends away from the lake and goes through some pretty villages instead. Not to be nosey but I did enjoy looking into people’s back gardens and seeing the pretty flower arrangements they had made.

The town itself (known for its Zeppelin Airship museum nearby), is again, another small town with 58,000 folk living here but for me, isn’t as cute as the other towns I have come across on the Lake of Constance. Away from the centre there was more of an industrial feel to the place and can look a bit gloomy in the winter months. However, by the lake shores and looking across to Switzerland, I had one of the best sunsets here to see and another time, the sky was pink and milky at sunset, giving a truly amazing magical feel to the air.


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