Konstanz is a city in southern Germany. It lies on the border with Switzerland and on Lake Constance (Bodensee) between Obersee and Untersee, exactly where the river Rhine exits the lake. The city is split in two by the Rhine. Although the Rhine is the usual border between Switzerland and Germany, the historic part of Konstanz lies on the south ("Swiss") side of the Rhine and is more or less an enclave.
Konstanz has traces of civilization dating from the stone age and was settled by the Romans in about 50 CE. Konstanz was an important trade centre and a spiritual centre. At the council of Konstanz in 1414-1418, a papal election was held, ending the papal schism. Konstanz attempted to join the Swiss Confederacy in about 1460, but was voted down. Due to its proximity to Switzerland, Konstanz was not bombed during world war II and its historic old town remains intact. It is a historic city with a charming old town, and could be called the jewel of the region.
The tourist information centre is located in the train station. Hours: Mon-Fri 09:00-18:30, Sat 09:00-16:00, Sun 10:00-13:00.
Konstanz has no commercial airport. The closest airports are:
- Zurich Airport (Switzerland). By car 1 hour to Konstanz. By train 1 to 1.5 hours to Konstanz. There is a direct train from Zurich airport to Konstanz once an hour, and another train with a connection in Weinfelden once an hour.
- Friedrichshafen Airport (Germany). By car 1 hour to Konstanz (take the car ferry between Meersburg and Konstanz). By train approx. 2 hours to Konstanz. By boat approx 1 hour to Konstanz (take the train from Friedrichshafen airport to Friedrichshafen Hafen and get the Katamaran to Konstanz).
- Stuttgart Airport (Germany). By car 2 hours to Konstanz. By train 2.5 to 3 hours to Konstanz.
- EuroAirport (Basel, Switzerland). About 2 hours by car. By train, 2 hours from Konstanz first to the Basel Bad Bahnhof (in Germany) then about 45 minutes by regular tram/bus to the airport via a transfer at the Basel SBB station on the Swiss side.
Konstanz has multiple train stations. The Konstanz Hauptbahnhof is the main station and is located in the old town. It's the last German stop before the Swiss border, and is therefore served by both German and Swiss trains. Hourly direct trains from Zurich Main Station (1hr 20min) go via Zurich Airport. Zurich Main Station has excellent connections to the rest of Switzerland as well as Italy, Austria and France.
The other Konstanz train stations are located in the city districts of Petershausen, Fürstenburg and Wollmatingen.
Most places around Lake Constance can be reached by train: Romanshorn, St. Gallen, Stein am Rhein and Schaffhausen can all be reached with a change in Kreuzlingen (which is the "Swiss suburb" of Konstanz, just across the border), whereas Friedrichshafen, Lindau and other German places around the lake require a change in Radolfzell and take a long time - the boat can often be quicker. Bregenz in Austria is best reached via Switzerland - change in Rorschach and St Margrethen.
To reach Konstanz from the rest of Germany is time-consuming. There are direct trains to Karlsruhe (3 hours on a scenic route through the Black Forest), but other connections require a change in Offenburg (for Frankfurt and cities further north), Radolfzell (Ulm, Augsburg, München and beyond) or Singen (Stuttgart).
From Germany: from the A81, take the B33 into Konstanz. From Switzerland: the A7 leads straight into Konstanz.
Possible from many cities on Lake Constance. The fastest connections are :
- Car ferry from Meersburg, runs several times an hour from 06:00 until 24:00, and once an hour from 00:00 until 06:00. The crossing takes a mere 15 mins.
- Katamaran from Friedrichshafen, runs once an hour from 06:00 until 19:00, taking around an hour.
Bodensee Schifffahrt runs several services across Lake Constance which may take longer, but include more cities. Apart from Meersburg and Friedrichshafen, the ferries to and from Konstanz call in. al. in Überlingen (1.5h), Lindau in Bavaria (2h) and Bregenz in Vorarlberg, Austria (4h). The timetable is quite intricate and not all departures include all stops.
On foot Konstanz's centre (old town) is largely pedestrian and very walkable.
By taxi Taxis are nearly always available in front of the main train station.
- The Münster (Cathedral) (In the old town, at Münsterplatz). Construction completed on the North Tower in about 1100 AD. Built between 1100 and 1854, the church is a magnificent example of architectural styles of the centuries. Climb up the tower for a fantastic view of Konstanz and the Bodensee.
- The harbour. From the harbour on a clear day, you can see the Swiss and Austrian alps across the lake. The harbour is a great place to see sailboats, catch a boat across the lake, sit in a beer garden, rent a paddle boat or mini motor boat, or relax in the park.
- Niederburg district (north-west corner of old town). This charming district is the oldest part of Konstanz. It is made up of narrow streets and old buidings, sometimes more than 700 years old. On the first Friday of each month from May to October, the shops of Niederburg stay open late and there is music, flea market tables, and art in the streets. It's a very cozy atmosphere and worth a walk through.
Museums and Galleries
- Archaeology Museum of Baden-Württemberg, Benediktinerplatz 5 (City district Petershausen, near bus stop Sternenplatz on most bus lines). Tue-Sun: 10 - 18.00; Mondays and holidays closed. Particular emphasis on the Bodensee (Lake Constance) region and the middle ages. Adults (14+ years): €4; kids (6-13 years) € 0.50, first Saturday of the month free.
- Hus Haus, Hussenstraße 64 (In the old town). Apr 1 - Sep 30: Tue-Sun: 11:00-17:00; Oct 1 - Mar 31: Tue-Sun: 11:00-16:00. Closed Mondays and holidays. Museum dedicated to Czech religious reformer Jan Hus. The museum is all in German and Czech. Free.
- Rosegarten Museum, Rosgartenstraße 3-5 (In the old town). Tue-Fri: 10.00-18.00; Sat-Sun: 10.00-17.00; Mondays closed. History and culture of Konstanz and the surrounding area. The museum is all in German. 3€; free first Sunday of the month.
- Sea Life Centre, Hafenstr. 9 (On the lake side of the Lago Centre (mall)). Adults (15 years+) €16,50; Children (3-14 years) €10,95.
- Wessenburg Gallery, Wessenbergstraße 43 (In the old town, across from the Munster cathedral). Tue-Fri: 10.00-18.00; Sat-Sun: 10.00-17.00; Mondays closed. Art gallery with rotating exhibitions €3.
- Art nouveau houses beside the lake, Seestrasse (on the north shore where the lake meets the Rhine, just east of the train bridge).
- Bismarck Tower, on 'Bismarksteig' street in the Petershausen district. There are towers commemorating the first German chancellor Otto von Bismarck all over Germany. Konstanz's Bismarck tower is located at the top of a grapevine-covered hill. There are benches and firepits at the base of the tower. It's a nice place to watch the sunset. There's a good view from the base of the tower and an even better one from the top. Adults €1 (.
- Konzil (Council building) (at the harbour). This building was built in 1388 and originally used as a warehouse. From 1414-1417 the council of Konstanz was held here to elect a new pope. It currently contains a restaurant and concert hall, and is undergoing restoration work.
- Rheintorturm and Pulverturm (Rhine entrance tower and Powder tower) (On the south shore of the Rhine, just downstream from where the lake meets the Rhine.). Remnants of the old city defenses.
- Schnetztor (Located at the south end of Hussenstrasse in the old town.). 14th century city gate and tower, next to a bit of the old city wall.
Statues and Sculptures
- Imperia statue (at the harbour entrance). By artist Peter Lenk. The statue is of a woman holding two naked men--Pope Martin V and Emperor Sigismund--in her hands. The men wear only the papal tiara and the crown, respectively. The statue refers to a short story by Balzac, "La belle Impéria".
- Sculptures along the German-Swiss border (Along the border, next to the lake). Where there used to be a border fence, there is now a series of 22 sculptures representing the trumps of the tarot, the "Great Arkana".
- Take a boat trip on the lake. The ticket office is located at the harbour, just past the pedestrian underpass. You can take trips to e.g. Meersburg, flower island Mainau, Ueberlingen, Friedrichshafen, Lindau, Bregenz, or down the Rhine to Stein am Rhein and Schaffhausen.
- Swim. Either in the Rhine near the pedestrian bridge, or at the beach "Hörnle" at the east-most point of Konstanz. (Bus 5 goes to the Hörnle.) The Hörnle has a nudist area (in German: "FKK") at its north end.
- Go to the spa (Bodensee Therme), Zur Therme 2 (Bus: take bus 5 to the stop 'Therme'. Car: follow the signs to 'Therme'). 09:00-22:00. Tuesdays (except for holidays and school holidays) are ladies' only in the saunas. The facility includes multiple saunas, multiple pools including an outdoor heated pool and an outdoor 50-m swimming pool, and a restaurant. The saunas are no-clothing areas and the pools are mostly bathing suit areas. Price ranges from €7 for 1.5 hours in the pools only, to €20 for a day pass for all pools and saunas..
- Konstanz Theatre (in the old town). Konstanz has 3 theatres: "Stadttheater" for classic pieces, "Spiegelhalle" for youth theatre and experimental theatre, and "Werkstatt" for puppet theatre. You can buy tickets in advance at the Stadttheater (Konzilstrasse 11) or at the tourist information centre (inside the train station)
- Konstanz Philharmonic. You can buy tickets in advance at the Stadttheater (Konzilstrasse 11) or at the tourist information centre (inside the train station)
- Organ concerts at the Münster (Cathedral). For schedules and pricing, see the website or contact the Münster music office at Pfalzgarten 4, or +49 7531 9062 52.
- Carnival (Fastnacht) (all over Konstanz, but primarily in the old town). This week-long event involves parades, costumes and parties. It takes place in the week preceding Ash Wednesday. Carnival is an old tradition in southern Germany, made up a mix of pagan and Christian beliefs, whose main purpose is to chase out winter. The secondary purpose is, of course, to dress up in a costume and party.
- International Bodensee Week (at/near the harbour). This festival is all about boats. It takes place in the spring (26-29 May 2011) and features boat exhibitions, regattas, and water skiing shows & competitions. free.
- Christopher Street Day (LGBT pride parade). A cross-border LGBT pride parade/demonstration in Konstanz and neighbouring Swiss city Kreuzlingen. It takes place in the summer (16 July 2011). There are several cultural activities in the week leading up to the parade. The parade starts around 11 am and is followed by some bands playing in the Stadtpark (near the harbour). In the evening there's a party in the Konzil building (€14 entry).
- Konstanz Wine Festival (St. Stephan's Platz, in the old town). End of July (27-30 July 2011): An outdoor festival featuring local wines and live music.
- Seenachtfest, all along the lakeshore in Konstanz. 1-day festival in mid-August (11 Aug 2011) with live music and other performances on a few different stages, water shows (e.g. waterskiing), a market. The final event is a big fireworks competition between Konstanz, and neighbouring Swiss city Kreuzlingen. You can see the fireworks for free by watching in Kreuzlingen instead. Kreutzlingen also has a small midway and market during this event (free entry). Adults €12 in advance or €16 on the day, kids under 12 free.
- Rock am See, Bodensee Stadion (stadium) (the east-most point of Konstanz (on bus route 5)). 1-day music festival at the end of August (28 Aug 2011). approx. €60.
- Oktoberfest (klein venedig festival grounds, on the waterfront between the Sea Life Centre and the Swiss border). 11:00 until 24:00 or 01:00. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. The Konstanz Oktoberfest is rather smaller than the one in Munich but is worth attending if you're in town. It features the usual Oktoberfest-style beer, food, and live bands, and has a small midway. It takes place over 3 weekends: the last 2 weekends in September and the first weekend in October. You have to pay a few euros for an.
- Christmas Market (harbour and old town main market (Marktstätte)). An outdoor festival where the main marketplace and harbour are lined with stalls selling mulled wine, food, art and kitchy stuff. It goes for the 4 weekends before Christmas.
- Market (farmer's market). Tuesday and Friday mornings in St. Stephans Platz (downtown); Wednesday and Saturday mornings in St. Gebhard-Platz (Petershausen district)
- Old town shops. Mon-Sat 9:00 to 19:00, closed Sundays. Most of the pedestrian zone in the Konstanz old town is full of shops. In particular, there are a lot of shoe and clothing stores.
- Lago Center shopping mall (located in the south-west corner of Konstanz near the train station). Mon-Sat 9:30 to 20:00. Thursdays open late until 22:00.
- Gigantic cross-border flea market. This flea market is several kilometres long and crosses the border to Kreuzlingen, Switzerland. The bulk of the market is in Konstanz though. It sells the usual flea market stuff, but is impressive due to its sheer size. It takes place in June or July (2-3 July 2011).
Konstanz has a rich variety of all kinds of restaurants, cafes, bistros and bars. Due to the proximity of the Swiss border, prices are higher than in other cities (mentally add 2 Euros to every main dish you are eating in other German cities). In summertime most restaurants offer outside sitting and eating, in the evening hours it is hard to find a place, occasionally.
A yearly published magazine "Die Seezunge" covers many of the Konstanz eateries and is available in tabac shops and kiosks.
A good start to discover the Konstanz restaurant scene is to start at the central marketplace Marktstätte:
- Casablanca, Marktstätte 15 (west end of the Marktstätte, near the fountain). Offers Italian food, a great place to sit outside and watch the tourist masses walk by or catch the performances of the street artists.
- Aran, Marktstätte 6 (east end of the Marktstätte, at the top of the stairs next to the railway underpass). An upscale cafe with great snacks (wood oven bread slices with various toppings, hot wraps, custom made icecream)
- La Piazza, Marktstätte 2 (east end of the Marktstätte, next to the post office). Offers Italian food of all different varieties as well as Italian-style coffee.
Just north of the "Marktstätte" is the old fish market site Fischmarkt:
- Latinos, Am Fishmarkt. 0:00-01:00 (Saturdays open until 02:00). If you like the idea of Tex-Mex food but hate eating spicy stuff, this is the place for you.
- Rossini, Fischmarkt 1. An Italian restaurant with a great bistro atmosphere.
Other recommended restaurants around the old town:
- Döner Kebap. There are lots of very good "Dönerbuden" (kebap houses) in the city center selling this Turkish dish. Ali Baba near the Cinestar movie theater is a special recommendation.
- Suppengrün, Sigismundstraße 19 (in the Altstadt (old town)), ☎ +49 7531 917100. 11:00 to 21:00, closed Sundays. Fresh and delicious soup and salad. The salad bar is full of fresh selections including many vegetarian and a few vegan options. (Pay according to the weight of your salad.) There are several soup options; some change daily. Soup: €3.40 to €4.20, salad: pay by weight.
- Elefanten, Salmannsweilergasse 32 (in the altstadt (old town)). 11:30-14:30, 17:30-24:00, Sundays closed. A restaurant with typical southern-Germany atmosphere, serving typical southern-Germany specialties.
- Karma: Touch of Singapore, Sigismundstraße 14 (in the altstadt (old town)). Mon-Fri 11:30-15:00, 17:30-23:00; Sat 11:30-23:30, Sun 17:30-23:30. Food inspired by Indian, Chinese, Indonesian und Thai cuisine.
- Taverne Pan, Sallmannsweilergasse 13, 78462 Konstanz (in the Altstadt (old town)), ☎ +49 7531 25478. Mon-Sun 12:00-14:30 & 18:00-01:00. Greek taverne with great and most important cheap food. A place with nice music and good service. You should definitely try Gyro and Galactoboureko.
- Beach Bar (Strandbar), Webersteig 12 (On the south shore of the Rhine, in front of the college), ☎ +49 7531 - 3804158. May to Sep, 12:00 to 24:00, opens at 11:00 on Sundays, closed in bad weather. A bar with a nice patch of sand about the size of a beach volleyball court. Lots of seating on beach chairs on the sand, and patio. They often have live music on Wednesdays. free.
- Beer garden (Hafen Halle), Hafenstraße 10 (At the harbour behind the train station, right beside the sailboats), ☎ +49 7531-21126. every day 10:00 to 01:00. A bavarian-style beer garden. Live music on Sunday mornings starting at 10:30, and they often show "big" sports events (football championships, formula 1) on a big screen.
- Shamrock Irish pub, Bahnhofstrasse 4. Mon-Thu 17:00-01:00, Fri 16:00-02:00, Sat 14:00-03:00, Sun 15:00-01:00. They have a pretty full events calendar including bingo, karaoke, quiz nights, live music, and sports on TV. Often good place to go if you want to hear other people speaking English.
- Blechnerei, Macairestraße 4 (Industrial area of town; by train station Konstanz-Wollmatingen or by bus 6, 11, 13, 15). Variety of music genres. Check the events page of their website or simply look for the posters plastered all around town for the next event.
- Casba, Obere Laube 55 (Just on the edge of the old town). Cheapest place in town; loud, smokey and sticky, somewhat legendary.
- Corso Bar, Emmishofer Straße 2 (Just south of the old town). Former strip club; still has the stage and pole. Usually has bands playing on weekends.
- Dance Palace, Max-Stromeyer-Str. 33 (Industrial area of town).
- Hotel Hirschen, Bodanplatz 9 (Just south of the old city centre), ☎ +49 7531-12826-0. The proprietors speak English and can arrange for nearby parking for a modest fee. Single room € 75 to 85, double room € 102 to 122, triple room € 135 to 160.
- Hotel Graf Zeppelin, St. Stephansplatz 15 (in the old town), ☎ +49 7531 691369-0. Single: starting at €70. Rooms for 2, 3 or 4 people starting at €45, €38 and €35 per person, respectively.
- Bayrischer Hof, Rosgartenstraße 30 (right in the centre of the old town), ☎ +49 7531 1304-0. Single: €68-€85, double: €100-€137, parking €8 extra.
- Steinburger Island Hotel, at the end of 'Auf der Insel' street. This hotel is located on a small island in a former Dominican Cloister. Accessible by bridge from the old town.
- Otto-Moericke-Turm youth hostel, Zur Allmannshöhe 16 (north end), ☎ +49 7531 32260. Check-in: From 15:00, check-out: 08:00 to 10:00. Approx. €22 to €35 per night.
If you're looking for a hostel, there are also a couple in the Swiss town of Kreuzlingen, which is practically a suburb of Konstanz.
- Mainau Island — "The Flower Island" is known for its warm climate and beautiful botanical gardens, parks, butterfly house and greenhouse.
- The Black Forest (Schwarzwald) in Germany is about 2 hours away by train or 1.5 hours by car.
- Other cities and towns on Lake Constance. Especially recommended are Meersburg, Lindau and Bregenz.
- Stein am Rhein
- See the Rhine Falls in Schaffhausen
- Reichenau Island
- Neighbouring Swiss city Kreuzlingen has a really nice waterfront with large parks and playgrounds and a small zoo. Simply walk south along the waterfront from Konstanz to get there.
- Swiss Alps. In the winter, sign up at one of the local sports stores (e.g. Intersport Gruner across from the Lago Center, or Karstadt Sport in the basement of the Lago Center) to join a bus day-trip to a ski resort.