- Not to be confused with Lake Constance Region (Bodensee Region).
Lake Constance (German: Bodensee) is the third biggest lake in Central Europe and it is on the path of the Rhine River. The lake shore is shared between the German federal-states Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, the Austrian federal-state Vorarlberg and the Swiss cantons of Thurgau and St. Gallen.
All three nations have developed a specific culture around their part of the shore. There are eleven islands of which Reichenau is the biggest.
- Radolfzell (on Zellersee)
- Uberlingen (on Überlinger See)
- Meersburg — good wine area, historic town and castle
- Friedrichshafen — Zeppelin museum
- Lindau — the old city and the most interesting part of the city is on a small walkable island
- Bregenz — world-famous floating stage on the lake; known for many cultural events; local mountain with great views
- Stein am Rhein (on Untersee)
German is spoken all the way around the lake. In the Swiss towns, people normally speak the Swiss German dialect but will be able to understand and speak high German. Most people in this area speak some English, especially young people and people working in the tourist industry.
There are trains going around the lake and stopping in most cities of interest. The most important junctions are at Radolfzell, Konstanz, Friedrichshafen, Lindau, Rorschach, Romanshorn and Kreuzlingen. (None of these stations are big; they are simply where various train lines meet.)
Consider the Euregio Bodensee day ticket which offers you unlimited rides on trains/buses around Lake Constance and discounts on specific ferries.
A joint webpage offers an overview of the boat and ferry routes.
Crossing the Bodensee - Driving your car onto a big boat to cross a wide body of water is very civilized excitement. It's a delightful quarter-hour ride with cars, trucks, motorcycles, motorbikes, bicycles, and pedestrians. The upper-deck lounge sells coffee, sandwiches, snacks, and cold drinks. What more could you want? The fare depends on the size of your vehicle. A compact car like a Ford Focus or an Opel Astra costs €9. Crossings are frequent and you shouldn't have to wait long as there is often a ferry loading when you drive onto the slip. Even at night times, ferries cross the lake hourly. If you travel by foot, be aware that buses might not be available all night, while ferries still are. There are usually taxi cabs waiting around the ferry docks though.
The fastest boat crossings are:
- The ferry between Meersburg and Konstanz (for cars, bikes, pedestrians). Runs several times an hour from 06:00 until 24:00, and once an hour from 00:00 until 06:00.
- The ferry between Friedrichshafen and Romanshorn (for cars, bikes, pedestrians). Runs hourly from approx. 05:30 until 22:30 (slightly reduced hours on weekends/holidays/winter season)
- The katamaran between Friedrichshafen and Konstanz (for bikes, pedestrians). Runs once an hour from 06:00 until 19:00.
There are also more relaxed crossings between many cities and towns on the lake, giving you more time for a beer, meal, or even a nap out on the sunny top deck. . These boats normally only run from April until October and don't run at night.
Check the ship schedule (valid in 2013) for details on pricing, available connections, different timetables according to the season and more.
A particularly nice time to be out on the lake is on a sunny day when there is a good view of the alps.
All cities and many towns on the Bodensee are serviced by the three national railroads of Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The best service (amount of time spent between stops) is by far better in Germany and Austria than on the Swiss side. Lindau, Friedrichshafen, Konstanz and Bregenz all offer major connections further on into Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
The Bodensee and its shores are very beautiful in a quiet, cultivated way. The views are serene, not spectacular. If you want dramatic scenery, drive a couple of kilometers south into Switzerland or south-west to Upper Bavaria (Allgaeu) and Austria, (Vorarlberg) and visit the Alps. The area sits in a kind of bowl and tends to be very foggy in the winter months. Konstanz, the city on the German side of the German-Swiss border, is a beautiful city, noteworthy for its cathedral and ancient houses and shops. Its vibrant centre (in which live music almost always plays during the day) and harbour, dominated by the statue of Imperia (who holds the Kaiser in one hand and the Pope in the other) make Konstanz a fantastic city to visit. Konstanz has a palpable Mediterranean feel to it.
If you want to spend a pleasant afternoon swimming and sunbathing, however, go to a beach. Buy an ice-cream cone. Watch people change into their bathing suits right out in the open (this is Europe). Doze on the grass. See how many sailboats you can count in one minute.
- Lake Constance cycle route. Opens up this entire region to the cyclist mainly along its own routes along the lakeshore.
- Hiking - Pfänder accessible from Bregenz
- Wine - Explore the vineyards along the lake especially around Meersburg and Hagnau