Our travel specialist, Kevin Johnson, visited many of the towns and cities surrounding Lake Constance on a culinary tour that offered so much more. Here’s a look at his trip in his own words.
A short flight took me to Stuttgart for my trip to Lake Constance. The Lake, or Bodensee as it is called in German, is around two and a half hours from Stuttgart by road, but there are also options to fly into Munich or Zurich. Plus, if you don’t mind an indirect option, you can fly into Friedrichshafen, which is around a 10-minute drive from the lake.
Lake Constance is bordered by Germany, Switzerland and Austria. The Bodensee region also incorporates Liechtenstein, a short distance to the south-east.
Our first night was spent at the lakeside family run Bad Schachen Hotel in Lindau which dates back to 1752. With a panoramic backdrop of the Austrian and Swiss Alps, vast park-like grounds, spacious lakeside lido and private boat jetty, this hotel ensures most rooms have south-facing windows or balconies – so you can enjoy the lake and mountain views.
Lindau is in Bavaria, but most of our trip would be in Baden-Wurtemberg. After a guided tour of the hotel, we transferred to Lindau Island, where we attended a cheese and wine tasting session with Michael Bode. Michael is an authority on local cheese and wine and hosts group sessions educating visitors on the best products from the area, including those from neighbouring Austria.
We meandered through some of the town’s narrow streets towards the Eil Gut Halle restaurant in Lindau harbour. As well as delicious menu options, the restaurant boasts a display of international classic cars (and a tractor). Like many Lake Constance eateries, it serves local produce, much of which comes ‘from the Lake’, referring to its local sourcing. We were given a taster menu that showcased beef, fish and vegetable dishes along with local wine and beer.
The next morning, we went on a walking tour of the town with a local guide. There are many old, original buildings, narrow alleyways and places that would be missed without the help of a guide. It is worth noting that the main Lindau railway station is adjacent to the harbour and could not be more convenient for arriving visitors. Hotels, including the Bayerischerhof, Seegarten and Reutemann, line one side of the harbour along the main promenade. However, many other hotels are to be found elsewhere in the town.
We eventually made our way to the harbour for a short boat trip to Bregenz in Austria. This excursion showed us just how easy it is to navigate the lake using the regular boat and ferry services. Our boat, the Austrian ‘Vorarlberg’, is one of several that traverse the lake from Bregenz to Konstanz, taking around three hours with regularly scheduled stops. Car ferries also run between Romanshorn and Friedrichshafen and between Meersburg and Konstanz.
Our brief visit to Bregenz allowed us to see the floating stage of the Bregenz Festival. This is the setting for the annual opera or musical productions and seats 7000 people in an open-air amphitheatre.
Our next stop was back in Germany, in Friedrichshafen. It is a modern city and we were given a short city tour with the opportunity to check out the Hotel City Krone. This is a four-star property in the centre of Friedrichshafen and features several room types from singles to ones that sleep four people. There is a breakfast room and snacks are served in the bar. An indoor pool, sauna and a small roof-top terrace overlooking the city towards the lake offer plenty of places to relax.
After a traditional lunch on the outside terrace of the first floor Zeppelin museum restaurant, we were given a guided tour around the museum itself. Located on the harbourside with easy access from local ferry and rail services, the museum is housed in the old railway station with the new one just next door. In addition to many Zeppelin themed artefacts, it features scale replicas of the passenger quarters, including sleeping compartments, dining area and lounge. The passenger area on board a Zeppelin airship was a very small part of the total size of the craft. Our visit to the museum put into perspective the sheer size of these airships, the number that were travelling the globe, and the sombre end to the whole Zeppelin program. Today, there are a few smaller ships flying the Lake Constance area for leisure trips costing from around €200 per person.
The next day, we visited Hopfengut No.20, a working farm that grows hops for the local and international brewing industry. We saw hops being processed by machinery that separates the heads from the stems. The heads are then dried and assessed for moisture content before being packaged for distribution. Hopfengut No.20 is also a museum. The owner explained and demonstrated how hops were harvested and processed before modern technology made the process easier and more economical.
The museum tour ends in a shop where you can buy beer, hop products, local crafts, food and drinks. Hopfengut No.20 produces small batches of beer for the local restaurant and bar trade and for selling in the shop. We were given a beer tasting session, during which two own label beers were tasted as part of a question and answer session with the owner.
For our evening meal, we sampled local cuisine and beer at the Brauerei Gasthof Krone in Tettnang, before walking back to the Hotel Rad for the night. This restaurant and brewery are popular with the locals, so is a good indicator of the quality and value of their food and beer.
In the morning, our trip took us from Tettnang to Salem Palace. Salem is a municipality in Bodensee, located 9 km north of Lake Constance. The Palace complex is a former Cistercian abbey established in 1134. The site has expanded considerably over the years to combine a mix of buildings in Gothic, Baroque, Rococo and noble Classicism styles. It also houses the boarding school, Schule Schloss Salem.
Our guided tour took in several of the palace buildings, where we experienced various decorative styles from each period. It culminated with a brief history of winemaking at the palace followed by a tasting session. The winery forms part of the estate of the Margrave of Baden and our tasting included estate produced sparkling ‘secco’, white, rose and red wines. An adjoining shop sells estate wines to visitors.
An alfresco lunch was enjoyed at the Gasthof Schwanen, before we left Salem and made the short journey to Meersburg and then on to Konstanz by car ferry. The entire journey only takes 20 minutes and would involve a 70 km diversion around the lake if you were to travel by road.
The hotel for our last night was the four-star Hotel 47° Konstanz. The city is split by the Rhine River and the recently opened 47° is located on the opposite bank to the Old Town. Our journey into the Old Town the next morning took place on three wheels, however, to reach the town on foot would only require an amble of around 20 minutes. Our guided tour of the hotel allowed us to see the roof terrace and enjoy its 360° panoramic views. It is a hotel with generously-sized contemporary rooms, spa and sauna facilities, a restaurant and a bar.
Late afternoon saw us dropped off on a footpath, part of the Bodensee cycle route, in the residential area of Egg. From here, we walked to Mainau Island. Situated in the middle of Lake Constance, the island has been in Bernadotte family for five generations. It boasts a Teutonic castle and church from the 18th century and has since become renowned for its tropical gardens and environmental practices.
Accessed via a bridge for pedestrians and vehicles, the first display encountered is the Mainau trademark sunflower, standing around 5m high. Other displays include a giant peacock and a collection of ducks. Our tour guide gave us a potted history of the island and the more recent history as an ‘island garden’. We walked through the avenue of 150-year-old giant sequoia trees, admiring the different water features, floral creations and sculptures around every corner. Mainau also produces much of the produce it needs for its own needs and involves local schools in the production.
We visited the butterfly house - one of the best I have seen – home to butterflies of many different sizes and colours. There are a few viewing points where plates of fruit are placed to attract them for closer inspection. Our late September visit to Mainau meant that many of the flowering displays were not at their best. However, the dahlia gardens were in their element. There were hundreds of varieties, each labelled with name and number. One impressive feature not to be missed is the Italian floral water staircase, inspired by Italian Renaissance gardens and accompanied by columns of cypresses.
Leading from the Italian staircase, we came to the Italian rose garden and the impressive Palm House. For us, time was short, so it is worth noting it could take more than a day to view the entire island and its gardens. Continuing our whistle-stop tour, we visited the Castle Church of St. Mary, which is not large (by Salem Palace standards) but very ornately decorated. Our evening was spent in the Schwedenschenke, a restaurant within a stone’s throw of the church and main house and which offered a diverse German menu that included pork, steak and pasta dishes. I opted for venison stew from the ‘wild’ menu.
Next morning, after checking out of the Hotel 47°, we were greeted by our transport for the journey into Konstanz. A fleet of pedal trishaws had been arranged, each with a driver (or pedaller?). The route took us along the Rhine towards a nearby bridge where we crossed over to the Old Town. After winding through the narrow streets, some of which were barely wide enough for a car, we arrived at the harbour.
We were taken on a walking tour of the town, past important historical buildings and part of the old town wall. As always with these trips, time is tight, and we could easily have spent longer in Konstanz. We didn’t even get the chance to see the border with Switzerland – maybe another time.
Our final visit was to the Steigenberger Insel Hotel. This popular five-star property is built on a small private island, close to the point where the Rhine officially starts – its ‘zero’ point. This was of particular interest to me as the Rhine features in many of the destinations we offer and which I have visited.
The Steigenberger Insel Hotel is a former Dominican monastery and boasts 100 rooms and two suites with the big draw for guests being the lake views from many of the rooms. Our guided tour from the manager gave an insight into the history of the small island and the monastery. Through paintings on the four walls of the cloister, the history is told in chronological order. These 19th and early 20th-century paintings are the work of one painter who was given food and board in return for his work.
I found the rooms to be of adequate, though not generous, proportion, possibly because of their age. The manager did say that no two rooms are the same in terms of dimensions. The terrace is a huge asset to the hotel, offering 180° views of the lake.
From this hotel, our journey ended with a transfer back to Stuttgart for our flight home.
My trip to Lake Constance was billed as a ‘culinary tour’. It gave me the opportunity to try local products 'from the Lake' and included wine, cheese, beef, venison, fish, whisky, gin and local hop flavoured schnapps – even a demonstration of hop farming.
Lake Constance is easy to navigate by ferry and boat. The Zeppelin and Hop museums showcased local history and manufacturing from two diverse ends of the spectrum. I saw and visited several historic buildings with Salem Palace and Mainau Island being my favourites. However, they were all splendid and grand in their own way.
You can visit Lake Constance from Germany, Switzerland and Austria, giving you the opportunity for a multi-centre, multi-country holiday from a choice of airports. There is no need for a car – just use the rail, ferry and boat network. Various travel cards are available for the Bodensee area and a cycle track circumnavigates the lake, along with walking and hiking trails. For more information or to book your holiday in Bodensee, call the Fred.\ Holidays team on 0800 988 3369.