Ooo-la-la-Lake Constance (also referred to as the Bodensee)! This recreational lake and natural beauty is Europe’s third largest lake surrounded by Germany, Austria, Lichtenstein, and Switzerland. I love, love, love visiting this place! The massive, bright blue lake is surrounded by fruit groves, farms, vineyards, and some of the most picture perfect villages I’ve ever seen.
Its clean, clear water provides drinking water to many of Germany’s southern cities, including Stuttgart. The villages surrounding the lake take pride in letting tourists know about their clean, tasty water and offer abundant drinking stations to fill up your water bottles.
In the summer, the water also provides plenty of swimming, paddle boarding, boating, and zeppelin-spotting opportunities. We love it so much that it is one of the few places we’ve come back to every summer over the last four years. I should add that we are also very lucky to have some wonderful friends who live by the lake and apparently like us too. I mean, they keep letting us come back to stay with them!
Recommended Beach: Sipplingen
The town we frequently stay in is called Sipplingen and is easily reached by the Sbahn which stops right at the beach. The beach has a gated entry, but offers free entrance, playgrounds, restaurant, a water play area, changing rooms, and a pier to jump off of into the lake, which is always my preferred way to get in. Dogs aren’t allowed in the gated area, however there are plenty of grassy spots before you hit the gate where people set up so their pups can frolic in the water. There is also a small playground and swing set on the outside of the gate making this a dog and kid friendly section to enjoy if you happen to be traveling with both.
Make sure to bring:
- Water shoes! It’s a rocky shore and water shoes make a world of difference.
- Blanket/chairs! No rentals here, it’s a very laid back beach so bring your own tents, chairs, towels, and whatever else you use to create your own “towel island”.
- Cooler! There is a restaurant and ice cream shop in the gated beach area and on the other side in the grassy area, but hours are hit or miss and crowds can cause a huge delay if you’re in a hurry. This is a small town and to save yourself a hangry episode, pack snacks and be prepared for when the hunger hits. Yes, we know from experience and we all survived each others hangry rage. Barely.
- Floaties, inflatable boats, inflatable dolphins, heck, any giant inflatable thing you can toss in your beach bag. It’s a big lake and you’ll see people floating and playing on just about anything on a hot, summer day.
The drive from Stuttgart into Sipplingen is about an hour and a half, but if you don’t get there EARLY, parking is challenging in the summer. If planning a day-trip, I suggest parking outside of the town and taking the train. The Bodensee SBahn is one of the great ways to get around the lake and see different towns.
I have to recommend these wonderful people on both a personal and business level. They are friendly, welcoming, knowledgable and offer a clean, stylishly designed and affordable apartment that sleeps up to 4 just steps away from the lake. Click here for the AirBnB link or contact them directly, here: firstname.lastname@example.org Walking down the main street in this little town rewards you with smiling, friendly locals which is hard to find in the Swabian region. Once you see this charming little spot, you’ll see why they seem so darned happy.
Around and About the Lake of Constance, aka Bodensee
There are seemingly countless beaches and towns that surround the lake. Some with castles, spas, quaint churches, and farms to name a few of their highlights. Outside of the train, bikes and boats/cruise ships offer different options to view these villages and to make your way around the lake. Below are five of my recommendations while in the Bodensee:
1. Biking around the lake. I haven’t biked around the entire lake yet, but for biking enthusiasts I hear it’s a must. 268km (167 miles) of biking trails circle the lake with alternatives for families with small children or people with disabilities. There are several companies in the area offering guided bike tours of varying levels.
2. Checking out the castle and picture perfect town of Meersburg. This is noticeably a tourist town, and for good reason. We’ve come to this colorfully built town several times to tour the castle, admire the floral carpets during Corpus Christi, and hop the ferry over to Switzerland for an all-night flea market (in June!). There is also a Zeppelin Museum, art markets, and wonderful views of the lake.
3. Taking the ferry to Switzerland! One of our favorite things to do with friends in summer is to take them to the city of Konstanz and the German/Swiss border. A row of sculptures lines the border between Germany and Switzerland while beach bars line the lakeshore. Konstanz is the biggest city on the lake and filled with historic hidden alleys, monuments, churches, and sculptures. Our favorite way to cross the lake is taking the car ferry from Meersburg over to Konstanz where we catch the bus over into downtown, exiting at the Bahnhof. Once you board the ferry, helpful ticket takers can explain your options to purchase single fare (if you plan to take the train back), family fares, combination tickets, etc. Or you can simply review their site and see what works best for you.
4. Touring the colorful, botanical beauty of Mainau Island. This place is a flora-lovers dream. The entire island is a series of gardens and breathtaking landscapes with the lake as its background. Besides the plethora of flowers and aromatic gardens adorned with classic sculptures, there is also a petting zoo, creative playgrounds, restaurants, baroque architecture, and a biergarten. It’s a fantastical place to explore and escape to.
5. Um…Wine anyone? The region has been producing wine for over 2000 years and the most popular grapes are Müller-Thurgau and Pinot Noir (Blauburgunder). Vineyards surround the lake and grape vines drape between houses and rooftops in the local villages. Wine is big here and you can see this in the many festivals, wine hikes, tours, and educational classes that are offered. I recommend stopping into any local market, or vineyard, to talk to the owners and pick up a few regional bottles. Restaurants are also happy to pair meals with local vins and offer suggestions. Just ask!
To join in on one of the annual events or to set up your own wine hike or tour, check out the Bodensee Wine Page:
Wine Region of Lake Constance Tourist Info
Lake Constance has a lot to offer and is impressively well-preserved and cared for. I’ve highlighted a few of our favorite things, but there is so much more the surrounding villages have to offer. Throughout the year the lake towns hold many different festivals and parties ranging from religious observances to rock ‘n roll with fireworks. It’s a gem of a spot and I recommend a visit here at least once during your time in Germany.
I’d love to hear about your experiences, favorite towns and activities in the region. There is so much that I can’t cover in one post, so please feel free to share below!