Our first road trip in ‘Bubbles’, a 2008 Mercedes Sprinter 4×4, was to the region around Konstanz in Southern Germany. What a sensational place! The city lies on the Western shores of Lake Constance, known as Bodensee in German, the third largest lake in Western Europe. It’s nestled in an area of gently rolling hills with a sweeping view of the Alps. The surroundings are abundant with pretty farmlands, rich orchards, and lush vineyards… a spectacle for the eyes!
The town itself is rich with history. For generations it has been an important spiritual centre, and gained wealth through linen trade. In the middle ages Konstanz had the only bridge across the Rhine River, making it an important strategic location for trade. Central to the town is the district of Niederburg. It’s medieval heritage was not destroyed during the Second World War. The story goes that during the war inhabitants kept their lights on at night in order to confuse the bomber crews, who were unable to distinguish Konstanz from directly neighbouring neutral Switzerland. Those were special times.
Also in the district of Niederburg the Rhine River departs Lake Constance. It flows towards Schaffhausen, Switzerland, where the largest waterfall in Europe is located. The Rhine Falls is spectacular and certainly worth a visit. It’s not Niagara Falls, but the Rhine allows its audience to truly approach the water flow and immerse in the raw power of the spectacle. If you have a heart, it will shiver. There is also a nice little courtyard patio at the Laufen Castle where you can spend a little money for drinks, or a lot of money for a meal. The best time to visit is in the months of late spring and early summer, when water levels are high.
The location of Konstanz directly on the shores of Lake Constance makes it an ideal place to go bicycle touring with the family. There are no significant climbs to be made, and the region is perfectly prepared for this type of family adventure with plenty of food outlets and rest stops around the entire lake. There is a 260km (161 mi.) bicycle path that encircles the lake, although it is not necessary to make the entire journey in one go. A bike trip can be planned according to your particular situation. For longer trips, it is possible to take advantage of the multiple ferry terminals around the lake to keep the distance manageable. A link to the Bodensee public transportation website is included at the end of this article. A very easy trip that can be made with the youngest of kids is to the island of Mainau.
Mainau is a sort of paradise island located less than 8 km (5 mi.) from the centre of Konstanz. It is a simple bike ride along a well marked bicycle route (you can also drive there or take public transport, but we left Bubbles at the campground and took the bikes). Once there, the island is lush with spectacular gardens, a wide variety of entertainment for the kids, as well as a 1,000 sq.m (almost 11,000 sq.ft) butterfly house where up to 80 different varieties of butterflies fly freely among the visitors. Various events are commonplace – we made it for the apple festival, which taught us everything to know about… well, apples.
Do plan several hours at the island. Bicycles are not permitted inside the park (there are bike racks at the main entrance where you can leave your bicycle), but you can rent pull carts for little kids for a reasonable fee. The entrance is not cheap, €43.50 for a family pass, but for the money at least everyone will learn something. The gardens alone are worth the fee. On the way back to Konstanz, plan a stop at the Hehenegg restaurant and brewery. The food is typically German – chops, sauerkraut, and potatoes – but the house brewed beer is exceptional and the view from the patio is worth the time to drink one (or more). Speaking of drinking one, along the bicycle route there is a house (link below) where you can purchase home made Schnapps from a local farmer. If you like Schnapps, it’s worth a knock on his door.
There are many other attractions to Konstanz and the region. Without getting into details, the Zeppelin Museum highlights the achievements of Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, the inventor of the airship. The Konstanz Cathedral (Konstanzer Münster) has been standing in more or less its present shape since the late 14th century. There is a UNESCO World Heritage Site of prehistoric stilt houses, and there is even an aquarium (the ‘Sea Life’ aquarium, which we did visit and recommend for a rainy day with the kids, but as far as aquariums are concerned there are better ones out there). There are also very nice thermal baths just a stone’s throw away from the city centre, if you’re into swimming pools, sauna and spa. You can also rent paddle boats and kayaks in a variety of locations (we rented a boat in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland, link below). You will likely run out of time for everything.
In the following section you will find links to everything that was mentioned above, as well as further details of activities that we can recommend. We are not affiliated with any of these places – we are solely sharing our experience.
We parked our Mercedes Sprinter 4×4 at Camping Fischerhaus in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland. The campground is relatively small, yet has everything you need for an enjoyable stay. There is a playground for the children, a small shop with basic necessities, a restaurant at the campground, as well as a high-end restaurant (Fischerhaus) directly adjacent to it. The lake is about 1 minute walking distance from the campground. The toilet facilities are clean. Prices are standard. We would stay here again.
Directly adjacent to Camping Fischerhaus you can rent a boat. Visit the Kreutzlingen rowing club, and they will contact you with the correct person – we just walked up to the building and asked someone if you can rent a boat. You can rent paddle boats, kayaks, and windsurfers as well. The prices are reasonable. It will likely be ‘safer’ if you call ahead.
We rented bikes at two different locations. One day we rented them at the main train station (SBB) in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland. Many people are unaware that the Swiss rail service also rents bikes. They are available at many train stations, the bikes are always professionally tuned, and generally the experience is very positive – albeit not the cheapest.
SBB Bike Rental Website: https://www.sbb.ch/en/station-services/auto-velo/rent-a-bike-high-season.html
Another day we rented bikes in Konstanz itself, at a shop called ‘Rocco the Bike Shop’ (Rocco Der Fahrradladen). We showed up the day of the rental without prior arrangements. We were a large group of people (4 adults and 3 kids) and they did not have a bike with a child seat attached to it in store, but one of the workers hopped into his car and drove down to another location to fetch a seat for us. Dedication to the customer. Keep in mind that this problem can be avoided if you call a day ahead and book your rental :-/ The bikes were properly prepared, and the prices very reasonable. A great experience.
Here is a link to the Bodensee public transportation website. It includes all the ferry services that can be a great aid in planning a longer bicycle tour of the area.
For more information about visiting the Rhine Falls, visit their website directly:
We had a drink on the courtyard patio of the Schloss Laufen restaurant. A nice high-end locale.
You can obtain relevant information about the Mainau Island directly on their website.
Here is a direct link to their online interactive map:
The house where you can purchase the home made Schnapps is located at the following address:
Zum Schlössli 3, 78464 Konstanz
We don’t have a telephone number, so you just have to stop by and see for yourself.
GPS Coordinates: 47.693485, 9.193958
Restaurant and Brewery Hohenegg
The restaurant and brewery is located along the bicycle route between Mainau Island and Konstanz city centre. Worth to plan a short stop-over for beer and a meal.
The Bedensee Therme Konstanz are definitely worth a visit if you’re into pools and spas. The facility is ultra clean and well maintained (as should be expected), and very modern in design. There are multiple outdoor pools with gorgeous views of the mountains, but also great to visit on a rainy or gloomy day. Sitting in the sauna overlooking a thick fog hanging above the lake was a mystical experience. The core website is in German. If you click the ‘English’ link you will receive a narrowed down pamphlet of the prices and services.
We never had a chance to visit the Zeppelin Museum, although we did spend a lazy afternoon strolling the elegant waterfront of Friedrichshafen, Germany (where the museum is located). There is a 22 m (72 ft) observation tower providing unobstructed views of the lake and mountains beyond. Nice.
Sea Life Konstanz Aquarium
On a rainy day we went to visit the Sea Life Aquarium. Of the more memorable experiences was an underwater tunnel where sharks and other fish swim above your head, as well as a small collection of Gentoo Penguins, which the kids could not get enough of. Generally, it’s a kid friendly experience. The lineup was quite long so purchase tickets online (you can reserve priority entrance). Parking is available directly outside the facility.