Lake Constance – what does Europe’s third biggest lake have to offer?

This Central European waterway boasts baroque churches, castles, spas and is also Europe’s third biggest lake to boot. Whilst this accolade may have passed many of us by, the beautiful scenery more than matches the sheer vastness of its 270 kilometres of shoreline for breathtaking views. Situated below the northern edge of the Alps, and bordered by Austria, Switzerland and Germany, the lake has long been a centre for water sports as well as being rich in history and culture, making it a hit with families as well as those looking for a more relaxing holiday away from the madding crowds on the mediterranean beaches.

Exploring Lake Constance and the surrounding towns can easily be done by boat should you choose to make the most of travelling around whilst taking in the scenery. Tourist boat services on Lake Constance run from mid-April to mid-October offering many stops along the way.

So where do we head for when visiting the area? St Gallen in Switzerland is a good place to start as any. The Abbey of St Gall and the library are a must-see with both receiving UNESCO status, and the library boasting the oldest library collections in Switzerland with books dating back to the 8th Century. St Gallen also has one of the best local fromageries in the area which stocks over 300 local cheeses not too mention the local whiskey!  To truly benefit from all St Gallen has to offer, maybe book a tour of the area; local guides are to be found via the Tourist Board on +41 71 227 37 37.

The library in St Gallen

Uberlingen is also another spot on the tourist map. Dating back to Roman times, the area has won awards for its family-friendly disposition although tourists also come here for its reputation as a spa resort. Christmas markets and the annual fasnacht festival in February are also attractions for young and old alike. When winter is drawing to a close in the four-country region around Lake Constance, the fasnacht carnival is a very special highlight with preparations taking place for months in advance to entertain the crowds.  In the individual towns and villages, very old traditions are maintained to chase away the winter (and provide some light-hearted entertainment!).

The biggest draw, however, has to be Constance itself which is the largest town to border the lake. Constance  has a full programme of events throughout the year to suit all requirements. For those who wish to indulge in some pampering, then there is also ample opportunity to make use of the local spas. The Lake Constance thermal spa in Konstanz allows guests to enjoy the views over Lake Constance whilst relaxing in the thermal bath and is one of many such venues to cater for the mind, body and soul.

You can travel independently or take advantage of specialist tour operators in the area. Specialist holidays such as Inghams Lakes & Mountains programme are popular and offer a range of seven-night and multi-centre holidays to Lake Constance, including the popular Castles & Gardens of Lake Constance Escorted Tour.

Jodie Perkins, Inghams Product Manager for Germany, says: “Lake Constance is a haven for sightseeing and it continues to thrive as a popular destination for the over-50 market due to the multitude of cultural gems dotted around its shore, such as UNESCO sites, castles, gardens, wineries and museums. These offer a historic insight into the shaping of the region, which is uniquely situated on the boarder of three countries, all of which add to the mix of this cultural hotpot and share their distinct philosophies on one lake.”

So onto one of Switzerlands most important exports.. chocolate. What trip to the area would be complete without making your own Swiss chocolate.? There are a few venues that offer tours but Maestrani offer a chocolate experience which is sure to get the stamp of approval from the whole family.  The Chocolarium allows you to see the chocolate production in progress and offers a huge variety of tastings. Plus the chance to design your own bar from scratch.

Where to stay?

There is plenty of choice but one of the most prestigious hotels in Constance is the Steigenberger inselhotel Konstanz.  This 5 star hotel overlooking the Lake is a former monastery and oozes history and culture.

Located on a small private island, the hotel is close enough to the old town yet benefits from the tranquility of its lakeside location. Prices start from €108.75 per room.

Hotel Dom in St Gallen is a lovely 3-star hotel tucked away in historic St Gallen. The rooms are clean and spacious and start from £87.50 for bed and breakfast.

In Uberlingen the 4-star Romantik Hotel Johanniter Kreuz  is a family-run business. This former farmhouse offers spa facilities and excellent cuisine in a quiet area of town.