Worth a Trip: A Tour Round the Lake

Hopping across the Swiss–German border from Kreuzlingen brings you to the high-spirited, sunny university town of Konstanz, well worth a visit for its Romanesque cathedral, pretty Old Town and tree-fringed harbour. Edging north of Konstanz, you reach the Unesco-listed Benedictine monastery of Reichenau, founded in 724. Nearby is Insel Mainau, a pleasantly green islet whose Mediterranean-style gardens include rhododendron groves, a butterfly house and a waterfall-strewn Italian garden.

The winegrowing town of Meersburg reclines on the northern shore of Lake Constance – cobbled lanes thread past half-timbered houses up to the perkily turreted medieval castle. Just east is Friedrichshafen, forever associated with the Zeppelin, the cigar-shaped craft that made its inaugural flight in 1900. The Zeppelin Museum traces the history of this bombastic but ill-fated means of air transport. Still on German turf is the postcard-perfect island town of Lindau, with its lavishly frescoed houses, palm-speckled promenade and harbour watched over by a lighthouse and a Bavarian lion.

Lindau sits just a few kilometres north of Austria and the town of Bregenz, which hosts the highly acclaimed Bregenzer Festspiele from mid-July to mid-August, in which opera and orchestral concerts are staged on a vast water-borne stage. Rising dramatically above the town is the Pfänder (1064m) – the Pfänderbahn cable car glides to the summit, where panoramic views of Lake Constance and the not-so-distant Alps unfold.

Even if you don’t have your own car, getting around by bike or boat is a breeze. Well signposted and largely flat, the 273km Bodensee-Radweg encircles the lake, weaving through fields of ripening wheat, vineyards, orchards and shady avenues of chestnut and plane trees. Most train stations in the region rent out bikes, and La Canoa (www.lacanoa.com) has canoe-rental points in all major towns on the lake.