Crowding the tip of a peninsula right on the border with Switzerland, Konstanz straddles both banks of the Rhine. Adding to this scenic advantage is a great deal of medieval charm, supplied by twisting streets, pretty churches, and two Rhineside towers that are remnants of the town’s walls. The Altstadt escaped bombing by Allied Forces during World War II with a simple ploy: Residents left their lights on at night, making bombardiers think they were flying over neutral Switzerland.
You can see the town in about half an hour, beginning on the Münsterplatz for a look at the Münster (Cathedral), begun in the 11th century and not completed until the 17th, and just to the south, the Rathaus, with a painted facade. Then head towards the harbor and stroll along the Seeufer (Lake Shore), an attractive promenade that passes the port, public gardens, a casino, dozens of cafes and restaurants. The historic lakeside Konzilgebäude (Council Building) hosted the Council of Constance between 1414 and 1418, the only papal conclave ever held north of the Alps (Hafenstrasse 2). You may want to board one of the ferries in the harbor for a trip to one of two nearby islands; Bodensee-Schiffsbetriebe, Schützingerweg 2, Lindau (tel. 08382/2754-810; www.bsb-online.com), provides ferry service on the lake.
Insel Reichenau (Reichenau Island) In 724 St. Pirmin founded the first Benedictine monastery east of the Rhine on this little island, only 5 sq. km (2 sq. miles), which later became a center for the production of illuminated manuscripts. Three churches are the main attraction: The late-9th-century St. Georgskirche (Church of St. George) in Oberzell is remarkable for its harmonious design and wall paintings from about a.d. 1000; the oak roof frame of the Munster St. Maria and Markus (Church of St. Mary and Mark) in Mittelzell, the chief town on the island, is believed to be the oldest in Germany, created from oaks that were felled around 1236; and the Stiftskirche (College Church) St. Peter in Niederzell on the western tip of the island has wall paintings from the 12th century.
Mainau -- On this almost tropical island 6km (4 miles) north of Konstanz, palms and orange trees grow and fragrant flowers bloom year-round, practically in the shadow of the snow-covered Alps. The late Swedish Count Lennart Bernadotte is credited with this luxuriant botanical oasis, with greenhouses, seasonal gardens, and an arboretum. Palms, citrus and fruit trees, orchids, azaleas, rhododendrons, tens of thousands of tulips in the spring, and roses in the summer fill the gardens and hothouses, and butterflies from throughout the world flit and flutter through the Butterfly House. The count’s family resides in the ancient castle, once a stronghold of the Knights of the Teutonic Order, and oversee the island paradise he established. A number of restaurants—including a formal restaurant, a cafe, and a sausage grill—are tucked into scenic locations around the island. The gardens are open year round from sunrise to sunset. You can reach Mainau either by tour boat from Konstanz or by walking across the small footbridge connecting the island to the mainland, north of the city. Admission from Mar–Oct is 19€ for adults, 11€ for students and children over 12 (under 12 are free), 39€ for families. During the colder months, adult admission is 9.50€, student admission 5.50€. For more information, visit www.mainau.de.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.