This medieval harbor town at the foot of the Rorschacher Berg is at the southern tip of the lake. It has lakeside gardens, an extensive promenade, a good choice of hotels, and facilities for sailing, rowing, swimming, fishing, and windsurfing. Passenger ships pass through Rorschach en route to Germany, Austria, and Liechtenstein.
Rorschach's illustrious past is reflected in its buildings, which include the Kornhaus, a granary built in 1746; the former Mariaberg cloister; and 18th-century painted houses with oriel windows along Hauptgasse. If you'd like to bike along the lake, you can go to the railway station and rent a bike for the day for about 28F.
This old fishing hamlet is a 5-minute drive east of Arbon. Set in the canton of Thurgau, it provides another base for exploring the shores of Lake Constance. Frankly, the main reason to visit is to stay or dine at the Hotel Bad Horn; otherwise, you'll find more facilities at Rorschach, only a 10-minute car or bus ride to the east.
One of the best spots along the lake is Arbon, the lakefront promenade that offers a view of Constance, the German shore, and the Alps. It has far more facilities than Horn , although the views and ambience are pretty similar. If lakeside walks appeal to you, this might be the place, as most of the town lies on a promontory jutting out into Lake Constance. In summer, you're surrounded by orchards and lake meadows, so strolling is what to do here. Facilities include a large boat harbor, swimming pools, and a school for sailing and surfing. The town was built on the site of an ancient Celtic community and was called Arbor Felix by the Romans.
After leaving Rorschach, continue northwest along Route 13 for 15 minutes until you reach Arbon. The town is also a major stopover for all the trains and buses running along the southern tier of Lake Constance.
The town's most visible monument is its 13th-14th-century castle, Schloss Arbon, Hauptstrasse (tel. 071/446-10-58), which broods over the town from its hilltop. Most of its interior is devoted to a technical school for adults, but you can visit the small-scale museum during its limited open hours. Exhibits include ancient Roman artifacts unearthed in the region, and displays relating to the once-potent, now-defunct industries that used to call Arbon home. Premier among these is the Saurer Truck Company, which employed up to 3,000 local workers between its 1906 founding and its merger with Mercedes-Benz in 1982. Frankly, unless you're terribly interested in the history of the local region, you can skip this museum entirely. Between May and September, the museum is open daily from 2 to 5pm; March, April, October, and November, it's open Sunday only, from 2 to 5pm. Admission costs 4F for adults and 2F for children 14 and under.
For tourist information, go to Infocenter Arbon, Schmiedgasse 6 (tel. 071/440-13-80), open Monday to Friday 9 to 11:30am and 2 to 6pm. From mid-June to August it is also open on Saturday from 9 to 11:30am.
This town is the largest port on the lake and the base for Swiss steamers. In spite of the industrial overlay, Romanshorn is also a successful summer lakeside resort. Popular with Swiss, German, and Austrian tourists, it's set against a backdrop of panoramic views of the Austrian and Swiss mountains nearby. The resort offers a swimming pool, a sailing school, a water-skiing school, and tennis courts. There's also a park and a zoo.
A year-round ferry service links Romanshorn with Friedrichshafen, Germany. Boats operated by the Schweizerische Bodensee Schiffahrtsgesellschaft (tel. 071/446-78-88; www.sbsag.ch) make hourly transits to Friedrichshafen, beginning at 8:30am daily between May and October, and ending between 6:30 and 7:30pm, depending on the day of the week. One-way transit, which requires about an hour, costs 23F. The attractions on the German side of the lake are actually far more interesting than anything on the Swiss border, and there are no hassles or fees to cross, so we recommend you take the chance to visit Friedrichshafen. Here you can stroll its lakefront promenade, with a sweeping view of the Swiss Alps. Biking along the broad Seestrasse is also a delight. A kiosk within the Stadtbahnhof (local rail station) rents bikes for 28F to 45F per day. You can also visit the Zeppelin Museum in the Hafenbahhof on Seestrasse 22, with its fascinating re-creation of the historic Hindenburg, which exploded in a fire in New Jersey in 1937.
In summer, boat trips are organized to Mainau, a German island about 6km (4 miles) north of Constance that was once the home of the grand duke of Baden. Boats operated by the Schweizerische Bodensee Schiffahrtsgesellschaft make two daily transits from May to October, from Romanshorn to Mainau. Trips take 90 minutes each way and cost 30F round-trip. You'll have to pay an entrance fee of 16F to gain access to the island. Mainau Island is well worth your time. Because of the mild climate, the island is almost tropical, filled with palms and orange trees, along with fragrant flowers in bloom year-round -- even though the island lies practically in the shadow of the snow-covered Alps. In the center of the island is a botanical garden, set on the site of an ancient castle, once a residence of the Knights of the Teutonic order.
In Romanshorn, two other worthy options involve hopping aboard any boat operated by Schweizerische Bodensee Schiffahrtsgesellschaft . If you go on the one bound for Rorschach (three departures per day), you'll pay about 15F one-way. Then you can explore the town of Rorschach before returning to Romanshorn by any of the many trains (a 20-min. ride).
A second option involves sailing from Romanshorn to Kreuzlingen or the German town of Konstanz, a 1-hour ride (btw. two and three departures per day), and taking the train back (a 20-min. ride). One-way boat transit to either Kreuzlingen or Konstanz costs 18F.
For tourist information in Romanshorn, contact Verkehrsbüro, Bahnhofplatz (tel. 071/463-32-32), open Monday to Friday from 8am to noon and 2 to 6pm, Saturday 9am to noon. If you'd like to bike along the lake, you can go to the railway station, where a kiosk rents bikes from 28F to 45F per day.
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.