Konstanz was a small city that is lovely to visit, but a little too quiet for me as a university student. It’s a beautiful place to spend a weekend or a very relaxing week. The old town is charming and the lake views are beautiful.
The city is perched at the western end of Lake Constance and you can easily walk into Switzerland for lunch if you’d like. Kreuzlingen, on the other side of the border, is an equally sleepy town, but is worth the pleasant walk.
The old town of Konstanz is full of winding cobblestone streets, ancient buildings, quirky houses, and beautiful public fountains. It’s the perfect place to settle in and watch the world go by. Konstanz was spared by both world wars, so the architecture is truly noteworthy. Most of the buildings have names, dating to a time before house numbers. Since Konstanz is a major tourist attraction in the summer, the old town has mostly been taken over by souvenir shops and restaurants, but outside the tourist season you’ll find plenty of locals here.
You can learn about the history of Konstanz at the Rosgartenmuseum. The Kulturzentrum am Muenster has small exhibits and a lovely cafe in its courtyard.
During the week, Konstanz is full of delightful bakeries and cafes. If you find yourself there on a Sunday, you’ll be relegated to a few restaurants that serve tourists almost exclusively.
It’s impossible to visit Konstanz and not see the charming old town, with its cathedral. After a childhood of being dragged through cathedrals, it was the experience of seeing concerts in the Konstanz Dom that made me understand them. The crypt is open to the public and is a lovely, peaceful escape on a hot summer day.
Be sure to pop in to all the churches, not just the Dom. The Driefaltigkeitskirche is also beautiful and has a bell tower you can climb.
The Rheintorturm offers a panoramic view of the city and houses a Fasnachtsmuseum. The museum is only open during the summer on Fridays and Saturdays. Check the opening hours for the tower and the museum before you go. The tower and the two city gates are relics of the city’s medieval defenses.
Constance Harbour is beautiful, both from the water and the shore. A rotating statue of Imperia holds court out past the beach. As a broke student, I opted to picnic along the docks instead of eating at the sidewalk cafes. Walking the harbor is a lovely way to pass an evening and there are plenty of spots to grab a drink along the way. It’s also a popular sunbathing spot. Don’t forget to get ice cream.
On a clear day, you can catch a glimpse of the Alps in the distance.
The Insel Mainau is a private estate turned garden. It’s open every day, so visitors are likely to end up here by accident. It’s very much worth the visit. They have a butterfly garden, baroque castle, and greenhouses. The island is huge, with far more than you could see in a day. I was a regular visitor here because of their friendly goats. There’s a bus that will take you from the train station to the bridge, but it’s also easily reached by foot.
This is an architectural wonder or monstrosity, depending on your point of view. I no longer remember how many flights of stairs I took — up and down — to get to my second floor classroom. My walk to class also involved crossing a brook. On the roof. The complex of buildings is a true labyrinth. You could literally get lost in the library. Or, honestly, trying to get anywhere. It is certainly a unique building complex and demonstrates something about the vision of the 1960s.
The cafeteria serves surprisingly tasty and healthy fare for a very reasonable price. It also has a beautiful view of the water. Save your budget for a meal or two and dine here. If you can find the cafeteria, that is.
The university is surrounded by a charming meadow, forests with hiking trails, and an apple orchard. The rooftop has a beautiful view of the Insel Mainau, the harbor, and the old city.
Boating on the Bodensee
It’s more or less mandatory to take the ferry to Meersburg or Friedrichshafen. Friedrichshafen has a Zeppelin museum — and you can take a ride in a dirigible.
The ferry is the most affordable option to get on the water (besides swimming). There are lots of paddleboats for rent. You can also rent a boat or arrange for a private tour.