At close to 540 square kilometres, Lake Constance is by far the largest lake in Germany and the third largest in terms of surface area/the second largest in terms of water volume in Central Europe. Part of the lake lies in Austria and Switzerland: 173 kilometres of Lake Constance’s shores are located in Germany, 28 kilometres in Austria, and 72 kilometres in Switzerland. The lake’s German shore lies in large part in Baden-Württemberg, while only 18 kilometres are located in Bavaria, more precisely in the district of Lindau, Swabia. The Bavarian Lake Constance shore is divided between the municipalities of Nonnenhorn and Wasserburg, as well as the district capital of Lindau on Lake Constance itself. At its broadest point Lake Constance measures 14 kilometres; in places it’s up to 254 metres deep and has eleven islands in the Obersee and Untersee.
The Lake Constance region
Lake Constance actually consists of two separate lakes: the large Obersee (“Upper Lake”), where Lindau and the entire Austrian portion of Lake Constance lie and the Untersee (“Lower Lake”), which lies right on the border between Switzerland and Baden-Württemberg. The two are connected by a roughly four kilometre-long piece of the Rhine – the so-called Seerhein (“Lake Rhine”).
Fittingly extensive is the area known as the Lake Constance region; as the largest city on Lake Constance, Konstanz is often considered the centre of this regions, since it lies right between Obersee and Untersee. Due to geographic location, when one talks about the Lake Constance region they are also talking about the tri-country area, officially even of the four-country region.
40 kilometres south, Liechtenstein may not lie on Lake Constance geographically, and it has no border with Germany, but it does have an important share of the economy, tourism, and general concerns of the region, which is why representatives of the principality also hold seats in important committees like International Lake Constance Conference.
Islands in Lake Constance
The Lake Constance islands are among its most important tourist destinations, and are mostly accessed by ship. Despite many smaller islands and peninsulas, tourism primarily focuses on the three most important ones. The largest of these is the Reichenau Island, also known as Vegetable Island. Due to its excellent climate conditions, many gourmet vegetables and herbs are cultivated there.
The second largest island is Lindau Island – the old city of Lindau lies here, as well as its main railway station. Those who visit Lindau without at least taking part in a tour through the historic centre on the island will miss precisely the part so many visitors talk about later at home.
The third most important and third largest island in Lake Constance is Mainau – and although it’s smaller than Reichenau and Lindau, it’s probably the most famous and most visited. Here lives the Swedish royal house of Bernadotte, which is also the owner of the island. They made Mainau into what people know today as “Blumeninsel” (Flower Island): a roughly 45-hectare Mediterranean oasis with citrus plants, palms, and other plants unique in the region.
Cities and towns on Lake Constance
The cities on Lake Constance are popular tourist destinations, and the infrastructure and communities are constructed accordingly. The largest city in the Baden-Württemberg part of the region is Konstanz, which is simultaneously the overall largest and, with approximately 80,000 inhabitants, the most populous city on Lake Constance.
In Bavaria, Lindau is the centre of Lake Constance tourism, but with just under 25,000 inhabitants it’s markedly smaller. Nevertheless, with its historic district on Lindau Island, it’s among the most popular travel destinations in the region and its harbour entrance, with its lion and lighthouse, is one of the most famous landmarks on the lake.
The city of Bregenz takes on a very similar task on the Austrian shore: With nearly 29,000 inhabitants, the some larger site is the capital city of the federal state of Voralberg and the location of Austria’s most important Lake Constance port.
Of the Swiss cities on the lake, Kreuzlingen is the largest at close to 21,000 inhabitants and is especially impressive with the Seeburg Castle and the popular sailboat marina. The majority of Swiss Lake Constance tourism nevertheless originates directly from the Canton of Thurgau, which comprises most of the Lake Constance shore in Switzerland.
Weather on Lake Constance
The weather on Lake Constance is generally labelled as Mediterranean, and therefor has more mild temperatures and high humidity. With its direct proximity to the Alps, however, foehn winds continue to result, which often lead to metres-high waves, above all affecting inexperienced water athletes.
One great benefit of the mild climate on Lake Constance, by contrast, is the much-used option of viticulture. Lake Constance wines enjoy high popularity among connoisseurs and are known to be especially fruity and aromatic. Among the most popular types of grape cultivated here are the Müller-Thurgau and pinot noir.
Nature on Lake Constance
Lake Constance hosts a vivid array of flora and fauna, which is naturally distinguished by several types of fish and waterfowl. One of the most well-known is probably the common whitefish of Lake Constance, a fish that was even named after the lake. Among the indigenous birds are several duck species, though the majority of the feathered population are coots and great crested grebes.
Due to the importance of the region for many of the local species, there are an extraordinarily high number of conservation areas on Lake Constance. Two of these are the thick reed belt between Nonnenhorn and Wasserburg in the district of Lindau, and probably the largest conservation area on the lake, the Wollmatinger Ried, which nearly stretches to Reichenau Island.