The medieval city of Konstanz on the waters of Lake Constance is an architectural delight, from the cobblestone streets of Niederburg to the centuries-old Konstanz Munster.
Steeped in history, the city of Konstanz boasts numerous museums and a charming old town, not to mention the impressive cathedral that looms over the city. We’ve rounded up the top things to do while you’re here.
This museum has a quirky history – it was founded by a local pharmacist and town councillor who wanted to preserve medieval artworks and artefacts. Now it’s a veritable treasure trove, packed with more than 200,000 objects of local interest, ranging from paintings and religious carvings to private letters and everyday items from the 19th and 20th centuries. Take a guided tour and discover the sneaky trick the people of Konstanz used to avoid being bombed by the Allies in World War II.
Lose yourself in the labyrinth of cobblestone alleys and admire the medieval timber-framed houses of the picturesque Niederburg neighbourhood, the oldest district in Konstanz. Sandwiched between the cathedral and the Rhine river, the neighbourhood boasts numerous cosy restaurants and wine caves that have been preserved within the town’s old walls. There are also plenty of little independent shops where you can buy souvenirs, antiques and local crafts.
Czech scholar and martyr Johannes (Jan) Hus was burned at the stake as a heretic in Konstanz in 1415. According to legend, he didn’t stop singing and praying until he was engulfed in flames. The Hus-Haus is dedicated to his memory, and follows his life from his birth in the Czech Republic and his attempts to reform the church to the moment his ashes were thrown into Lake Constance.
For the best views over Konstanz, climb the 193 steps to the top of the tower of this striking gothic cathedral. Once you’ve got your breath back, explore the church itself, with its beautiful frescoes, gold and marble chancel and ornate wood carvings. The imposing church dates back to 600 ACE. Its history is still very much present within its walls, from the romanesque painted wood ceiling to its 15th-century spiral staircase and thousand-year-old crypt.
The turquoise water of Lake Constance stretches 63km (39mi) towards the border with Switzerland and Austria. During the summer months, rent a stand-up paddleboard from SUP Horn to explore the town from a different perspective – the backdrop of the snow-capped Alps is truly mesmerising. They even offer SUP yoga lessons, if you fancy putting your balance to the test.
It’s not often you eat lunch inside a 600-year-old building. Situated between the neogothic train station and city park, the enormous Konzilgebäude was built in 1388 as a warehouse before it became a religious site; it was also the setting of the election of Pope Martin V. Now it’s a restaurant serving up traditional German dishes, such as wiener schnitzel. It’s worth a visit just for the views across Lake Constance.
In the Middle Ages, a city wall with more than 20 watchtowers and gates protected Konstanz from invaders. The Schnetztor is one of three remaining fortifications and has marked the southern end of the old town since its construction in the late 14th century. Now, the landmark’s half-timbered facade and grey shingled roof serve as a photo prop for touristy holiday snaps.
Embrace the cool, almost Mediterranean, vibe by taking a boat trip over to the blooming Mainau Island, also known as Flower Island. If you have half a day to spare, it’s well worth the trip. The nickname of this little gem is owed to the incredible flora and fauna that cover the vast meadows and gardens. While the look of the island changes with every season, the views are stunning, no matter what time of the year you come. If you decide to visit, don’t miss out on the baroque Mainau Castle, which was built in the 1700s and hosts cultural exhibitions throughout the year.
Marion Kutter contributed additional reporting to this article.
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