Lake Constance Loop:  Long Day

Lake Constance (Bodensee) is the largest lake in central Europe.  It is bordered by Germany on the north and west, Switzerland (die Schweiz) on the south and a little bit of Austria (Österreich) on the east.  It is a popular vacation destination, and as a result, there are many interesting towns and sights in the area.  This is a suggestion for a potential itinerary that takes you on the German and Swiss sides of the lake.

After a drive of 1-1½ hours from Bondorf, your first stop will be the Birnau church.  It sits just off the highway on a bluff overlooking the lake surrounded by vineyards.  It is not a huge church, but the interior is stunning.  Then it’s back on the road to Friedrichshafen, about half way down the lake.  This city was the birthplace of the Zeppelin, and now is home to the Zeppelin Museum.  The highlight of the museum is a partial reconstruction of the Hindenburg’s gondola that you can tour.  Tip:  The displays are all in German, however there are usually computer terminals located near the displays that give you the information in English.  After the museum, stroll down the city waterfront promenade and eat a late lunch at one of the outdoor restaurants (or indoors if the weather is lousy).

Next to the museum is the entrance to the Romanshorn Switzerland ferry.  Drive your car onto the ferry, pay the attendant and go upstairs to enjoy a 40 minute ride across the lake.  The drive back will take you through quaint Swiss villages.

The final stop is the Rhine Falls (Rhinfall), just south of the Swiss town of Schaffhausen.  Here the Rhine River drops about 75 feet shortly after it leaves Lake Constance.  It’s not quite Niagara, but it is the largest waterfall in Europe and still very impressive.  A path takes you down the cliff. There are several viewing platforms on the way; some are very close to the falling water.

You should expect to spend about 9 hours to do this tour.  If you want to spend a little less time, stop and tour Meersburg instead of going all the way to Friedrichshafen.  From there you can take a shorter ferry ride to Constance (Konstanz), cross into Switzerland at Kreuzlingen and take the N7 to join up with the larger tour before Frauenfeld.

Important:

Switzerland is not a member of the European Union.  Therefore you will need your passports to get into and out of the country.  Switzerland also requires you to purchase a road tax sticker (called a vignette) if you want to use the autobahns and motorways (identified by green signs).  Unfortunately, your only choice is to buy a one year sticker for Sfr40 or use the secondary roads, which can add significant time to your travels.  Sticker can be purchased at the boarder or at Swiss gas stations near the border crossings.  Sometimes rental cars will come with stickers.

Opening Times and Fees:

Birnau
The church is always open.  The church store is open daily from 9:00am-6:00pm

Zeppelin Museum
Jul-Sep Daily 10:00am-6:00pm
May, Oct Tu-Su 10:00am-6:00pm
Nov-Apr Tu-Su 10:00am-5:00pm
€6.50

Friedrichshafen-Romanshorn Ferry
Hourly ferries, year-round, run between 5:30am and 9:30pm
€5.80/person, €29/car

Meersburg-Konstanz Ferry
Every 15 minutes between 6:00am and 8:00pm.  Hourly through the night.
€1.80/person, €10/car

Directions:

Map 1

Get on the A81 heading south toward Singen.  Shortly before reaching Singen, take the exit to Konstanz and Lindau.  After exiting, the road will split again.  Follow the signs to Lindau rather than Konstanz.

The road will be a 4-lane autobahn (A98) for about 10km and then change to a 2-lane road.  About 20km after the autobahn ends, the Birnau church will appear on your right.  There are parking lots around the church.

Turn right out of the church parking lot and continue to follow signs to Lindau.


Map 2

Another 25km will bring you to Friedrichshafen.  Follow the signs through town to the Zeppelin Museum.  Park in the Altstadt parking garage.  The garage entrance will be to your right.  After walking out of the garage, the museum will be straight ahead and to your right.  The waterfront area is further to your right.

Exit the parking garage to your right and make an immediate second right, driving along the end of the parking garage.  This is the entrance to the Romanshorn ferry (Fähre).  They will check before you board to make sure you have your passports.  An attendant will come to your car to collect the toll (cash only).  You will go through Swiss customs after leaving the ferry.


Map 3

In Romanshorn, follow the signs to Amriswil or Frauenfeld.

The road will take you through many small Swiss villages.  Keep following signs to Frauenfeld.

Before you get to Frauenfeld, the road will turn to 4-lanes, and shortly thereafter, join with the N7 toward Winterthur.

When you get to Winterthur, take the Schaffhausen exit.

7km before Schaffhausen, take the Rhinfall exit and follow the signs until you get to the parking lots.  It is a short walk from the parking lot out to the river’s edge.  During the day, you will have to pay a small fee at the gift shop to go to the viewing platforms.

Get back on the highway heading to Schaffhausen.  In Schaffhausen, you will come to a junction that gives you the choice of going to Stuttgart or Singen.  Choose the latter.

You will come to the German border less than 10km beyond Schaffhausen.

After going through customs, follow the signs to the A81.  Then head north on the A81 to the Rottenburg/Bondorf exit.

Tours