German islands are a favorite for vacationers within the country, but catch little attention outside of Germany. They really should, as islands like Lindau have both a spectacular natural setting and charming small-town quality.
Lindau is located on Lake Constance (known as Bodensee in German) which is the third-biggest lake in Europe at 63 kilometer long. It might as well be a sea, connected to the mainland by a bridge. It borders Austria and Switzerland and includes several islands with gorgeous beaches, butterfly sanctuaries, medieval villages, castles and wine.
But Lindau is the showpiece with its magnificent harbor, jealously guarded by a Bavarian lion and ancient lighthouse. On the island, the historic town is full of medieval half-timbered buildings, and visitors should also tour the massive lake, visit nearby attractions and eat and sleep their way throughout the town. Here are eight fabulous things to do in Lindau.
Transportation: By train - 2-3 hours from Munich with almost... hourly departures. By car - A-96 southwest.
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Admire Lindau's Harbor
The highlight in Lindau has to be its picturesque harbor. The Neuer Leuchtturm (New Lighthouse) is actually from 1853 and is Germany's southernmost lighthouse. At 136 meters, this tower provides one of the best views of the lake if you can brave the 139 steps. (Admission: €1.80; Open 10:00 - 19:30 in summer).
Wondering where the old lighthouse stands? The 13th-century Mangturm (Old Lighthouse) is at the northern edge of the port. Though not generally open to the public, there are Märchenstunden (Fairy Tale hours) in August for children.
Across from Neuer Leuchtturm is the iconic Bayerische Löwe (Bavarian Lion). The lion is the symbol for the region of Bavaria and this one is carved from Kehlheim sandstone and weighs in at 50 tons. It presides over the harbor on a pedestal with the Roman numerals MDCCCLVI marking the date it was erected, 1856.
02 of 09
Wander Lindau's Charming Altstadt
Stop at the tourist office just off the harbor before heading into the Altstadt (historic town center). You can use their free maps to navigate the charming cobblestone streets and medieval half-timbered houses, or just allow yourself to wander through the city center. There are also free guided tours.
Maximilianstrasse is the main promenade and is pedestrians only. There are family-run shops, quaint cafes and restaurants, as well as row after row of beautiful homes. Admire the decorative gables then step inside to enjoy the ceiling paintings that tell stories of the town. Pass the Mezg (butchers) in the west, then Brodplatz (bakers), then walk through the Alten Markt (old market).
The 15th-century Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) is also off this street. Decorated with frescoes of cherubs, this is the city's most important buildings. Continue along the south side for more paintings and a historic sundial, as well as the entrance to the Library of the Ehemals Reichsstädtischen... Bibliothek (Former Imperial Free City) which holds over 13,000 historical books, including some of very earliest printed documents and an example of the first complete German translation of the Bible by Martin Luther.
Merchant house Haus zum Cavazzen is the most beautiful Baroque building in Lindau and holds the Stadtmuseum (city museum).
Another stand-out building is the Romanesque Peterskirche. This church is over 1,000 years old with frescos of the Passion of Christ.
One of the last must-see buildings in Lindau is the fairy tale Diebsturm (Thieves Tower) next to the church. It was constructed in 1380 and was much less endearing as the town prison.
03 of 09
The best views of Lindau are from the water. Jump on one of the many ferries that travels between the cities on the lake like Bregenz, Konstanz or Friedrichshafen and cross over to Austria and Switzerland.
Fares are usually just a few euros and they sell snacks and drinks on board. Make sure to bring your camera to take pictures of the entry to the harbor and Alps.
If you have more than sight-seeing on your itinerary, different tours also offer plated lunch and dinner, as well as cruises with live entertainment and themes.
Two routes allow for cars to cross the lake by ferry: Konstanz to Meersburg is the quickest and Romanshorn to Friedrichshafen is slightly longer at 45 minutes.
04 of 09
You can't talk about visiting an island without talking about the beach. Some people jump in year-round, but summer season (mid-May to mid-September) is the best. Along with lake-access, at least four Freibads (open-air pools) are available. You can also rent a boat and spend your time rowing around the aquamarine waters.
To travel around the island, many visitors choose to bike. There are multiple bike rentals and paths as well as the opportunity to travel onto the mainland and continue riding around the massive lake.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
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06 of 09
Around the harbor and Maximilianstrasse there are plenty of restaurants to choose from...perhaps too many to choose from. Each features cozy environments near the water, but few offer a better sense of gemütlichkeit than the cozy wine tavern of Engelstube. Enjoy excellent service and eat fish straight from Bodensee.
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With so many fantastic locations nearby, Lindau is the ideal location to base your travels. You don't even need to hop in the car (or boat) to reach Bregenz, Austria. The town is within walking distance on the eastern shores of the lake. It features a summer music festival, Bregenzer Festspiele, with a magnificent stage right on the water. There is also a cable car that takes visitors up the Pfänder.
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Mainau is a tiny, nearby island that is renowned for its gardens and greenhouse butterfly sanctuary. It is both practical as a model of excellent environmental practices and beautiful as one of the main tourist attractions of Lake Constance. Stop to smell the nearly 30,000 rose bushes, find some shade beneath the150 year old giant sequoias and step into the 18th century castle.
The island is open every day from sunrise to sunset, rain or shine (shorter hours for the interior may apply). Entry in summer is €19.90 (winter discounted to €9.50).Continue to 9 of 9 below.
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In such a spectacular setting, you should consider staying in the magnificent outdoors. Nearby camp site Gitzenweiler Hof site has been voted the second best in Germany with tent, caravan, motor home and cabins available. There is a family friendly vibe and active entertainment and activity program.
Prefer something with beds? Use our partner hotel guide to find your temporary home in Lindau.