The Lake Constance Bike Route


If you look at a map of Europe, and follow the River Rhine through Switzerland to the border with Austria and Germany, you will find a large lake. The locals call it the Bodensee, but the English speaking world knows it as Lake Constance. The best known places on the lake are the university town of Constance (Konstanz) in Germany and cultural Bregenz in Austria, the latter being the location for a famous summer opera festival. The western, Swiss side has no well known towns and is more rural than much of the rest of the shoreline, but is just as much worth visiting.

Even if you have heard of Lake Constance, you probably don't know that it has a cycle route right round it, the Bodensee-Radweg. 170 miles long, it never strays far from the water's edge and follows mostly traffic-free, well surfaced paths with the occasional stretch of quiet road. As you would expect of a route round a lake, it is almost completely flat. The level, safe path, coupled with the beautiful views of the water, the many attractions and pretty villages to visit and the opportunity to experience three countries in the space of a few days, make this an ideal spot for a cycling holiday.

You will share the paths with roller-bladers and walkers as well as other cyclists, but if you avoid weekends at the height of summer it will never get too busy. The weather in this part of central Europe tends to be warm and sunny from May right through to September, and the presence of a large body of water tempers temperatures so that it seldom gets unbearingly hot in summer. Nor does it get quite as cold in winter as it does just a few miles away, but this is a resort area and, like most holiday resorts, it has a somewhat lonely and closed air about it until late spring. So plan your trip for May, June or September if you can, when the ferries and pleasure boats are working to their summer timetables, the weather is pleasant for cycling and the lakeside hotels, camp sites, restaurants and cafes are all open. Either drive and bring your own bike - Constance is about an eight hour journey from Calais - or fly to Zurich and take a train (or better still, fly to Friedrichshafen, which is right on the lake) and then hire a bike locally.

You should allow at least 5-6 days to complete the distance, longer if you want plenty of time to visit Lake Constance's many attractions. Among the more notable ones are the peninsula town of Lindau, the Zeppelin museum at Friedrichshafen, a reconstruction of a Bronze Age stilted village at Unteruhldingen, the gardens of the island of Mainau and the Sea Life aquarium at Constance. Bregenz has smart shops (including a Wolford factory outlet) and there are excellent restaurants serving fish and other local produce all around the lake. If cycling isn't enough action for you, water sports galore are on offer in the summer. Alternatively, experience the lakeside scenery from the water by taking a ferry ride. Just about every lakeside settlement of any size is served by ferries which run to a strict timetable - one thing the three countries bordering the lake share is a reputation for efficiency. The boats will happily carry bikes, and this can be a good way of catching up with your schedule if you have perhaps lingered too long over lunch. The ferries also provide a useful Plan B in the event that the weather turns bad, you have a problem with your bike or you are just too tired to carry on to wherever you had planned to spend the night.

So, if you've ever thought about trying a cycling holiday, whether on your own, as a couple, with friends or the family, make this the year you tackle the Lake Constance cycle route.

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