Konstanz

Travel Guide Europe Germany Baden-Württemberg Konstanz

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Introduction

Konstanz is the biggest city on the shores of Bodensee (Lake Constance). In fact, it is also one of the nicest and should be included in every traveller's list of places to visit when they are in the area. People have settled in the area for at least 2,200 years. Once a Roman settlement, the strategically important town at the place where river Rhine leaves Lake Constance grew continuously over the centuries. Its position at important trade routes only added to its importance. 600 years ago, Konstanz had one of its most important moments: the election of Pope Martin V was the only conclave ever to take place north of the Alps. Much of Konstanz's charm dates back to these times - the old city centre is full of well-preserved medieval houses. Fortunately, Konstanz was spared from bombing in WW II, mostly because of its proximity to neutral Switzerland. As the border between Germany and Switzerland ran (and still runs) through the middle of town and Switzerland was strongly in favour of sparing Konstanz, history was kind to the city. Nowadays, this means that Konstanz is one of very few bigger cities in Germany which still have some medieval charm.

Apart from its nice old town, the location on the shores of Lake Constance is hard to top. With the Alps as a background, the view over the lake never gets boring and attracts many a visitor to the city. Konstanz also serves as a good base for tours into the surrounding area - the Alps are only an hour away by car, Switzerland a mere few minutes, the Black Forest and the Swabian Alps are accessible within 90 minutes. Other nice places around Lake Constance can also be reached by ship.

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Neighbourhoods

Konstanz's most likeable area is its old town with plenty of medieval or slightly newer houses, interesting shops, a multitude of bars and restaurants and a vibrant nightlife. The lakeshore is also appealing with lots of people gathering around the famous "Imperia" statue next to the harbour at night. A few kilometres away from the centre is the world-famous flower island Mainau which should be on every visitor's bucket list. Other parts of Konstanz are more residential. Visitors should also consider going to Switzerland for a while as the border between Germany and Switzerland runs through the middle of the city.

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Sights and Activities

  • The Münster (Cathedral) (In the old town, at Münsterplatz). Construction completed on the North Tower in about 1100 AD. Built between 1100 and 1854, the church is a magnificent example of architectural styles of the centuries. Climb up the tower for a fantastic view of Konstanz and the Bodensee.

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Getting There

By Plane

Konstanz has no commercial airport. The closest airports are:

  • Zurich Airport (Switzerland). By car 1 hour to Konstanz. By train 1 to 1.5 hours to Konstanz. There is a direct train from Zurich airport to Konstanz once an hour, and another train with a connection in Weinfelden once an hour.
  • Friedrichshafen Airport (Germany). By car 1 hour to Konstanz (take the car ferry between Meersburg and Konstanz). By train approx. 2 hours to Konstanz. By boat approx 1 hour to Konstanz (take the train from Friedrichshafen airport to Friedrichshafen Hafen and get the Katamaran to Konstanz).
  • Stuttgart Airport (Germany) (STR IATA). By car 2 hours to Konstanz. By train 2.5 to 3 hours to Konstanz.
  • EuroAirport (Basel, Switzerland). About 2 hours by car. By train, 2 hours from Konstanz first to the Basel Bad Bahnhof (in Germany) then about 45 minutes by regular tram/bus to the airport via a transfer at the Basel SBB station on the Swiss side.

By Train

Konstanz has multiple train stations. Konstanz Hauptbahnhof is the main station and is located in the old town. It's the last German stop before the Swiss border, and is therefore served by both German and Swiss trains. Hourly direct trains from Zurich Main Station (1hr 20min) go via Zurich Airport. Zurich Main Station has excellent connections to the rest of Switzerland as well as Italy, Austria and France.

The other Konstanz train stations are located in the city districts of Petershausen, Fürstenburg and Wollmatingen.

Most places around Lake Constance can be reached by train: Romanshorn, St. Gallen, Stein am Rhein and Schaffhausen can all be reached with a change in Kreuzlingen (which is the "Swiss suburb" of Konstanz, just across the border), whereas Friedrichshafen, Lindau and other German places around the lake require a change in Radolfzell and take a long time - the boat can often be quicker. Bregenz in Austria is best reached via Switzerland - change in Rorschach and St Margrethen.

To reach Konstanz from the rest of Germany is time-consuming. There are direct trains to Karlsruhe (3 hours on a scenic route through the Black Forest), but other connections require a change in Offenburg (for Frankfurt and cities further north), Radolfzell (Ulm, Augsburg, München and beyond) or Singen (Stuttgart).

By Car

From Germany: from the A81, take the B33 into Konstanz. From Switzerland: the A7 leads straight into Konstanz.

By Boat

Possible from many cities on Lake Constance. The fastest connections are:

  • Car ferry from Meersburg, runs several times an hour from 06:00 until 24:00, and once an hour from 00:00 until 06:00. The crossing takes a mere 15 mins.
  • Katamaran from Friedrichshafen, runs once an hour from 06:00 until 19:00, taking around an hour.

Bodensee Schifffahrt runs several services across Lake Constance which may take longer, but include more cities. Apart from Meersburg and Friedrichshafen, the ferries to and from Konstanz call in. al. in Überlingen (1.5 hours), Lindau in Bavaria (2 hours) and Bregenz in Vorarlberg, Austria (4 hours). The timetable is quite intricate and not all departures include all stops.

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Getting Around

By Car

Taxis are nearly always available in front of the main train station.

By Public Transport

The bus system is fast and efficient. The bus costs €2.10 (adult) or €1.05 (child). A day ticket is €4.00.

By Foot

Konstanz's centre (old town) is largely pedestrian and very walkable.

By Bike

There are bicycle paths all over the city. Bicycles can be rented from near the train station (about 100m north of the main station building) for €12 per day or less.

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Eat

Konstanz has a rich variety of all kinds of restaurants, cafes, bistros and bars. Due to the proximity of the Swiss border, prices are higher than in other cities (mentally add 2 Euros to every main dish you are eating in other German cities). In summertime most restaurants offer outside sitting and eating, in the evening hours it is hard to find a place, occasionally.

A yearly published magazine "Die Seezunge" covers many of the Konstanz eateries and is available in tabac shops and kiosks.

A good start to discover the Konstanz restaurant scene is to start at the central marketplace Marktstätte.

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Sleep

  • Hotel Hirschen, Bodanplatz 9 (Just south of the old city centre), ☎ +49 7531-12826-0. The proprietors speak English and can arrange for nearby parking for a modest fee. Single room € 75 to 85, double room € 102 to 122, triple room € 135 to 160. edit
  • Hotel Graf Zeppelin, St. Stephansplatz 15 (in the old town), ☎ +49 7531 691369-0. Single: starting at €70. Rooms for 2, 3 or 4 people starting at €45, €38 and €35 per person, respectively. edit
  • Bayrischer Hof, Rosgartenstraße 30 (right in the centre of the old town), ☎ +49 7531 1304-0. Single: €68-€85, double: €100-€137, parking €8 extra. edit
  • Steinburger Island Hotel, at the end of 'Auf der Insel' street. This hotel is located on a small island in a former Dominican Cloister. Accessible by bridge from the old town. edit
  • Otto-Moericke-Turm youth hostel, Zur Allmannshöhe 16 (north end), ☎ +49 7531 32260. Check-in: From 15:00, check-out: 08:00 to 10:00. Approx. €22 to €35 per night.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafes (rates €1.50 to €5 per hour) are starting to become less common due to widespread offers of free wifi by shops, restaurants or cafes. Sometimes it requires minimum consumption but usually it's free within the premises. Phone shops will often offer internet access, too. In general hotels offer internet access. In several cities, projects exist to provide free "community" hotspots for wireless networking. Passenger lounges at some airports and central railway stations also provide internet access to their customers.

Several pre-paid SIMs allow Internet access for a monthly flat fee, for example those available at Tchibo coffee stores (o2 network, €10/month limited to 500 MB, €20/month for 5 GB) or Aldi (E-Plus network). A regular O2 sim card, which can be used for calls and text messages, is €15 and another €15 buys 1GB of data valid for 1 month. Vodafone offers a prepaid sim card for €25 which includes €22.5 of credit, out of which you can get 300 MB of data for 2 days for €15 and be left with €7.5 of credit.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The international call prefix in Germany is 00. To dial out of Germany, dial 00, followed by country code, area code, and the telephone number (for example 00 44 1234 567890). If you're using a mobile phone, simply add the plus sign "+" before the country code to call out of Germany (for example +44 1234 567890). The general emergency number is 112 and the additional number for less emergent issues for police is 110.

Mobile phone coverage on the four networks (T-Mobile, Vodafone, E-Plus and o2) is excellent across the whole country. UMTS (3G data and HSDPA) and EDGE is also available. UMTS is still somewhat limited to urban areas. All mobile providers use GSM technology on the 900 and 1800 MHz frequency ranges. If you stay for a longer period of time, consider buying a prepaid phone card from one of the mobile phone companies; you won't have trouble finding a T-Mobile (in a "T-Punkt"), Vodafone, E-Plus or O2 store in any major shopping area. In most supermarket chains (for example ALDI), there are prepaid SIM cards from their own virtual providers available. These are normally quite cheap to buy, but expensive for international calls (around €1–2/min), but incoming calls are always free and SMS cost around €0.09–0.19. They are available at: Aldi, Lidl, Penny, Netto, Tchibo, Rewe, toom. A registration via Internet or (expensive) phone call is necessary after buying to activate the SIM card.

The cheapest way to call abroad from Germany is to use the internet cafés run by immigrants. They sell special calling cards that give the best rate to certain countries as well as offer cheap international calls from phone booths. It is also the cheapest way to call landlines in Germany.

Post

Germany's postal system is very efficient, their logistics branch DHL is one of the best companies in this field world-wide, with domestic post or within a radius of 400 kilometres, send within a day. The website of Deutsche Post has an online calculator for postage fees as well as a post office finder. Stamps are available at post offices and sometimes at newsagents or shops selling postcards. Also stamp vending machines can be found at a lot of places around the cities. You can purchase every stamp you need from this machines. They are unique as they accept every coin from 1 cent to 2 euro but change is only given in stamps. It costs about €40 to send a small package to Australia and €1.70 to send an old-fashioned letter to any place in the world outside of Europe. Within Germany, sending postcards costs €0.45 and standard letters €0.55, within Europe it is €0.65 for a postcard, standard letters to places in Europe cost €0.75. Outside Europe, the prices for sending a postcard or standard letter are €1 and €1.70 respectively. Although you will find the old post offices (mainly in the city centre), most of the smaller neighbourhood post offices are part of a small tobacco shop or grocery store. For larger package, you might consider competitive private companies like UPS, DHL or TNT.

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This is version 5. Last edited at 12:39 on May 7, 18 by Utrecht. 6 articles link to this page.

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