When cruises lose you cool points and European group tours sound equally scary, a long weekend to Lake Constance will feed your wanderlusting soul (mostly with cheese) and with Switzerland and Liechtenstein on the itinerary, you certainly won’t be compromising on swankiness.
With 270km of sparkling shoreline dotted with vineyards and charming towns, Lake Constance – shared by Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein – is central Europe’s answer to the French Riviera.
For the most effortless start to your lake getaway, jet into Friedrichshafen in Germany with Lufthansa. The town isn’t particularly touristy but it is just 20 minutes from Lindau Island, a must-visit in the region.
The island, in its winding cobblestone streets lined with historic buildings and cute cheese stores, is quintessentially European, and the storybook narrow lanes and squares in the sunshine give off some serious Mediterranean vibes.
Eat & Drink: While on Lindau, don’t miss the cheese and wine paradise that is Käse Ecke – no matter the time of day, a tasting with entertaining owner and resident Cheese Sommelier (dream job?!) Micahel Bode is a delightful experience that’ll set the tone for the rest of the trip – adiós beach body! You can get things back on track for dinner at the highly recommended Restaurant Valentin, where the setting is as romantic as the name. This divine restaurant whose signature – perhaps unexpectedly in the land of the sausage – is vegetarian and vegan food, serves world-class farm-to-table style gourmet food all made from local seasonal produce.
Check-in: Relais & Chateaux’s Villino for countryside charm and excellent cuisine, or Hotel Bad Schachen for old school glamour – think beautiful gardens, 20s-style lidos and breakfast right on the lake. Very Grand Budapest-esque!
From Lindau, continue around the lake by ferry to Bregenz in Austria, a ride just long enough for you to get that perfect top deck, wind-in-your-hair sunshine shot against the iconic backdrop of the region’s majestic mountains.
This cultural town is a summertime dream with long promenades framed by manicured gardens and even a panoramic cable car that’ll take you up the Pfänder for spectacular views over the Swiss Alps and Lake Constance, or Bodensee in German.
Do: Make sure to time your trip well to coincide with the annual Bregenz performing arts Festival held every July and August (19 July – 20 August 2017). The highlight is an impressive floating stage on the lake where operas are performed throughout the festival. For the next two summers, Carmen will be running, and with tickets starting at €30, this experience will leave you with more than enough Riviera budget to comfortably survive in swish Switzerland.
Check-in: Hotel Schwärzler – Rooms are spacious, minimalist and contemporary, with tons of space for beauty products and clothes. The hotel also features an indoor pool and sauna area for you to experience some of the local culture. Tip: do read up about sauna etiquette and keep your eyes to yourself! You won’t find any signs explaining the norms or warning you about the sheer number of wieners out on display, and you don’t need to get even more hot and bothered when temperatures are already at 90c!
If the sauna gets your appetite all fired up, head to dinner at the nearby Restaurant Gebhardsberg. This restaurant is quite literally a castle on the hill overlooking Bregenz and the lake, and you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the (hopefully) spectacular, dynamic sunset while you dine amongst a mix of locals and international jetsetters.
From Bregenz, travel an hour south of Lake Constance to the world’s sixth smallest country: Liechtenstein. With just 37,000 residents and only 24km from end to end, this country is full of quirks and absolutely not full of tourists which makes the place even more endearing. It’s worth finding a local guide to give you an introduction to this mini nation as there are too many bizarre facts to list here!
Drink: If you’re keen to try wine from Liechtenstein, it’s only available in the country itself as so little is produced in total. So, if visiting a new country and tasting wines approved by royals all in the same day sounds like a plan, make your way to the Prince of Liechtenstein’s winery in Vaduz (I did promise you swankiness) for a degustation. Naturally, the wealthiest monarch in Europe has a solid taste in wine, and the unusual white pinot noir will not disappoint! The Prince is also well-known for his vast art collection which is on show at Liechtenstein Museum if you’re interested to see what a $5 billion net worth can buy you.
St Gallen, Switzerland
When you’re feeling tingly, head for the border! St Gallen, just a stone’s throw away, is Switzerland’s principal city on Lake Constance and there’s something about it that’s noticeably more chic than others in the vicinity. The streets are spacious and well-kept, and the locals are effortlessly stylish in their pastel shirts, silk scarves and Tod’s; it makes total sense that St Gallen is secretly famous in the fashion industry for its textiles. Big names from Chanel and Christian Dior to Yves Saint Laurent work with embroidered fabrics from the city and Michelle Obama even decided to wear St Gallen embroidery at the inauguration ceremony of her husband in 2009. St Gallen also claims to be home to the most delicious sausage in all of Switzerland – try one of the best at Marketpltz restaurant in the city centre.
Check-in: Hotel Dom – This design hotel has an excellent location, just minutes from the city’s key sights by foot. Rooms are sleek, contemporary and comfortable, and well-appointed with L’Occitane products and powerful hairdryers – hurrah!
While in St Gallen, a visit to the remarkably grand Abbey Library should be top of the list even if sightseeing isn’t your thing. This rococo style library and World Heritage Site is dramatic to say the least, and a quick stop here in the name of culture will make you feel less guilty about that incessant urge to munch your way through Swiss chocolate all afternoon.
If the countryside calls, travel to nearby Weinfelden by train, the starting point of a 9km, approximately 3-hour, wine hike (Trendwatch 2017!). Pick up a “tasting backpack” at the station with everything you might need for the trip and set off to the vineyards where you’ll find “wine safes” dotted along the route which can be unlocked for tastings with a secret code in your backpack. What an ingenious way to explore the Swiss hills and of course earn and burn those extra calories!
Mainau Island, Germany
To round off a potentially ambitious trip, if you’re blessed with a warm day, spend a relaxing afternoon on Mainau Island. This flowery wonderland and impressive botanical garden is the perfect spot to bask in the sunshine, enjoy the colourful flowers, and flick through your photo album undoubtedly featuring many a lakeside selfie and wine tasting Boomerang!
Warning: If you manage to cram all of this into a few days, you may just need another Riviera vacation to recover – oh it’s a hard life!