Stop into the cathedral when you're in town - the wood carving on the doors is very detailed and beautiful. The inside of the church is impressive, too. Be sure to wander down into the crypt area below the altar. There's a much smaller, more intimate chapel down there, and some pieces from a previous site they dug up when building this church.
On a pier jutting out into the harbor you can see a giant revolving statue of Imperia, a voluptuous prostitue. She holds the leaders of state and church in the palm of her hand - a political statement if I ever saw one! ; ) I think she's based on a real woman from the past. Peter Lenk is the artist - he has a number of statues around Germany.
The Rosgarten museum is one of the *must* things to do and see in Konstanz. It is located in the former butchers' guildhall, erected in 1304, the structure of course with several changes over the centuries. Since 1870 it hosts the museum.
On the ground floor you can see a wonderful model of the city Konstanz around 1600. The model was built 1862/63! In the other hall on the ground floor pieces of the stunning paleontological and mineralogical collection are on display. Among them is the largest collection of the so called "Pfahlbaukultur", a civilisation that lived around Lake Konstanz 9 - 12,000 years B.C.
Upstairs are the fantastic, very beautiful rooms from past centuries: the guild hall with wooden panels on ceilings and walls, carvings, furniture. You can see excellent works of art from mostly medieval times but also from Baroque and later.
Again upstairs, under the roof, is a very interesting exhibit about Konstanz from WWI to the end of WWII. Well done, the atmosphere is perfectly captured.
After all the sightseeing don't miss the lovely cafe in the same building. See my separate tip under "Restaurants"!
Tue-Fri 10-18 h
Sat/Sun 10-17 h
Admission fee: 3 Euro, Wednesday after 3 pm free!
The town hall is a complex of two buildings forming two courtyards. The facade to Kanzleistraße is decorated with frescos from 1864 depicting scenes from the town's history. The buildings, however, are much older - the guild house of the weavers and grocers was turned into the town hall 1589 - 94. The Renaissance style is clearly visible in the courtyard, especially on the facade of the back building.
Don't hesitate to open one of the doors and walk inside - it's a public building, after all. I even had a chance to peek inside the Gothic council's hall (pic 5) where the city council still meets nowadays.
Definitely walk through to the second courtyard which is a green oasis in the old town. Quiet, with benches to rest (picnic!). You can leave the courtyard through another door in the back, getting to the Blätzle square with modern buildings (shopping malls).
Another work of Peter Lenk, created in 1990, is the Laube fountain, often called Lenk fountain. It is not just another fountain, it is designed as a triumphal arch with a number of sculptures caricaturing the bad habits of nowadays society - like the obsessions with cars and sex, vanity etc.
I adore this monument. I've never seen something similar. Hat off to the sculptor, he did a great job. Take your time and watch the details closely. And you might feel like looking into a mirror, maybe ... :-)
The old town in Konstanz is an overlooked gem. It can, in its quality and state of preservation, be compared to the towns in lucky Switzerland which have seen neither war nor destruction for 200 years. There are an amazing number of houses with even medieval origins. Entire streets, entire quarters are preserved in their historical appearance. There are a few modern architectural ‘sins’ but they do not seriously disturb the picture.
This absolutely exceptional for a German town. How come old Konstanz survived World War II unharmed?
It did thanks to the cleverness of the magistrate. Everywhere else in Germany during the war the cities were darkened and all lights turned off in order not to provide easy targets for allied air raids. However, Konstanz said, “Our centre is located on the left bank of the Rhine adjacent to the Swiss border – let’s leave the lights on so the bomber pilots think this is Swiss territory and leave us alone.” The trick obviously worked well.
Grab your camera and stroll along the streets and lanes. Read the old names and dates on the houses. These inscriptions are much younger and most houses have been refurbished in the run of the centuries but many of them still contain medieval parts.
The lanes north of Münster square are a bit off the beaten path and rather quiet. Apart from a few shops and pubs this is a residential area. Few visitors venture here, but it is worth a closer look. This quarter is almost entirely preserved in its pre-war architecture. Most houses have medieval origins.
Niederburg used to be possession of the bishop. The settlement developed around the cathedral hill in the early middle ages. Its inhabitants were the servants and workers of the cathedral, the bishop’s court and the canons’ houses.
The smallest island in Bodensee is not the Mainau, as one might think. The smallest island is a very tiny one just offshore from Konstanz, divided from the mainland by no more than a few metres of water.
The island has been inhabited since prehistoric times. In the 13th century Dominican monks settled here and built their monastery. The church reform under Emperor Joseph II led to the closing of the convent in 1785. The buildings including the church were then used as a cotton manufacture. In the late 19th century the complex was turned into a hotel. The former church now serves as dining hall, the cloister serves as lobby, the convent buildings contain guest rooms. A series of murals in the cloister, painted by Carl von Häberlin in the late 19th century, present events from the history of Konstanz, including a picture of the cotton factory in the former monastery building.
The Inselhotel is Konstanz’s first address, if not the most upscale hotel around the entire lake. In case you intend to stay there, be prepared for steep prices. It must be pleasant to stay on the quiet island and enjoy the view of the lake but this requires a bigger purse than mine…
Take your camera... The lakes look different every day. With changing weather conditions the light and colours of water and sky change and provide fascinating effects.
I was most impressed with early autumn (October). The weather was not always great and we got our share of rain and fog. But the golden autumn sun finding its way through the fading mist, or the clouds opening to reveal a bit of blue sky and some sunrays, made my best photos.
Apologies - these photos here are only scans from prints, far from the quality of the originals.
Right across from the main portal of the Minster church is a modern annex to the Wessenberg house, now the entrance for the public to this building. The complex is home of the city's public library (in the modern annex) and the Wessenberg gallery with a permanent and also temporary exhibitions. In the quiet courtyard is a nice cafe.
Originally the Wessenberg house was built 1641. Inside nice stucco ceilings and fireplaces from that era are preserved. It was home of the last bishop of Konstanz, Ignaz Heinrich von Wessenberg - thus the name.
The permanent exhibit was mildly interesting - have seen much better ones. It's mostly drawings formerly owned by the Granddukes of Baden and paintings that von Wessenberg bought - mostly contemporary copies of famous works. Better go and see the originals somewhere else. On the other hand, the temporary exhibit that I saw was pretty interesting: A photo exhibit of students from a local school. Quite nice also the chance to rummage in the city library, no fee and no registration necessary.
The admission to the gallery is 3 Euro.
Opening hours: Tue-Fri 10 - 18 h, Sat/Sun 10 - 17 h
Three of the city towers that once were part of the fortifications are still preserved. Two of them are right by the Rhine river, at the northern end of the old town.
The western of the two towers is called Powder Tower. It was built 1321 by the Jews as their contribution for the construction of the fortifications. Ironically (and sadly) Jews were held for ransom in this tower between 1430 and 1443.
Farther east, right by the big bridge, is the Rhine Gate Tower from the 15th century, parts of it dating from the 13th century. The gate led to the Rhine bridge, the first one built in medieval times, replaced by a larger one in 1585 that burned down 1856. A modern bridge was built in short distance closer to the lake in 1863 - enlarged a couple of times it is still there nowadays. The Rhine Gate Tower is massive sandstone on the riverside but timber framed on the city side. It is home of the Fasnacht (carnival) museum. Not my cup of tea :-)
Between the two towers you see four sandstone statues from the 19th century depicting Dukes of Baden and Bishops of Konstanz. Another statue, right in front of the Rhine Gate Tower, depicts Saint Nepomuk, the saint of the bridges - how appropriate!
The so called "Konzilgebäude" has by far not the most interesting architecture in Konstanz, even less so as it is not accessible for sightseeing - it is now an upscale restaurant and conference place. But it is quite picturesque and seeing it may peek interest of people to know more about its history. That's where it becomes interesting.
Erected in 1388 as building for the merchants (Konstanz was on a main trading route from Milan to Germany) it was the upper hall where in 1417 Pope Martin V was elected during the council of Konstanz - the largest conference in medieval times with about 50,000 participants. The council had historic significance. With the election of the new Pope the schism of the three Popes (John XXIII, Benedict XIII, Gregor XII) was overcome. The sad part of the council was the execution of Jan Hus, though.
When I visited construction works went on in the building. I saw a sign with "Restoration" on it, but I guess its more redesign for larger conferences and more upscale dining in the future. Anyway, the average tourist won't be able to see the interior anyway.
My favourite place in Konstanz is the tree-lined lake promenade that stretches east from the Rhine bridge. It starts off with some very beautiful turn-of-the-century townhouses while later gardens with beautiful single houses dominate the scene. There are flower beds, benches where you can rest and enjoy the views of the lake, the boats, the old town silhouette and - weather co-operating - the Alps in the far distance.
Soon you'll pass the Casino, a dependancy of the one in Baden-Baden, with nice garden and restaurant. Two upscale hotels follow, finally the Villa Prym vis-a-vis the yacht harbour with very beauitful garden. It was built for an entrepreneur in 1908 and is now occupied by the Yachting Club and the College of Communication Design. You're free to walk up to the villa and watch the stunning Art Nouveau frescos on the facade.
At this place the promenade turns into a small path that follows the shore of the lake. It's pure nature from there on, no landscaping design. I walked it to the new Thermal Bath where I caught the bus back into town. There's also a pier there from which boats go back to Konstanz old town (infrequently).
I almost missed this beautiful place. On the way back from Konstanz-Staad (where I gave up on visiting Meersburg due to lack of time) I got off the bus and decided to visit this chapel. Of course a thunderstorm with heavy rain caught me right on top of the hill. But I was on pilgrimage, so what bad could happen ...? LOL
Anyway, the complex of chapel, open wooden praying house, vicarage, cross column and fountain is absolutely picturesque. Even in the rain. The chapel was consegrated 1638 resulting from a vow that the people of Konstanz did in 1632 when they feared the city would be besieged by Swedish troops (as it happened from 1633 on). The Miraculous statue of St. Mary in the chapel dates from Gothic times, though, was brought here after the chapel was completed.
The chapel is always open. Feel free to go inside and watch the (very) small room. The interior is modelled after the original Loreto chapel in Ancona/Italy - altar, crucifixion group and frescos. The vaulted ceiling is blue, just like the sky.
Quite interesting for me was that there is a wooden open praying hall where the pilgrims use to follow the mass that is celebrated in front of the open altar on the western side of the chapel - unfortunately the doors to this altar are only open during mass.
Reichenau is the largest island in Lake Konstanz - 5 km long, 1.5 km wide, pop. 3,000 right on the island. The three churches with their frescos and other works of art are some of the most stunning examples of early Romanesque architecture and art in Germany, thus are listed UNESCO world heritage. The first Benedictine monastery was established 724. Until the 11th century it was a centre of arts and liturgy. Most famous are the books created during that era which are nowadays to find in museums all over the world, hardly on Reichenau anymore.
I did a cycling trip to Reichenau which is pretty easy from Konstanz. Cycling trails separated from roads lead around the lake and also to the island (which is linked to the banks of the lake by a dam), and of course also all over the island. From Konstanz it is about a half hour by bike to Reichenau. Another option is to take the train (stop Reichenau) and bus to the island.
Highlights for visitors are the three Romanesque churches - gorgeous architecture, frescos and other works of art. I had time to visit St. Georg in Oberzell (the first one after getting on the island) and the Minster St. Mary and St. Mark in Mittelzell before it started raining cats and dogs. So I decided to take the shortcut to the boat pier on the southern side of the island and hop on the boat coming from Stein am Rhein (Switzerland) and going back to Konstanz - which is the third option of getting to/from Reichenau. Driving would be an option, too, but it's not half as enjoyable IMO.
Be prepared that St. Georg is only to see with guided tours starting at 10 am, 2 and 4 pm. The Minster church is always open. The treasure chamber costs a small entrance fee, the church itself is free.