A day at Mainau Island

Lake Constance
Lake Constance

A day at Mainau Island

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

The vast body of water called "Bodensee" by German speakers and known as Lake Constance in English has attracted international tourists for over a century. With spectacular views to snow-capped Alpine peaks and shores lapping up against three countries, Germany’s largest freshwater lake offers outstanding natural beauty, history and endless sporty activities in and around clear, cool waters that eventually flow into the mighty Rhine.

When planning days out, Lake Constance’s visitors face a dilemma. They could stroll the streets of cosmopolitan Konstanz, sample locally caught fish delicacies in the restaurants of medieval Meersburg, or explore Stone Age dwellings built on piles in Unteruhldingen.

There’s one excursion that tops many travelers’ to-do list. A single day on the island of Mainau is enough to convince visitors of the aptness of its nickname: Blumeninsel, or Flower Island. Just two-thirds of a mile long at its broadest, the island packs an outsized punch in terms of diversity of species and blossoming beauty throughout much of the year.

Walk Through Paradise

Mainau is best explored by means of a circular walking tour. From parking on the mainland, a footbridge leads to the island; once across, turn right. Kids will fall for Children’s Land, where a reproduction of an old-time lakeside village offers splashing and climbing fun and a farmyard tempts with pony rides and a petting zoo.

The island’s southern tip is a gardener’s delight with its Italian Floral Water Cascade, descending granite boulders surrounded by Mediterranean vegetation; Lakeside Garden with Floral Clock, in which flowers are planted in accordance with the time they open and shut and the Roof Garden, where shrubs and bushes frame a postcard-perfect view over glimmering waters.

Baroque Beauty and a Tropical Delight

Mainau’s architectural highlights are found slightly inland. The wave-shaped glass Palm House houses exotic palm species. The Palace Church of St. Marien is a Baroque jewel with artistic masterpieces dedicated to Mary’s life. The Palace of the Teutonic Order, completed in 1746, impresses with its symmetry and sweeping staircase. While most of its lavish rooms are only open for special events, its cafe is open to the public.

Another Mainau gem looms large. The Butterfly House transports visitors into a tropical paradise in which 120 species of butterflies flutter about freely. Temperatures maintained at around 80°F keep its colorful denizens flourishing. Budding scientists can observe the butterfly’s life cycle.  

Blossoms Galore

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