Visitors to the beautiful lakeside town of Meersburg may get the feeling they have stepped into a fairytale, from the romantic medieval castle that stands high on the hill above the town to the narrow, terraced streets that are filled with half-timbered houses painted in bright colours, alongside elegant Baroque buildings. The town is surrounded by lush, green vineyards, while the waters of Lake Constance, known locally as the Bodensee, lap gently on the shore.
Meersburg is situated in the southwest of Germany in the state of Baden-Württemberg. Meersburg lies in the district of Bodenseekreis on the northern, German, shore of Lake Constance. The opposite side of the lake is a part of Switzerland. The city is divided into two parts; the lower town and upper town (Unterstadt and Oberstadt.) These are connected by a steep, pedestrianised street and by two sets of stone stairs.
What to see
Dungeons, a knight’s hall, towers and turrets – even if you aren’t a history buff, the atmospheric and romantic Altes Schloss are a must-see. This magnificent old castle dates back to the 7th century, and is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Germany. Famous past residents include the German poet, Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, who shared folk tales with the Brothers Grimm. Visitors in the summer months can also enjoy candle-lit concerts of medieval and Renaissance music, played on authentic instruments.
Although its name means New Castle, the Neues Schloss is only new in relation to the Altes Schloss as it was built in 1710. This beautiful Baroque building, with its pink and white façade, began life as a home to the powerful bishop-princes of the region. It now houses several museums, including the Town Gallery, the Dornier Museum and the Tapestry Studio. The castle stands in the hills and its terraced garden offers magnificent views of the city and the lake. The baroque Hall of Mirrors hosts a series of International Palace Music concerts in the summer months, with performances of chamber music and jazz.
A large, modern thermal spring complex offers therapeutic relaxation. A natural mineral spring provides medicinal waters at a temperature of 34°C, and there is also a 36°C whirlpool, solarium, massage, a lounger gallery and terrace. Relax after a hard day’s sightseeing in a range of saunas, steam rooms, Turkish hammams and solariums, and cool down afterwards either in Lake Constance or in the neighbouring outdoor pools.
The lake is a constant presence in the town and there are numerous ways to spend time on or around it.
On the land
Well maintained cycle paths head north and south out of Meersburg. It is possible to ride around the whole lake, a distance of around 170 miles, but shorter rides are ideal for families or for beginners, and the cycle paths are mainly flat. The shores of the lake are also great for strolling or hiking. There are well signposted routes for walkers through the vineyards, particularly enjoyable in the autumn when they are at their most colourful, and numerous walking trails will take you high into the forests and hills.
On the water
Canoes, pedalo boats, kayaks and SUP boards can all be rented in Meersburg, for a memorable day spent relaxing on Lake Constance. The town also has its own yacht school that offers sailing courses, from beginners up to advanced level as well as boat rental. There is a large open-air swimming complex by the lake, next to the thermal springs, which includes a sports pool, a fun pool and two children’s pools. It also has extensive lawns and a restaurant with a beer garden.
In the air
The nearby district capital of Friedrichshafen was where Ferdinand von Zeppelin created his unique airship in the early 20th century, and this region became home to several manufacturers of Zeppelin dirigibles. The company ZLT Zeppelin still produces them today, and a novel and unforgettable way to see the lake is floating high above it in one of their small and modern Zeppelin NTs.
Culture vultures will be spoiled for choice in Meersburg, as the city has several fascinating and unusual individual museums as well as those housed in the old and new castles. Here are just a few of our favourites.
Formerly known as The Wine-Growing Museum, the VINEUM gives a fascinating journey through wine-growing and wine vulture in the region. This attractive museum is housed in the historic Hospital of the Holy Spirit and includes many interactive displays, including a Brothers Grimm fairy tale drinks table.
The Bible Gallery
This intriguing religious museum is housed in a former Dominican Convent and looks at the Bible and its effect on society and on art. It includes many multimedia and interactive displays.
The Little Prince’s House (Fürstenhäusle) lies in the vineyards in the upper part of the city. Once a Prince-Bishop’s house, it was purchased by the poet, Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, who lived in the Altes Schloss. It is a now a museum dedicated to her and is also known as the Droste Museum. It contains many of her manuscripts and personal possessions. Even for those unfamiliar with the poet, the museum gives a fascinating glimpse into a bygone world and has informative guided tours.
The Zeppelin Museum
The region’s involvement with the unique rigid airships called Zeppelins is explored in this fascinating museum. It can be found in the castle square in the centre of Meersburg. Artifacts and displays document the creation and development of these extraordinary airships.
Best time to visit Meersburg
This picture book city is understandably popular with tourists and it becomes very busy in the summer months. The centre of town is completely pedestrianised, however, this makes it easy to walk around and explore. The Bodensee region has a temperate climate, so the weather is pleasant from April to October. Spring is a good time to visit to see the blossoms and the carpets of flowers, and autumn brings wine-lovers to sample the new harvest and take part in the Bodensee wine festival held here annually in September. While some venues and attractions close in the winter months, there are unique events like the Christmas Market and the Advent Concert that also make it a wonderful winter destination.
What to eat
With the clear waters of Lake Constance nearby, unsurprisingly, fish is an important part of the cuisine in this city. There are over 35 species of fish living the lake, and few things are better than a plate of freshly-caught local fish eaten on a terrace overlooking the water. Try Felchen, a salmon-like fish that is eaten poached (Essigsud) or baked with almonds (Mullerin). Pair this with a glass of local lake wine (Seewein) or with the area’s famous rose, Weissherbst. As a change from fish, sample the traditional ravioli dish, Maultaschen, or enjoy some local pancakes (Pfannkuchen), either filled with meat or shredded into the local soup, Flädlesuppe.
Where to stay
As a popular tourist destination, Meersburg has a wide variety of hotels, guesthouses, holiday flats and inns, both in the city and in the surrounding countryside. Here is just a small selection of the top-rated places to stay.
This ivy-covered tavern is over 500 years old and has a perfect location in the centre of Meersburg. Rooms feature traditional Biedermeier furniture, and the wood-paneled dining room serves local specialities like fish stew.
Hotel Zum Schiff
Set in a listed building, this historic hotel has a stunning lakeside setting with wonderful views across the lake to Switzerland. Enjoy fresh local produce in the restaurant, which has a terrace overlooking the water.
Romantik Hotel Residenz am See
Another hotel with a lakeside view, this luxury boutique hotel lives up to its name with a romantic setting nestled between the vineyards and the lake. All rooms have a balcony and are decorated with Mediterranean flair.
There is a car ferry that goes across the lake to Constance and many pleasure boats travel to other lakeside towns such as Lindau, Bregenz and Uberlingen as well as Constance.
A small road, the B33, connects the city to the larger B31 that goes from Breisach to Lindau. Several bus routes travel between the Lake Constance towns and there is a shuttle bus within the town.
Bodensee Airport lies 15km east of Meersburg and buses and trains run from the airport to the city.