It was love at first sight when I set my eyes upon Lindau, a gasp-inducingly beautiful town that charmed me from the minute I visited.
Located in Bavaria, Lindau is an island city best known for its harbour with the Bavarian Lion statue and the Lindau Lighthouse, which both stand proudly for all to see, with the stunning Austrian mountains serving as a jaw-dropping backdrop.
I felt a wave of serenity wash over me as I walked along the promenade next to the marina. I could have spent all day watching the small boats bobbing in the sea and gazing at the mooring poles peeking out of the water, which reminded me of the times I've spent in Venice.
Lindau has a very continental feel to it and boasts a wide variety of cute shops and restaurants, ensuring you won't have a shortage of things to do during your visit. I loved strolling along the streets, happily snapping away at all of the gorgeous buildings just begging to be photographed - especially the pastel buildings, which helped to make even a dreary winter's day feel cheerful.
If you visit Lindau near Christmas time, then you're in for a treat as Lindau's Harbour Christmas market is one of the most magical of the German Christmas markets. On all four advent weekends, the harbour promenade is busy with Christmas shoppers who come to visit the lovingly decorated stalls.
Where to stay in Lindau
During our visit, we stayed at the Hotel Noris, a simple, no-frills hotel within walking distance to all of all of the sights. We found the hotel manager to be very friendly and she was always on hand with a smile to ensure that guests are well looked after.
Alternatively, if you're looking for a hotel with a bit more going on, stay at the Hotel Engel, a 3-star hotel that has a rooftop patio and two restaurants, including one with a Bavarian tavern.
Where to eat in Lindau
If you're into top-notch fish and seafood, then there's only one place to go - Zur Fischerin. This cosy fish restaurant in the heart of the town has a wealth of well prepared dishes to sink your teeth into and is a great place to catch up with friends after exploring all the city has to offer.
When I first saw Konstanz, I arrived during the 'magic hour' - the time at dusk when the light is at its most magical, casting a lovely glow on the surroundings, helping to make Konstanz look all the more beautiful.
Konstanz is historical town located in the Lake Constance region. From the 10th to the 14th century, this historical town located at the intersection of the main routes of commerce between Italy, France and Eastern Europe, was an important emporium for trading fur, linen and spices. Today, it retiains its historical charm but is more well known for its shopping with people coming from near and far to shop at the Lago shopping centre.
What to see in Konstanz
When in Konstanz, go on a walking tour of the harbour and the historic Old Town (Niederburg). When you're out and about, ensure you visit the 9th century cathedral, the largest religious building in the town, which has well preserved gallery-like tunnels in its crypt.
Where to eat in Konstanz
Head to Konzil Restaurant for regional specialities (e.g. local fish and meats) or if you're looking for hearty German cuisine (schnitzel and kasspatzle - basically a pimped-up version of macaroni and cheese - pop by Brauhaus, where you can wash down your meal with one of their craft beers.
Where to stay in Konstanz
The Steigenberger Inselhotel
Once a former convent, today the five-star Steigenberger Inselhotel is a stylish, lake-front hotel on the edge of Lake Constance. The hotel's history becomes evident when one beholds the cloister painted with religious frescoes, which depict scenes from the Bible. When the building was converted into a hotel in 1875, the frescoes were in a state of disrepair, so Count Eberhard von Zeppelin, the founder of the hotel, commissioned their repair, which took six years to complete but it was worthwhile as the results are stunning.
Other hotels to check out in the area include the ultra-luxurious 5.5-star Riva Hotel, which is renowned for the stunning cuisine served at its restaurant or opt for the modern and sleek Hotel 47 with its minamilist decor.
The Konstanz Christmas Market
One of the big draws for people visiting Konstanz during the Christmas period is the Christmas market by the lake, the largest Christmas market in the Lake Constance area, which boasts more than 10,000 lights and 170 vendor stalls, where visitors can buy everything from food to unique, handmade gifts. When visiting the stalls, ensure you try the 'dinnele' a delicious pizza-like dish featuring potatoes, cheese, ham and onions. Served piping hot, it's the perfect winter warmer.
One standout feature of the Christmas market is the 'Christmas Ship', a ship decorated with lights that has a restaurant and bar that's a great place to retreat to when the temperature dips below freezing.
Konstanz Mardi Gras
If you happen to be in Konstanz during New Year's Eve, than you'll be in for a raucous celebration as everyone gets in the spirit of celebration during the Mardi Gras. Having been told about its charms, we definitely know when we'll be returning to Konstanz!
Renowned by many as the city where they make their infamous Ravensburger puzzles, Ravensburg has more to it than just puzzles and games. This small medieval town in Germany (population 50,000) is bursting with history. Located in the heart of the countryside between the Algeau and Lake Constance, this economic hub, which was once a thriving trading centre, is now Upper Swabia's primary shopping town.
While taking a leisurely stroll through the town to look at the shops, it's worth visiting the historic old town - whether on your own or via a guided tour. When walking through the city, you'll note the numerous towers and gates (17 to be exact), which give it its nickname 'the city of towers and gates'.
Ravensburg has also recently welcomed four new museums over the coming years, all of which cater to a variety of interests including: Ravensburg Art Museum, Ravensburger Museum, Humpis-Quartier Museum, Ravensburger Museum of Economics.
If you visit during the Christmas season, then the Ravensburg Christmas market, 'Christkindlesmarkt', is a must. With more than 100 stalls in total, this market is split in two sections; the traditional Christkindles Market (offering handmade goods and culinary delights) can be found around the City Hall, while the second market, the Reischmann Christmas Market, is only a few steps away.
Whatever time of year you visit, you're certain to find plenty of activities to keep you occupied.
For more information visit:
Ravensburg Tourist Information
The Lake Constance Tourist Board
*During my visit I was hosted by the Lake Constance Tourist Board and the Ravensburg Tourist Board
We spend 48 hours in this city rich in history and world class culture
The second largest city in Germany after Berlin, Hamburg is a maritime city, renowned as the ‘Gateway to the World', thanks to its position on the great River Elba. Home to the third largest (and oldest) harbour in Europe, more than 8.5 million sea containers are distributed from Hamburg's harbour globally per year via a vast complex of international ships and immense cranes, which are a must see during a visit to this unique city.
While Hamburg may not feature on your list of must-visit European countries, it should. We recently had the pleasure of embarking on a whirlwind tour of the city and from this have compiled our top recommendations to help inspire your visit to this great city, which truly has something for everyone.
Exploring the city - by boat or by hot rod
By Hot Rod
Hot Rod city tour
These cute vintage inspired hot rods are a unique and seriously fun way to tour the city in style, with the main route taking tourists past Hamburg's main attractions. The meeting point for this tour is the Hamburg Landungsbrücken (jetties), near the “StrandPauli” parking lot at Hafenstrasse 89. The tour always gets off to a start at 10:00 a.m., and the last tour departs at 8:00 p.m.During peak season (June—Sept.) tours start two hours earlier and keep driving until two hours later.
With a 160-hectare lake in the heart of the city and the fantastic River Elba, some water activity is a must and there are plenty of options to choose from.
A lake cruise is one of the best ways to see the city from the water. Given there are plenty of boats around, there's no need to book in advance. I recommend the 1-hour harbour cruise , which takes you round the HafenCity (the old warehouse district), giving you an up close and personal view of the the vast complex of ships and sea containers - the heart of Hamburg’s industry.
Whether you’ve sailed before or are a complete novice – as I was - this is a great way to experience the Outer Alster Lake, while learning a few nautical skills to boot. We had a few tense moments on board our small sailing boat, but it all added to the drama!
Areas to Visit
Speicherstadt is the old warehouse district in Hamburg, featuring the largest complex of integrated warehouses in the world. The area recently became a UNESCO world heritage site, thanks to its many unique buildings including the famous Chilehaus building – a masterpiece of redbrick expressionism, located near the city centre.
A stark contrast to the industrial city centre, this old fishing village has an English country village charm about it. Set next to the River Elbe, this area is characterised by narrow, hilly cobbled streets with stunning views of the river and beautiful old quaint houses.
Ensure you stop for some tea and cake at Sagebiels Fährhaus, a cafe with a large terrace and stunning river views. When you're ready to head back into the city, hop on the special small bus nicknamed 'the mountain goat' or take a leisurely 2.5 hours walk along the river. Alternatively, it’s a 40-minute cycle ride or a 20 minute journey on the S-Bhan.
Shenzhen is Hamburg's Bohemian district, located four stops on the S-Bahn from the Town Hall. This area boasts a wealth of outdoor cafes that are great for people watching, coupled with a selection of fantastic boutique shops for a spot of retail therapy. If you're in the need for a sweet treat during the day, stop for cake at Gretchens Zuckerbude - Pâtisserie & Café. Afterwards, you can round the day off with a refreshing beer at the Craft Beer Store, which has quite possibly the largest selection of bottled beer I have ever seen. If you're not sure what beer you'd like, you can try before you buy to ensure satisfaction.
The Art Mile
If you're looking for some culture in Hamburg, ensure you visit the Art Mile, which starts just near the Outer Alster Lake and is home to Hamburg’s newly refurbished modernart gallery Kunsthalle modern. For ease of getting around, the exhibitions are cleverly connected by a network of underground walkways.
HafenCity - Europe’s largest scale urban development
With a growing population of more than 1.8 million people, Hamburg is embarking on Europe’s largest scale urban development, 'HafenCity', which will completely transform the former harbour district. Set to take more than 10 years to complete, the development will cover 157 hectares when finished. It will be fascinating to see this project come to fruition - another reason to return!
Hamburg is peppered with a wealth of shopping malls. From small boutique shops to large shopping centres, such as the Europa Passage, a mammoth shopping centre that spans five floors. For those seeking designer goods, head to Neuer Wall, where you will find a variety of luxury brands including Louis Vuitton, Rolex and Mont Blanc, to name a few.
At this unique shop you'll find quirky gifts, an environmental ethos and brilliant packaging, making it a 'must- see' shopping destination. For those who wish to purchase unique gifts but don't want to be lumbered with lots of packages on the return journey home, they also have an online shop.
A haven for culture vultures
Hamburg is home to world class ballet school, The Hamburg Ballet John Neumeier. Founded in 1973, this classical-creative company's repertoire has been shaped by the work of ballet director and chief choreographer John Neumeier. It ranges from new versions of historical narrative and fairy tale ballets to literary adaptations, including many Shakespeare ballets, and pieces set to symphonic and sacred music.
During my visit, I saw Tatiana, a mesmerising experience, which also included a behind-the-scenes visit to the school, where I learned a lot of interesting facts, including that the dancers often go through one pair of ballet shoes per night, which is pretty expensive given that they cost between £25 - £45 a pair. Bear that in mind when you see the price of the tickets! Given its popularity, bookings are advised.
The Hamburg State Opera
Nearly 400 years old, The Hamburg State Opera was founded in 1678 on the Gänsemarkt, making it the first public opera house in Germany. In 1827, it moved to its present location on Dammtorstrasse. The building was almost completely destroyed during World War II and was re-opened in 1955, with a new architectural design that has been fully retained to date.
January 2017 will see the opening of the hotly anticipated Elbphilharmonie. Designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, this impressive bold glass structure sits on the edge the River Elbe and will be one of the top music halls in the world. To check out the programme of music and pre-book tickets visit visit Laeiszhalle.
Where to Eat
This specialist tea spot in HafenCity is a great place to relax and re-fuel by the water.
The best sushi in town. Bookings advisable.
A great place to enjoy a craft beer outside, while hanging out with the locals.
Jacob's Restaurant at Jacob's Hotel
This hotel restaurant has 2 Michelin stars and a stunning terrace overlooking the River Elba - enough said.
Apples restaurant in the Hyatt Hamburg
Pop by to enjoy a fantastic locally sourced lunch on the beautiful terrace of this little gem located in the heart of the city.
Where to enjoy a tipple
With great high ceilings and interesting décor celebrating the heritage of the building, this is a great spot for a break from your city wanderings. At the time of my visit the food wasn’t great, but I would highly recommend it for a cocktail.
The Clouds Bar
Perched on the 23rd and 24th floor of The Dancing Towers, this is a great spot for a late night drink with fantastic views of the city and an outside terrace. For the more adventurous, from here, you can wander into the famous Reeperbahn area for some late night life and discover bars where the Beatles spent their early days.
Where to stay
This 5-star hotel in the heart of the city has spacious rooms, excellent facilities - including a 20 metre pool - and a fantastic restaurant – Apples - which specialises in using locally sourced food. With more than 200 rooms and with an average room cost of £200, this is a great hotel option. They even have their own bee hives on the roof!
If you’re looking for something a bit quirkier, then this small 4-star boutique hotel is a great option. Opened in 2012, this 65 room hotel offers funky décor and a great central location. Rooms from £100 per night.
For those looking for a romantic weekend away, this luxurious 200-year-old 5-star hotel located on the edge of the River Elbe is the place to stay. The hotel has a two Michelin star restaurant and offers 85 rooms and suites, many of which have stunning river views.
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Here you'll find inspiration for your visit to Germany, a stunning country bursting with historical and cultural delights.