From the fairytale castles of southern Germany to the alpine crests of Switzerland, a journey around Lake Constance is the ideal introduction to life among the mountains of central Europe. This immense body of water ripples over the borders of three different countries, with the lakeside communities of each nation boasting charming historic sites and idyllic towns that even rival the Lake in beauty.
1. Lake Constance Boat Tour
Immaculately restored in 1990, the Hohentwiel paddle steamer was first launched in 1913. The memories of that old world charm and faded opulence still pervade the ship today, which is hardly surprising given that the list of former passengers includes the Kings of both Württemberg and Saxony. Stunningly designed in an art nouveau style, the steamer takes passengers from the cultural hub of Bregenz on a gentle tour of the most exciting sights around the Lake. Many tours have their own period themes, with literary, musical and gourmet cruises all on offer. With melodious, relaxing music and a delectable champagne reception, the Sunday Jazz Brunch is the ideal way to begin a lazy day by the Lake.
2. The Abbey Library of St. Gallen
Tucked away in the looming Carolingian structure of the Abbey of St. Gall, the Abbey Library is one of the oldest in Europe. This charming rococo hall contains over 160,000 books, including a large collection of handwritten volumes from the Early Middle Ages. Deservedly a World Heritage Site, the Library is overwhelmingly visually stunning, from the ceiling paintings to the Greek inscription over the entrance that translates as 'Pharmacy for the Soul'. That message remains as true today as it ever was, and visiting the library is certain to be a spellbinding experience for bibliophiles and historians alike.
3. Open Air St. Gallen
Held in a rural setting just outside St. Gallen over four days, this open air festival is one of the oldest in Switzerland. These days, it puts on a hipster-pleasing line-up of up-and-coming indie and electro acts, which for 2014 includes British experimental electro band Foals, critics' favourites London Grammar and raucous Celtic punk band Flogging Molly. Located in the heart of the city, our Radisson Blu Hotel St Gallen provides the perfect base to relax and recover after the party.
4. Arbon Lake Festival
Arbon's Seenachtsfest, or Lake Night Festival, is held annually in the first week of July. With an eclectic line-up of folk musicians and artists from around the region, a day of rousing musical performances ends in style with a legendary firework display. Along with fairground rides and stalls selling delicious street food, the festival also incorporates the Internationaler Drachenbootcup Bodensee. For those unfamiliar with the joys of dragon boating, this unique sport involves teams of 16-20 rowers piling into ornately decorated canoe boats and attempting to paddle their way to victory, urged on by an on-board drummer who sets the stroke rate. Although some competitors take the sport incredibly seriously, anyone can get involved, with races for mixed teams, juniors, gentlemen and ladies.