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Germany's Hidden Gems: Soaring in a Zeppelin on a Weekend on Lake Constance

Find out what it's like to ride a zeppelin on a weekend on Lake Constance. Stay in Meersburg or Lindau and take an airship ride in Friedrichshafen.

Have you heard of the Bodensee? The Bodensee, known as Lake Constance in English, is an idyllic weekend destination. Located about 90 minutes from Zurich airport, we found that Lake Constance is a great add-on to a business trip to Zurich, Switzerland. 

We visited Constance previously on a winter trip to Zurich, but we were excited to spend a weekend in Constance in the Spring to explore the region a bit more in depth.

What kinds of things to do will you find around Lake Constance? Experience charming German villages, lake side restaurants and weinstubes (local wine bars), and plenty of beautiful scenery. Eat zander, a local pikeperch fished in Lake Constance and served up fresh on your plate. 

That said, there is an even bigger reason to visit Lake Constance. Did you know that the zeppelin (also known as an airship or blimp) was invented in Friedrichshafen on the Bodensee? 

As we were researching the trip, we discovered that we could book a flight in a zeppelin over Lake Constance and that soon became the centerpiece of our weekend trip.

Zeppelin flying over Meersburg Germany

Getting to Lake Constance

Lake Constance is relatively convenient to major cities in Germany like Stuttgart and Munich. It's a 2 hour drive from Stuttgart to Meersburg. Munich to Lindau is also about 2 hours by car. 

We flew into Zurich and arrived in Meersburg in about 90 minutes. There is a car ferry that runs from Constance (the largest town on the lake) to Meersburg. 

While there is a public bus service that runs around the lake, I recommend hiring a car for maximum flexibility and efficiency in exploring the area.

Sculpture of a king in the foreground and the sunset over Lake Constance in the Background

Where to Stay on a Lake Constance Weekend

We stayed in Meersburg on Lake Constance. This beautiful village clings to a hill above the lake with the historic center sitting in the shadow of historic, 7th century Meersburg Castle. 

Meersburg Castle on Lake Constance

Book into Hotel Wilder Mann. From here, you can park at a nearby garage and not have to worry about driving on the narrow streets of the village. The hotel is conveniently located close to the car ferry from Constance on the other side of the Bodensee. 

Some rooms have gorgeous lake views. Note: the hotel is advertised as having air conditioning but not all of the rooms do. We were upgraded to a better room with air conditioning and a lake view after our first room was found to be lacking the A/C that we'd paid for. 

Colorful buildings in Meersburg Germany on the Bodensee

An extensive breakfast buffet was included in our rate. We paid 440 EUR total for 2 nights plus 15 EUR a night for parking. Note: local taxes are high so make sure to factor this into your budget. We paid 4 EUR per person per night hotel tax.

Hotel Wilder Mann in Meersburg, Germany at sunset

What's It Like To Take A Lake Constance Zeppelin Ride

Let's get right to the point: our zeppelin ride over Lake Constance was the highlight of our weekend break in the region. How can you book this experience yourself? How much does it cost? What's it like to fly in a blimp?

Booking A Lake Constance Zeppelin Ride

Taking a ride in the Goodyear Blimp in Germany isn't cheap. We paid about 450 EUR per person for a 45 minute flight. That's about 10 EUR a minute for the experience. The cabin can accommodate 16 passengers.

Book your trip in advance. The zeppelinflug.de website will give you an idea of how booked up your preferred time slot is. We started research our options over a month in advance but only booked and put our money down once we saw the seats starting to dwindle about 10 days before departure.

Note: the zeppelin ride will be cancelled and rescheduled if the weather is bad. We got lucky and experienced a perfect sunny day with very little wind. That said, the wind kicked up the next day and many of the zeppelin rides were cancelled as a result.

Zeppelin hangar in Friedrichshafen, Germany

Before the Zeppelin Ride

Plan to arrive at the airfield in Friedrichshafen at least an hour before your flight is scheduled to depart. Bring your passport. 

There is a small gift shop plus a bar and restaurant to help pass the time once you've checked in. About 30 minutes before the zeppelin is scheduled to depart, passengers are escorted into a briefing room for an intro video and safety briefing. 

We were the only non-German speakers and were taken to a separate English briefing.

Boarding the Blimp

Getting onto the zeppelin is a carefully choreographed affair. We boarded a van that drove us out to the landing site (less than a 5 minute ride from the terminal). 

We lined up behind in pairs behind staff wearing high visibility vests. A blimp with "Goodyear" blazoned on the side landed and a ground crew ran in. 

One guy held the balloon on a tether and another brought up a set of stairs. Passengers were loaded and unloaded two by two to ensure the weight stayed roughly the same on board. 

We were instructed to pay attention and not to get distracted taking photos from the loading area. There would be time for that after our flight. Once our group was fully onboard, the zeppelin lifted vertically into the air and we were off.

Zeppelin landing in Friedrichshafen Germany

45 Minutes from Friedshafen to Meersburg

The cabin of the zeppelin was lined with panoramic (and extremely clean) windows. In addition, the emergency exit windows opened so that passengers could take photos without glare. 

Open window of a zeppelin looking out over Lake Constance in Germany

The cockpit was up a small step with nothing separating the passengers from the crew. We glided over vineyards and experienced spectacular lake views with snow-capped mountains in the distance. 

After the initial ascent, passengers can get up and walk around the cabin to enjoy the views and take pictures from every angle.

We slowly cruised up the lake to Meersburg where I could see the castle and even our hotel. It was very cool to see all these landsmarks that we'd walked past from a new perspective in the sky.

View of Meersburg from the Lake Constance Zeppelin

View of the shoreline of Lake Constance from a zeppelin in Germany

Aerial view of Friedrichshafen taken from our zeppelin ride over Lake Constance

After the Zeppelin Ride

Before we knew it, our 45 minute ride was coming to an end. All the passengers buckled up and we gently came in for a landing at the Friedrichshafen airfield. 

We exited the zeppelin in pairs as the next group were sent two people at a time to replace us. As promised, we were given time to take photos of the zeppelin as it rose into the air and the next journey was underway.

Once we arrived back at the airport terminal, we were given a commemorative photo book and a certificate of completion. I thought that was a nice touch.

Is A Zeppelin Ride Over Lake Constance Worth It?

While an airship ride over Lake Constance is extremely expensive, we thought this once-in-a-lifetime experience was worth the cost. 

If you are in the area, I'd recommend the splurge, especially if you are celebrating a special occasion like a honeymoon or anniversary. You get to see the lake from a whole different perspective and have a chance to really appreciate the beauty and charm of the Bodensee with this birds' eye view.

Aerial view of a palace taken from an airship flight over Lake Constance in Germany

Other Things to do on Lake Constance

While our zeppelin ride was definitely the highlight of our weekend in Constance, there are plenty of other things to do on the Bodensee. What were some of our favorite activities?

Visit the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen

Continuing with the airship theme, stop in Friedrichshafen for lunch on the lake. Afterwards, spend a couple of hours exploring the Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen. Tickets cost 12 EUR per person at the time of writing. 

Art Deco entrance to the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen Germany

Learn about how Ferdinand von Zeppelin realized his dream of creating a practical blimp. In its heyday, the rich and famous could travel from points in Europe to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil in just 4 days. 

A highlight of the Zeppelin Museum is definitely the scaled recreation of the passenger cabin of the Hindenburg. In 1937, the Hindenburg caught fire as it was trying to land in New Jersey. 

The Hindenburg was inflated with hydrogen and burned with spectacular force and rapidity. The Hinderburg disaster was one of the first calamities of this magnitude captured on video and film and thus is emblazoned in the public record and in our memories ("Oh the humanity!")

Tour Meersburg Castle

I recommend spending a couple of hours exploring the extensive grounds of Meersburg Castle. While the 12.80 EUR ticket price might seem expensive, we thought it was worth it for a chance to see the well-laid out exhibits covering over 1000 years of history. 

Suits of Armor at Meersburg Castle on Lake Constance

Scan QR codes throughout the self-guided tour for in-depth coverage of the castle's history. Highlights for me included medieval halls decorated with antlers and a room full of arms and suits of armor. Meersburg Castle is situated at the top of a hill so the views from the gardens are also amazing.

View of Lake Constance and the ferry boat from Meersburg Castle

Stroll Lindau

The historic core of Lindau, Germany is situated on an island in Lake Constance. We found that Lindau is a beautiful spot for a photowalk on a sunny day. 

Grab a coffee, an ice cream, or a beer along the water. The entrance to the harbor is protected by a lighthouse and two imposing lions. 

Lighthouse and lion sculpture in Lindau harbour on Lake Constance

Go Door Hunting

I love the half-timbered facades that characterize German towns. Whether you are exploring Meersburg, Friedrichhafen, Lindau, or any of the other towns dotting Lake Constance, you'll be sure to find a spectacular array of doors. 

Bright orange hotel and weinstube in Meersburg Germany on Lake Constance

Door photography may not be everybody's cup of tea, but my regular readers know that I'm obsessed with doors and seek them out whereever I go. In fact, one of my recent doors of the month was taken in Lindau.

Bright orange hotel and weinstube in Meersburg Germany on Lake Constance

Add-ons to a Lake Contance Weekend

On your way to and from Lake Constance, there are plenty of additional towns to visit. We stopped to stretch our legs in Schaffhausen, Switzerland on the way to Meersburg and then overnighted in St. Gallen, Switzerland on our return to Zurich.

Visit Schaffhausen

Schaffhausen is probably most well known due to its proximity to Rhine Falls. I visited Rhine Falls and Stein am Rhein on a previous trip to Switzerland. 

This time, we parked the car and took a photowalk around the city. Grab lunch al fresco and then climb the stairs up to Munot Festung, an imposing fortress above the city. 

The fortress is free to visit and features spectacular views over the rooftops of Schaffhausen, local vineyards, and the Rhine River.

View from Munot Festung in Schaffhausen Switzerland

Explore St. Gallen

St. Gallen is another Swiss town that is worth adding onto a Bodensee weekend. We spent one night in St. Gallen at Hotel Walhalla on our return to Zurich. 

View from Hotel Walhalla in St. Gallen, Switzerland.

Explore the picturesque streets of St. Gallen and then grab dinner and a beer outside. Don't miss UNESCO World Heritage rated Abbey of St. Gall. 

The library here is one of the oldest in the world with many rare manuscripts. The library features dark wood bookcases and display cases, a historic globe that was an object of dispute between St. Gallen and Zurich for years, and amazing paintings on the walls and ceilings.
The richly decorated library of the Abbey of St. Gall in St. Gallen, Switzerland
Having lived in Ireland for 12 years, we also appreciated learning about the Irish connection to St. Gallen. St. Gall, an Irish monk arrived here in the 7th century and founded the abbey. The town is now named after him. 

***

There you have it, the highlights of a weekend on Lake Constance in Germany including a spectacular zeppelin ride. 

Are you looking for additional European destination ideas? Why not given the Sidewalk Safari European destination picker a try

Looking for other nearby things to do? Why not take a day trip from Lake Constance to Liechtenstein? Alternatively, keep your lake focus and take a cruise on Lake Zurich or explore the fascinating lakeside town of Rapperswil.

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: Germany's Hidden Gems: Soaring in a Zeppelin on a Weekend on Lake Constance
Germany's Hidden Gems: Soaring in a Zeppelin on a Weekend on Lake Constance
Find out what it's like to ride a zeppelin on a weekend on Lake Constance. Stay in Meersburg or Lindau and take an airship ride in Friedrichshafen.
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