Bike Ride: Lake Constance

Lake Constance, aka Bodensee, on the border of Germany is a very popular area for bicycling, particularly for families. It’s flat, well marked, mostly away from busy streets, with lots of playgrounds, cafes, swimming areas and other services along the route. I’m not quite ready to bike around the whole lake (~268km), but our family has gone on a few day trips to bike different sections of the complete route, from Kreuzlingen to Rorschach. We hope to go back and continue around into Austria. Maybe after a couple years, we’ll make it all the way around the lake.

Car: ~1hr from ZH Trail: varied length Restaurant: yes
Train/Bus: easy Stroller: N/A Picnic: yes
Cost: low Theme: biking Playground: yes

Overview

We have biked three sections along the lake. We did these rides when our kids were 8 and 5 years old. The 5 year old was on a tandem trailer bike, so he could pedal or rest if he likes. For just an easy fun day, about 20km seems to be a good distance for our family.

  • Kreuzlingen to Romanshorn (20km)
  • Romanshorn to Rorschach (16km)
  • Mainau to Dingelsdorf (6.5 km)

We liked all the routes. The best was probably Romanshorn-Rorschach, which had more playgrounds and had more sections right on the lake. But it also had a stretch on a main busy road right after Horn, which I didn’t like.

The routes we’ve done so far are shown in the map below, along with some kid-friendly features like playgrounds and swimming places.


View biking with kids in Switzerland in a larger map
(Please note that my map is only approximate and is not intended as a replacement for a proper guide book.)

You don’t really need a guide book; the route is pretty obvious. It’s probably best to start at a train station, like Kreuzlingen Hafen or Romanshorn and follow the bike path from there. Then just follow the bike signs and road markings. The lake route is not always labeled with a number or name and there are other named bike routes that leave the lake side. So just also follow whatever bike route that keeps closest to the lake.

You can use my Google map above for reference. But if you want to be better prepared, many sites reference Bodensee-Radweg by Verlag Esterbauer as the definitive guide to this route. You may also find this website helpful, which maps the entire route.

Much of the bike path follows the train tracks, which might seem like a downside. But the trains don’t run that frequently, so it’s actually rather quiet. There is an advantage too. Since you are riding along the train line, you can stop at any point when your kids have had enough and return to your starting point by train. You can take your bikes with you on the train (remember to buy a bike ticket) or send one person to get the car and come back to pick you up. Half of the lake is in Switzerland so your half-fare card works there.

Some of the path is directly on the shore, which was my favorite part. The section shown above is between Horn and Rorschach.

Most of the paths are wide and smooth as shown above. We were there in July and August, so some of the pretty hay fields were being harvested.

There are lots of playgrounds along the route, more in the Romanshorn-Rohrschach section. Sometimes it was hard to convince the kids to skip one and keep going.

This was our favorite parks in Arbon, south of Romanshorn.

There were lots of parks too, so you can take a break and picnic. This one was near Uttwil before we got to Romanshorn.

Sometimes the path takes you through neighborhoods, where you can see interesting buildings. There were a few public drinking fountains along the path and lots of people were filling up water bottles. There are also many cafes along the path catering to the bikers.

You’ll share the path with lots of other bikes and sometimes rollerbladers. The path is usually wide enough so there’s no problem passing. But I had to often remind my son to ride on the right side of the path and ring his bell around sharp corners.

We recently got bikes and a bike trailer, so we’re self-sufficient. But when my first son was small, we rented bikes and a trailer at the Kreuzlingen Hafen train station. It was affordable and easy. Many train stations have bikes for rent, including child bikes, trailer bikes, bike trailers and specially designed bikes for disabled children. You can often drop off the bike at another station, so you don’t have to ride roundtrip. See the sbb.ch website for more info about bike rental.

If you are extra motivated, you can do a multi-day trip on the lake. There are a variety of accommodations all around the lake, including B&Bs and campsites (like the bike camp shown above), specifically catering to bike travelers. On the route, you’ll see lots of cyclist (including families with babies in trailers) carrying luggage along. This is on my to-do list for next summer.

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