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Mainau

Germany's "Flower Island" in Lake Constance

Dahilia Hill garden, Mainau, Germany

ABOVE: A walk through the "Dahlia Hill" section of Mainau's gardens in early June.

Mainau, nicknamed "The Flower Island," is the most popular tourist attraction on Lake Constance (a.k.a. the Bodensee).

The small island, which is about 5 km or 3 miles from the city of Konstanz, has a semitropical climate that inspired Prince Nikolaus von Esterházy to create a botanical garden in the first half of the 19th Century.

Later, under Grand Duke Friedrich I, the gardens were expanded with an arboretum, an Italian rose garden, and other features that visitors enjoy today.

In the 1930, Prince Wilhelm (then the island's owner) turned the administration of Mainau over to his son, the Swedish Prince Lennart Bernadotte II. The prince, who had renounced his Swedish royal lineage after marrying a commoner, devoted the rest of his life to turning the island into a privately-operated park.

Mainau is now maintained in perpetuity by a foundation that the prince and his second wife established, and the island's manager is their daughter, Countess Bettina Bernadotte. Their son, Count Björn Bernadotte, manages the foundation.

What to see and do

Mainau's 45 hectares or 111 acres of gardens and landscaped grounds attract more than a million visitors each year.

The flower season begins in spring with an orchid show in the Palm House and a million tulips that bloom from March until May. Rhododendrons follow the tulips, and in summer another 350,000 flowers are on display. Dahlias bloom in September, pleasing visitors until the gardens wrap up their season in late October.

(Other attractions include a rose garden and exotic plants such as banana and palm trees, bougainvillea, and fuchsias.)

In addition to flower gardens, Mainau has an arboretum, a butterfly house, a gallery with special exhibitions, an area for children, a castle, a baroque chapel, and a variety of restaurants.

Allow a minimum of several hours for a visit, and plan on spending the entire day on Mainau if you're seriously interested in gardens.

Ferry boat from Meersburg to Mainau, Germany

ABOVE: Passenger boats serve Mainau from Meersberg and Unteruhldingen.

Mainau visitor information

The island of Mainau is open year-round, but the official garden and sightseeing season is between sunrise and sunset from late March until late October. Individual and family tickets are available, with half-price tickets for visitors who arrive after 5 p.m. For up-to-date admission fees, see the Mainau Web site's English-language Opening Hours and Ticket Prices page.

How to reach the island:

By passenger boat. BSB, a.k.a. the Bodensee Schiffsbetriebe, serves Mainau from Meersburg and Unteruhldingen, on the northern side of Lake Constance. Travel time between Meersburg and Mainau is 20 to 25 minutes.

Meersburg has connecting services on the mainline BSB passenger boats, which serve villages and towns along the lake's, and on the Konstanz-Meersburg car ferries. (Timetables vary with the season, so check ahead.)

By bus. The No. 4 local bus from the Konstanz railroad station stops at Mainau; alternatively, the ErlebnisBus offers service between Salem and Uhldingen, where you can catch a boat to Mainau.

By car. Mainau is near Konstanz (English: Constance), and the island is connected to the mainland by a short causeway. Parking is available.

Web site

Mainau's Web site is at www.mainau.de.


Mainau photos

Mainau ferry boat UHLDINGEN in Meersburg, Germany

Boat passengers arrive at Mainau's pier from Meersburg, a resort town and ferry port on the northern shore of the Bodensee.


Mainau passenger boat schedule

Next to the pier, an electronic sign lists departures to other points along the lake.


Shopping in Mainau, Germany

After buying tickets to the private island of Mainau and its gardens, visitors pass through an outdoor shopping area with souvenirs, crafts, and food stands.

This area is near the boat pier. Mainau has another entrance just before the short causeway that leads from the mainland parking lot to the island, which you'll use if you're arriving by bus or car.


Comturey Tower, Mainau, Germany

The Comturey Tower is a remnant of medieval times, when Mainau was under the jurisdiction of the Teutonic Order.

The partly reconstructed tower now houses the Comturey-Keller restaurant and a souvenir shop.


Dog walking on island of Mainau, Germany

Beyond the tower and the shopping area, the lakeside path leads to a variety of gardens. (Dogs are welcome on Mainau, as long as they're kept on leashes and out of the flower beds.)


Bodensee or Lake Constant flower map on Mainau

A "flower map" portrays Lake Constance, a.k.a. the Bodensee, with signs that identify major towns and resorts along the shoreline. (Lake Constance is shared by three countries: Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.)


Mainau rose garden - Alley of Wild and Bush Roses

Mainau's three rose gardens have some 1,200 wild and hybrid varieties. (This picture was taken in the "Alley of Wild and Bush Roses" on the southern side of the island.)


Italian Water and Flower Staircase, Mainau, Germany

One of the island's most popular photographic venues is the Italian Water and Flower Staircase, where an artificial stream splashes over slabs of Ticinese granite on its way down a hillside.


Palm House (Palmenhaus), Mainau, Germany

On top of the hill, the Palmenhaus  or Palm House peeks through the foliage.


California cypress trees on island of Mainau, Germany

Walking uphill, visitors pass a grove of California cypress trees that flourish in Mainau's mild climate.


Gärtnerturm or Gardener's Tower, Mainau, Germany

On top of the hill, the Gärtnerturm or Gardener's Tower (also called the Peel Tower) has an information center with an audiovisual show about the island.

The 19th Century tower's basements date back to medieval times, when they were part of the island's fortifications.


Mainau Barockschloss or Baroque Castle, Germany

The Barockschloss, or Baroque Castle, is also known as the Castle of the Teutonic Order. Count and Countess Bernadotte live here, and parts of the castle are used for exhibitions.

The castle also has a café (facing the Palm House) that is open to the public.


Schlosskirche or Castle Church St. Marien, Mainau, Gernmany

Nearby, the Schlosskirche or Castle Church St. Marien is worth a peek. The German Baroque chapel was consecrated in 1739, and it's still used for weddings and concerts.

The church is open to all demominations, and weddings can be arranged with indoor or outdoor receptions on the island.


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