Mainau Island

Lake Constance, Germany

Spring is a time for flowers, and there is no better place to experience an exorbitant variety of beautiful, colorful, and even rare flowers than Insel Mainau, the “flowering Island” on Lake Constance (also known as Bodensee). Having once belonged to the Order of Teutonic Knights, it later became the private estate of grand dukes, princes, and counts, most recently the Bernadotte family that is related to the Swedish monarchs. It now belongs to the Lennart Bernadotte-Stiftung, a foundation created by their descendants.

The 111-acre (45-hectare) island is home to 500 species of deciduous and coniferous trees, many of which are exotic and valuable, and attracts more than a million visitors each year. Starting in March, however, the Mainau comes to life with the unforgettable sights and smells of the millions of flowers that grace the island. Spring is the season for tulips, with over 100,000 tulips that bloom from March until May. This is followed by 200 varieties rhododendrons and azaleas, the blooming of 30,000 rose bushes of 1,200 different varieties, fuchsias and other summer flowers, and ending with the late blooming of over 250 varieties of dahlias in September and October.

In addition to the flower gardens, Insel Mainau offers an arboretum, a tropical greenhouse, the biggest butterfly house in Germany, a palm house that hosts a special exhibit of 3,000 orchids each spring, a castle, a 13th century baroque palace and chapel, a gallery for hosting special exhibits, a children’s playground, a mini garden railway, a farm and petting zoo, pony rides, as well as a variety of cafés and restaurants.

The island is open from sunrise until sunset; entrance is € 25.50 for adults, € 16 for students (with I.D.), and free for children under age 13. Allow yourself several hours to walk the whole island, so plan on making this a whole-day excursion. Mainau lies outside of Konstanz, Germany, just off the shores of Lake Constance, about 2 hours from Basel. If you go there by car, you can park in the large paid-parking lot and walk across a bridge over to the island. By public transport, you can take the Deutsche Bahn to Konstanz, and then reach the island by bus from Konstanz train station, or by boat operated by Bodensee-Schiffsbetriebe GmbH from Konstanz Hafen (300 m walk from the train station).