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'Go early and stay late': Your tips for making the most of Germany's lakes

Imogen Goodman
Imogen Goodman - [email protected]
'Go early and stay late': Your tips for making the most of Germany's lakes
Day-trippers relax on the banks of the Eibsee in Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Angelika Warmuth

Dreamy days at the lakeside are an unmissable part of a German summer. But which are the best lakes in the country, and how do you enjoy the experience like a true German? Local readers weighed in.


When you imagine the joys of summer in Germany, one of the first images that comes to mind is likely to be your favourite local lake. Whether it's in a forest glade in Brandenberg or a breathtaking alpine valley in Bavaria, there's nothing better than bathing in natural waters and enjoying relaxing time with friends and loved ones on the shores.

In largely landlocked Germany, people wanting a seaside holiday have little choice but to travel to the northern coast - but those who are content with lakes are spoilt for choice almost anywhere in the country. 

READ ALSO: Living in Germany: Making the most of culture and lake life

So, with summer finally here, we were keen to pick your brains on the most magical lakes that Germany has to offer - from tourist favourites to lesser-known gems - and the best way to spend time there.

From Hamburg to the Austrian border, your tips spanned the length of the country - but there was one state, and one lake in particular, that emerged as a clear favourite.

Bavaria's lake of kings 

Germany may be home to more than 8,000 lakes, but one in particular has captured the hearts of our readers: the breathtaking Königsee in Berchtesgaden, Bavaria.

Several people told us they loved the lake above all for its crystal clear waters and majestic surroundings, not to mention the array of pleasant restaurants and cafes dotted along its shores.


Königsee is "definitely the cleanest and most serene lake in Germany," said Brian from London.

Steve Karger, who lives in Batemans Bay, Australia, agreed. “Just a beautiful pristine area surrounded by mountains with clear water and rural countryside," he said. "Magnificent!”

Karger also gave us his tips for the perfect day out at the popular lake. 

"Electric boat ride, lunch and beer at a lakeside restaurant and then a walk along the lake's edge with mountains in the distance," he said. "A perfect day."

With Königsee among Germany's most beloved lakes, a trip there does take a bit of planning, however - and it's good to be clever about when you go to avoid the crowds.

Steve cautioned that booking boat tickets in advance is a must, since they only leave at certain times and have a certain number of available seats. 

READ ALSO: Nine of the best day trips from Munich with the €49 ticket

A boat glides across the Königsee in Bavaria

A boat glides across the Königsee in Bavaria - our readers' favourite lake. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

Mark from London gave similar advice, stressing that people who want to soak up the delights of Königsee should make like a German and get there well in advance of the leaving time.

“In the summer the queues for the boats can be long, so get there early," he said.

In general, people said the best way to avoid crowds was to head to Königsee first thing in the morning rather than waiting until the busy midday rush.


Once there, however, there's no harm in taking time to go for a pleasant hike and explore the numerous restaurants, bars and shops on offer.

“Take time to see the highest waterfall in Germany too," advised Max, who lives in Munich.

'The greatest lake in Germany'

But Königsee was far from the only lake our readers said they loved. 

Bodensee, or Lake Constance - the largest lake in Germany - also received a fair few nominations for the best lake in Germany.

"Why is it my favourite? Because it's simply the greatest lake in Germany and belongs to three different countries, which are Germany, Austria, and Switzerland," said Adrian in Dresden. "Moreover, the flying Zeppelins above the lake give a charming scenery by itself.” 

As a suggested activity, Adrian recommended riding the cable car above Pfänderberg, which is located in Bregenz on the mountainous Austrian shores of the lake.

The Imperia statue in Constance Harbour,

The Imperia statue in Constance Harbour, on the shores of Lake Constance. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Felix Kästle

Mike, who lives in the small town of Böblingen in Baden-Württemberg, also named Constance as his favourite lake.

His tip for people visiting? “Go early with picnic blanket and stay late." 

Of all the German states, lakes in Bavaria were mentioned most often. Beyond Königsee, people also mentioned Obersee - an equally breathtaking, though much smaller, lake just a stone's throw from Königsee.

READ ALSO: The five best Bavarian lakes for a spring day trip

A Geheimtip from Nuremberg resident Cuong was to check out Eibsee: a magnificant alpine lake located just a stone's throw from the popular hiking and skiing resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. 

In particular, Cuong said he loved the "crystal clear waters and amazing views of the Zugspitze” - Germany's highest mountain - on offer at Eibsee.

For the best experience, Cuong recommends going on a weekday rather than a weekend, and also says people should consider visiting the lake outside of peak season.

"It's prettiest in autumn, and least crowded," he explained.

A paddle-boat floats near an island on Eibsee in Bavaria.

A paddle-boat floats near an island on Eibsee in Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

Some of Upper Bavaria's more well-known lakes also made it onto the list of our readers' top tips, with Chiemsee, Tegernsee, Schleiersee and Starnberger See all getting a mention.

Further north in Franconia, Bavaria resident Ruth gave her local lake, Dechsendorf Weiher, a glowing review.

“I can skate across it in winter and swim across it in summer," she told us. "I love running around it and that it has heated bathrooms in winter. Amazing!"

Northern Germany and North-Rhine Westphalia

For those living further afield from Germany's 'Free State' in the south, our readers also mentioned some lakes outside of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg.

For Berlin resident Graham, Dornhekensee near Bonn - a small, deep lake formed in an abandoned quarry - is a personal favourite.

"I have happy memories swimming there years ago," he told us. "It's so peaceful, surrounded by forest."


Becky in North Rhine-Westphalia also selected a lake in Germany's most populous state as her top pick.

According to her, the bustling Unterbacher See near Düsseldorf is the best lake around, partly because it's the ideal size to cycle around on a clear, sunny day.

With a sandy beach, barbecue area and boat rental shop, Unterbacher See offers a great, leisure-filled way to escape the urban sprawl, but Becky has some advice for people who go there: “Don't bring your Bluetooth speakers - let others enjoy the nature," she said.

READ ALSO: Wild peeing to paragliding: 7 offences you can be fined for in Germany's great outdoors

And perhaps most importantly: "Bring Afterbite and watch out for horseflies!” 

Somewhat surprising for the state with by far the most lakes in the country, only one of our readers picked a lake in Brandenburg as their favourite.

For Shon in Berlin, Tiefer See in Potsdam is unparalleled for its historic surroundings - including the regal Babelsberg Park and two 19th-century palaces - and the hiking opportunities it offers.

Further north, meanwhile, other readers recommended Hamburg's Alster lake for its prime location in the heart of the city centre, fantastic views of the port city, and huge array of leisure activities, from sailing and canoeing to stand-up paddle-boarding.

Swans gather at the shores of the Alster See in Hamburg

Swans gather at the shores of the Alster See in Hamburg city centre. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Axel Heimken

Wherever the lake was located, most readers named their favourite lake activities as running, swimming, cycling and walking, not to mention stand-up paddle-boarding and sailing.

However, others were content to find a quiet spot on the shore with a picnic and simply watch the world go by.

READ ALSO: Holiday like a local: Five of the best camping regions in Germany


Almost all could agree that there was something particularly special about German lakes, whether it was the lack of commercialisation, the stunning natural landscape around them or the recreational activities and camping sites often found nearby.

For Cuong, in particular, there was one major advantage of bathing in German lakes as opposed to those in his home country: "There are no crocodiles in any German lakes!", he told us.

Thank you so much to everyone who completed our survey. Although we weren't able to use all the responses, we read them all and they helped inform our article.


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