Located on the southern shore of Lake Constance (Bodensee) and connected to it by a footbridge, Mainau Island in Germany is certainly a must-see destination for anyone visiting the lake area and its historical and natural attractions. Thanks to a mild climate, the whole island is in fact a wonderful garden, very popular with residents and visitors, which invites you to relax and have fun in contact with nature. We were here one day in mid-April and in this article we tell you about our visit and give you some useful tips for your stay.
Located on the southern shore of Lake Constance (Bodensee) and connected to it by a footbridge, Mainau Island in Germany is certainly a must-see destination for anyone visiting the lake area and its historical and natural attractions. Thanks to a mild climate – the same that has allowed to develop a rich winery tradition in the area – the whole island is a wonderful garden that offers events throughout the year and invites visitors to relax and have fun in close contact with nature. The island can be visited – by purchasing an entrance ticket – throughout the year and in every season it will amaze you with its ability to transform and change its face. However, we absolutely recommend a visit in April, when first the daffodils and then the tulips blossom and dress the island in a triumph of colors: a true wonder! We were here on a day in mid-April and in this article we tell you about our visit and give you some useful tips for your stay.
Arriving by public transport
Although it is located in Germany, Mainau Island is easily accessible by public transport from the main cities in Switzerland. Depending on your place of departure, we suggest you to reach the train station in Constance and from there take the bus 4 or 13 which will take you to the main entrance of the island in about 15 minutes. Alternatively, from Constance you can take one of the many boats that connect the island with other tourist destinations in the area and that are frequent during spring and summer. You can find information on bus services here and boat services here.
Arriving by car
Mainau Island is also easily accessible by car. From major Swiss cities, follow the motorway towards Zurich and the A7 towards Constance. From here you can drive on local roads to Mainau. The island is located in Germany, although not far from the Swiss border. Therefore, at some point you will have to cross a customs border.
In Mainau there is a large, well-marked car park just before the main entrance to the island. For a car, parking costs €6.00 for the whole day.
When to go to Mainau
Differently from other parks in Switzerland and Europe, Mainau Island is open all year round. We chose to visit the island in Spring, in April, when the daffodils and tulips are in full bloom and we were fascinated by the beauty of the landscape and the many colors of the meadows and flowerbeds. Therefore, our advice is to plan your visit before the end of April. But if for some reason this is not possible, don’t worry! Although it is at its best from March to September, the island takes on a new look every season! Generally speaking, while April and May are the months of daffodils and tulips, the summer months are characterized by the flowering of rose gardens and Italian gardens and September is the month of dahlias. Summer is also a time of cultural events and initiatives not to be missed. So why not plan more than one visit and discover the island in each of its many seasonal guises?
What to see in Mainau
As already mentioned, the entire island is a wonderful garden. It is therefore clear that the main activity here is to take a walk in the open air along magnificent boulevards such as the Spring Avenue or surprising gardens such as the Dahlia Garden or the Italian Rose Garden and enjoy the magnificent landscape and the contact with nature. However, the island offers not only boulevards and flowers, but also many attractions that should not be missed!
Palm House: The Palm House is a huge, elegant glass and metal greenhouse housing a large number of palm trees belonging to the main species from all over the world: Phoenix canariensis, Phoenix dactylifera, Phoenix rupicola, Washingtonia robusta, Livistona australis and many others! At the time of our visit, the greenhouse was also enriched by art exhibitions and hundreds of beautiful orchids in bloom, which made the visit even more fascinating. There is also a small café inside the greenhouse. Unlike the rest of the park, the Palm House has reduced opening hours and is open daily from 11:00 to 17:00.
Butterfly House: Germany’s second largest butterfly house is located in Mainau! It houses around 120 species of butterflies from different parts of the world and is certainly a must-see. The Butterfly House is open from 10 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. (last entry at 4 p.m.) but the queue can be exhausting! Therefore, our advice is to visit early in the morning or at the end of the day, just before the closing time.
The Palace of the Teutonic Order and St. Marien’s Church: the nerve centre of the island is certainly the baroque Palace of the Teutonic Order, designed by Johann Caspar Bagnato and built under his supervision from 1739 to 1746. It is home to Count Björn Bernadotte and Countess Bettina Bernadotte, members of the Swedish royal family and current managers of the island and park. Not surprisingly, a Swedish flag flies over the palace! Some of the palace’s rooms are open to the public, hosting events or small craft markets. There is also a café inside the palace.
On your way out of the palace, make a short stop at the small St. Marien church, also baroque and richly decorated with frescoes.
Things to know before your visit to Mainau
Opening hours and tickets: As mentioned above, the island can be visited all year round from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., but access is possible upon purchase of a ticket. The cost of the ticket for an adult in 2022 is € 26, while it is free for children under the age of 12. There are also a number of reductions and subscriptions that can be found at this link. The ticket office is located just after the car park and before the access to the pedestrian bridge leading to the island. But the queue can be very long! Therefore, if you are reasonably sure of your visit (no refunds!), we suggest you pre-purchase your tickets online here (only in german). This not only allows you to skip the queue for access but also helps you to save money on the ticket price (online cost € 23.00 per adult).
Parking: If you come to Mainau by car, there is a large, well-organised and signposted car park. Parking costs € 6.00, but the payment system is very curious: no turnstiles, magnetic cards or automatic machines! Instead, go to the counter just before the turnstiles and buy your token. At the end of your visit, take your car and insert your token in the exit barrier and you are ready to go!
Food and drink: there are numerous self-service restaurants and cafes in the park. But the island also has plenty of picnic areas and benches for relaxation where you can take a break and eat your picnic food!
Respect nature and the park: the park is a precious asset that must be safeguarded and protected! So take care of it by staying on the marked paths, being careful not to step on the meadows and above all not to pick the flowers under any circumstances!