It is early morning in Bregenz and the vastness of Lake Constance is just lying there in front of me shimmering away in the sunshine. It’s the type of morning where walkers are out for a stroll along the lake’s shoreline and the delightful smell of fresh coffee and pastries wafts across the promenade from the nearby cafes. Perfect.
Bregenz, Vorarlberg’s capital, is a delightful baroque city built on two levels; the historic medieval upper town, with its 13th century architecture and cobbled streets, towering over the busier but still quaint lower town, flanked by the stunning Lake Constance on one side and a backdrop of dramatic alpine peaks on the other. With its restaurants, cafés, museums, galleries, baroque architecture, and of course the water borne pleasures of the Lake, it’s the perfect place to spend a few days before exploring Vorarlberg’s other hidden alpine treasures.
Bregenz is a city steeped in culture. After all, it’s the venue for the world famous Bregenzerfestspiele the annual summer performing arts festival with events taking place all over the city, but undoubtedly, the centre piece has to be the floating stage on the shore of Lake Constance. It’s an extraordinary open air structure with seating for 7,000 people and has hosted everything from productions of West Side Story to an Elton John concert. You might even remember it featured in the Bond film “Quantum of Solace’ when Bond was chased across the floating stage during a performance of Tosca.
The vast freshwater lake itself is a triumph. Touching Germany, Lichtenstein and Switzerland, it conjures up images of a romantic cruise or two, (which of course there are many to choose, from the island village of Lindau to the flower island of Mainau), a lazy walk along the promenade, or perhaps taking a faster tour by hiring a bike or a Segway scooter, or spending an hour or two just gazing out watching the birdlife on the lake.You must stop for a bite though at CaféSito, a little bit of bagel heaven hidden away just off Kirchstrasse and try dinner at Kornmesser for some Austrian regional specialties.
Bregenz is a very walkable city, and the architectural delights of St. Martin’s Tower, the gothic parish church of or the more modern Kunsthaus Bregenzart gallery and the Bregenz Casino are all within easy reach.
Talking of easy reaches, I adored taking the cable car from the centre of town up 1024 metres to the top of Bregenz’s local mountain The Pfaender. In just 6 minutes, you can gaze across the 240 peaks of the Alps and see the whole Lake in all its glory. While you’re up there, there’s an eagle sanctuary, and a free alpine wildlife park to visit, together with some excellent walking trails. You could try and walk up of course, and after the hour and a half climb, you can fall into the welcoming arms of the Bergaus Pfaender restaurant to ease those tired legs.
Yes, Bregenz and baroque in summer are a fine combination,
Main image: Bregenz Lake Constance (c) Andy Mossack