Mainau Island: A Guide to Visiting Flower Island (Insel Mainau)
The beautiful Insel Mainau is known as the flower island (blumeninsel Mainau in German) and is located on Lake Constance in Germany. It is approximately 111 acres (45 hectares). Millions of flowers begin to bloom in the spring including tulips, rhododendrons, roses, dahlias and numerous exotic plants. It is truly an amazing place to visit.
Mainau also contains a butterfly garden, arboretum, a castle, towers, a church, a palm house, a huge children’s Kinderland playground, numerous restaurants and cafes and beautiful pathways to roam through. Giant sequoias are also planted around the island.
Out of all the islands on Lake Constance, Mainau Island is the most famous and draws thousands of visitors every year due to its unique beauty and spectacular dedication to the conservation of flowers, trees and nature. Visiting Mainau with kids, as a family or even as a visitor is a great way to spend the day on this beautiful island. There are many things to experience on Mainau: sightseeing, exploring the palace, walking among Mainau Island tulips, visiting the animal farm, dining at a cafe, enjoying the butterfly house and so much more.
Where is Mainau Island, Germany
Mainau island is on the northwestern part of Lake Constance. Lake Constance is Europe’s largest lake, bordered to the north and west by Germany, east by Austria with Switzerland to the south. While there are 13 islands on Lake Constance, Insel Mainau is the most visited drawing thousands of visitors every year.
Mainau Island: How to get there
Getting to Mainau by car
You can drive to Mainau Island easily and park in the mainland parking lot next to the island. It is paid parking (currently 5 euro for the day) and you get a token at the ticket booth to put into the machine on the way out. After paying for a ticket at the ticket booths you simply walk across a pedestrian bridge to the island.
Tip if you have extra time: If you are departing back north toward Germany, try doing the car ferry service from Konstanz to Meersburg.
Getting to Mainau by public transportation
Take a train to Konstanz (Constance) and bus number 4 in the direction of “Wallhausen/Hafeb, Konstanz” and exit at Mainau. Total travel time is between 15-20 minutes.
Ferry to Mainau Island
You can take the BSB ( Bodensee Schiffsbetriebe) boat from Meersburg. Travel time is 25 minutes. This boat also serves Unteruhldingen on the lake.
Boats dock at Mainau Harbor on the east side of the island.
Best time to visit the Isle of Mainau
The best time to visit the island garden of Mainau is late spring, summer and early fall. These times will be the best times for seeing the flowers blooming and trees turning green (spring), full bloom and beauty (summer) and the fall of the leaves and the cooler weather (autumn). Additionally, almost everything begins to open in the spring and stays open through the end of summer/early fall (such as the petting farm). If you aren’t sure exactly which season, spring and fall are less busy as summer season brings lots of tourists to the area. Here are some tips on why spring is probably among the best times to visit not only Mainau Island but all of Europe.
Where to stay near Mainau
There are a multitude of options if you plan on spending the night near Mainau island. Konstanz is a large city nearby with a lot of hotel options, as well as a great aquarium to visit.
Another great choice is Meersburg, located on the opposite side of the lake, it is easy to get to Mainau Island by boat when staying in this charming town.
Mainau Island Weather
Mainau Island’s weather is that of a temperate climate due to its location in southern Germany. Temperatures in the Lake Constance region vary from chilly about 5-6 months of the year to hot during the peak summer season. Rain and snow are typical occurrences and like Mainau, Germany’s weather in this region varies. Mainau’s temperatures typically begin to warm up in late May and drop in mid to late October.
Mainau Island Gardens
Mainau Island is known for its beautiful gardens and incredible greenery. It has numerous paths dedicated to specific flowers including the following flower paths and gardens: Italian Rose Garden, Dahlia Gardens, Peony Garden, Rhododendron Walk, Shrub Garden, Hydrangea Walk, Rose Beds, Spring Avenue, Palm and Citrus Tree Garden, and Walk of Wild and Shrub Roses.
Mainau’s gardens can be enjoyed when they begin blooming in April/May and until the season is over in early to late fall.
Mainau Island Map
Bridge and entering Mainau Island
The pedestrian bridge linking the parking lot to the island is a short walk but very picturesque. Near the beginning of the bridge you will find a large crucification statue made of rusted nickel.
As you continue along the bridge, there are open areas where you can walk down to the rocky shore and skip pebbles or watch the swans swim by. There are benches along the pathway where you can stop to enjoy a snack.
Mainau Flower Island: Walking Around the Island
If you have children, it is best to visit the island in a clockwise direction to finish the visit at Mainau Kinderland. Even visiting the island without children, it is best to go in a clockwise direction as you end up on a very tall hill near the end and work your way down.
After entering the island, it is best to begin your walk by heading on the left path immediately after this house:
Sequoia Tree Pathway
After passing the Blumi meeting point in front of a beautiful large flowered shrub continue to the left, bear to the left pathway next to the Lauenhaus. The beautiful long Metasequoia pathway has massive sequoia trees.
Previously thought to have been extinct, the giant Metasequoia trees first came to Mainau Island in 1952 from the Royal Botanical Gardens. The 52 sequoias are approximately 27 meters tall with trunks up to 6 meters in circumference. These fast growing trees tower over the pathway and provide incredible shade during the warm summer months. The tallest tree, the Arboretum stands at 29 meters tall.
After walking through the massive sequoia lined walkway you come to a pathway that leads you left to the butterfly house. Along the way there is a great Café you can stop at for one of the best cups of coffee in the area, a small pint of ice cream or even a bakery item. There is an open fire in the room which is wonderful for chilly days and plenty of outdoor as well as indoor seating. In an area to the side of the register there is seating that looks out onto one of the gardens and you can also spot the butterfly house from here.
The butterfly house itself is an interesting building. Looking at it, it has a butterfly shape and is painted to resemble a red butterfly. The entrance to the house is to the left inside a long-painted metal caterpillar tunnel.
After walking through the tunnel you will go through several layers of metal chains and doors before you enter. Upon entering you are immediately welcomed by a tropical climate where humidity is high and the heat inside is also welcoming. Thousands of butterflies fly around and birds sing on the branches of the hundreds of trees and green flora inside. Pathways lead the way to several waterfalls where you can observe turtles swimming around and sunbathing atop rocks.
The walkways also lead to higher ground where you can cross bridges and look down upon the butterfly house and enjoy the view. The butterflies also love fluttering to the top so be sure to head higher up.
The waterfalls are amazing and one of the pathways leads to a secret cave where you can nearly stand under the waterfall. It’s a great place to take a picture or hide from your kiddos. Tip: have someone stand the bridge across from the larger waterfall and take a picture, it’s quite fun to try and spot them underneath!
White metal ornate benches can be found inside the butterfly house and once you sit down you may need to be aware that you are now a prime landing spot for butterflies. It’s also a great way to take a breather and simply enjoy the birds flying by or the gentle mist being turned on overhead to keep the humidity high.
Some of the butterflies have amazingly bright colors. This is due to them ingesting poisonous plants and accumulating the poison in their bodies which results in stunning bright colors. This keeps predators away from targeting them.
Upon leaving the butterfly house, you immediately exit into a gift shop and café where you can also find restrooms. There is a baby changing table right outside the woman’s restroom.
The gift shop is filled with all kinds of trinkets, books, postcards and pictures. The café inside is a great place to stop for a pretzel or a coffee.
The sit-down area has interesting wooden benches as well as a children’s table and multiple activities. There are train tables for the kids to play with as well as wooden dolls you could piece together against a backdrop of the island’s castle. The kiddos certainly loved the break and it was a great way to adjust to the temperature change before venturing outside again.
Once outside you can find an ice cream vendor (in the warmer months) and areas to sit down and enjoy a snack. You can also go immediately to the right and you will spot a greenhouse. If you continue walking you will come to a small building you can enter, that teaches about solar energy and provides a lot of information on the island.
If you are continuing your way around the island, the best way to go is to head up the hill and follow the signs for the castle. The entire island is stroller and handicap friendly and you can choose to either take stairs or the walking paths as you explore the island.
Sequoias Walkway to Mainau Castle
Walking the winding path you find your way to the pathway where you continue to see giant sequoias. You can easily take a picture with them, or with the ones that have been cut down and places sideways for educational purposes.
This area of Mainau is perfect for picnics or just to have the kids run around. The natural shade provided by the sequios as well as the surrounding blossoms and shrubs ensure a very relaxing and idyllic experience.
The layout provides visitors a window into what it would be like to be in the forests of California among the beautiful trees. There is opportunity to feel the bark and to explore the tree rings further at the stumps.
Kids love running and hiding behind the trees. Stretch your arms out and attempt to see if your armspan reaches from end to end of the trunk of the giant tree or play a game and attempt to find a sunny spot underneath the massive tree.
Restaurant and Café Area
A great spot to stop for lunch is right after the sequios walk. Right before you arrive at the first building which takes you to the center of the castle grounds you will find two cafes and a restaurant on your left. There is plenty of seating outside during the warmer months and inside as well during the colder months.
The prices vary by café and restaurant, but includes traditional German food as well as quick eats such as bratwurst and pretzels at the cafes. One area right behind the café, closest to the first castle building provides a neat little climbing area made of rock for restless kids.
There is also an outdoor gift shop before you head through the archway into the main castle grounds as well as a large painted standing bull that kids will love to climb.
Follow the archway to enter the expansive castle grounds. As you wander down the pathway towards the castle you come across green fields with thousands of flower blossoms opening to the bright blue sky. No shade here provides for direct sunlight for most of the day and creates a beautiful multi-colored array of blooms across the field.
You can walk directly to the right to go by the small Gardener’s Tower or to the left to head towards the main building and church.
Mainau Palace (Schloss Mainau)
The history’s island is a fascinating one, as it is believed that there were Celtic settlers on the island as far back as 400 BC. The first mention of a castle being built on the island occurred in 1272. A monastery occupied the island and ministers helped build the castle around this time.
Certain parts of the baroque Mainau Castle are open to the public for viewing, and guided tours are available as well. Be sure to check beforehand what is available as parts of the castle are being renovated as of spring 2019.
The outside of the castle grounds has a beautiful flower laden shrub and fountain, a prime spot for picture taking. Several wrought iron white benches are aligned in front to take a break before exploring the castle grounds. Across from the castle is the gardener’s tower which is worth a quick visit.
The palace church
The church adjoined to the castle was built between 1732 and 1739 and has an exquisite interior. The color palette is cream, white and pink and is laced with marble, and paintings of angels. It is one of the most peaceful and easily one of the best pastel inspired church interiors in Europe. The amazing ceiling murals paintings were created by Franz Joseph Spiegler.
The interior marble perfectly highlights the most majestic areas of the church and though small, creates an inviting atmosphere as it pairs with the pink hues of the high ceiling and beautiful walls.
The angel sculptures that can be found along the walls and sides perfectly complement the tranquil atmosphere of the interior and reflect the style of architecture that was exquisitely planned. The baroque sculptures were sculpted by Joseph Anton Feuchtmeyer.
Palm House and Italian Rose Garden
After making your way outside of the church you can follow along until you come to a bannister. From this point you can choose to go left towards the Palm House and Italian Rose Garden below. You can also choose to follow a path to your right which weaves through trees and several additional paths. In the spring, there is a flowering tree on this path that blossoms beautifully. There is also a low hanging tree with amazing climbing branches that has seen quite a few kids climb.
If after the castle you choose to go the route of the Palm House you can follow the pathways down until you hit the backside of the castle below and find areas such as the harbor, a restaurant and bakery and a souvenir shop as well as a beer garden at the harbor and the exit/entrance to the harbor. You can continue and follow the map to the lower part of the island and find the Italian Style Flower and the water cascade as well as the peony and dahlia gardens which are phenomenal.
If you choose to go right and wind through the pathways you will eventually find yourself at a fork in the road where you can choose to go left and explore the Mediterranean Terrace, the Lime tree “Victoria” as well as the Rhododendron Walk and Shore Garden down below (it would be a several minute walk to get to the lower parts).
At the least, if you choose not to venture too far into that area, seeing the Mediterranean terrace is a must. This terrace has breathtaking views of Lake Constance and there is a beautiful double swan fountain that is unique. Flowers are around every corner and sculptures complete the exquisite terrace.
Make your way over to the sculptured bench where you can sit between a male and female made of metal. It makes for a great picture and even more so if you make up a fun story to go along with it.
After spending some time at the terrace, work your way over to Spring Avenue, an amazing pathway high above the island where you see thousands of tulips and a variety of other flowers spread across the grassy hillside.
Though protected by a rope, the background for it makes for some beautiful pictures. There are different parts along the walk where you can catch a shot of the lake in the background.
The Swedens Tower on the left, dubbed “Rapunzel’s tower” by my eldest girl, is an interesting break along the walk. You can also see the vineyards in this area if you head down the stairs. Alternatively, you can continue on the upper path (especially for those using strollers) and pass the Grand Duke Friedrich Terrace where you’ll find a sculpture and a quick climb up to a small terrace with just a few chairs and tables.
For those using strollers, you would continue on the white pathways you see on the map and find yourself on the sequoia pathway again and head left to go back down the hill and look for signs for the petting zoo and Kinderland.
Petting zoo and Mainau animal farm
This small zoo offers kids an opportunity to get close to a variety of animals. The zoo has ponies that kids can ride, donkeys, hens, alpacas, goats, sheep, a cow and some roaming cats. The petting part of the zoo allows for kids to pet goats. The petting zoo is not open during the winter months and it is best to call ahead and ask when it opens.
There are 5 ponies that are available for riding for kids up to age 12 and weighing no more than 45 kilos. Pony riding is not available in the winter or when it rains. Riding the ponies does not cost extra.
The kids play area is absolutely AMAZING. It has to be one of the best kids’ playgrounds in Germany (and we’ve been to A LOT of playgrounds). Kinderland consists of at least 6 separate play areas that are perfect for children of all ages.
There is a wooden water area (water isn’t on when cold or early spring) that allows for kids to have fun with the amazing mazes created. When the water isn’t on, kids love to climb the beams and try to find a way to balance on it.
To the right there are swings, and a variety of playground equipment more commonly found on German playgrounds including a spinning wheel (the kind where you sit inside and spin yourself until everyone is dizzy with laughter), seesaws and swings.
There are several playgrounds further in, and as you head towards them there is a beautiful train display on the left, next to a weeping willow. It is gated so no need to keep kids out but it is very engaging and it is an enjoyable display, especially for parents whose kids might be running around the playgrounds.
The larger playgrounds are incredibly well built and have an abundance of fun things for kids. One of the main attractions occurs at a small canal built around the main playground where kids can hop onto a small raft and use paddles to row themselves back and forth across the water while standing on the raft. This is a hit with kids and they line up trying to take a turn.
A similar raft can be found a bit further on the small canal. This one is on a pulley however and you can climb onto it on either side and pull the raft, while standing, from one side to the other. We have been to many playgrounds in Europe, and it is the first time we have seen a raft style like this for kids.
There are treehouses and climbing structures, balance beams and balance bridges. There is a small two-story kids house where you can climb up and talk through the megaphone to people below. The bottom of the kids house has long yellow rope strings that are super fun for kids to hide in.
A huge beehive made out of wood is another highlight at the playground and is reached by the wide variety of wooden beans jutting out from every angle.
Be sure to make a lot of time for Kinderland and it is best to make it your final stop if you have children, because it will be very difficult to get them away from this amazing playground.
Along the island, you will come across big boxed displays where you will see planet sculptures and information posted inside. These boxed displays are found all around the island and provide fun information for older kids.
Mainau Island Tours
There are a variety of guided tours offered at the island. English and group tours are available.
Accessibility and Pets
The island is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers. The entire island can be explored without the need for steps. Dogs are welcome but must be leashed.
There are a limited number of motorized scooters as well as children’s wagons available. It is best to bring your own wagons and strollers during your visit.
Baby changing facilities
Restrooms are located before crossing the bridge and immediately after crossing the bridge to the right. A handicap bathroom has a baby changing stations as do most other restrooms on the island. Another baby changing station facility is located in the gift shop of the butterfly house.
Admission and Prices
Be sure to check the most up to date information on admission prices and opening times.
If you are looking to explore more of southern Germany, find ideas in our Day Trips from Stuttgart article.
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